Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In Whose Hands Is Our Fate?

The Lord really wants us to be conjoined with Him, to have a relationship with Him. This is why He goes to such a great effort to make Himself be known to us. And what is more, He wants us to have a healthy dependence upon Him. The subject here is the wonderful balance (or does it feel like tension!) between our selves and the Lord, and between what we actually feel and what we rely upon revelation to believe.

Whether we feel it or not, the fact is that “Everyone from infancy even to the end of his earthly life is led by the Lord in the most individual things and his place is forseen and also provided.” (Divine Providence n.203) So, from considering the nature of God, we turn now to how he operates. (This topic is also appropriate as we mark the first anniversary of the evil acts of September 11, 2001)

Things happen to us all the time that compel us to stop and ask, WHY? They can be important events or only trivial ones. For instance, you’re stopped at a traffic light. The breaks of the car coming up behind you fail, and it smashes into you. Why did the Lord let that happen to you? You forget to turn off the oven and the roast burns. Again, you ask, (perhaps out loud!), what’s the point, Lord? You’re in the mountains, enjoying the magnificence of the Lord’s creation, and an avalanche hits you. That couldn’t have been your fault!

We’re told that God knows the number of hairs on our head! The teachings of the New Church tell us that this means that the Lord’s providence is over the very particulars of our life so that He may also rule the universal or general things (AC 4302:3, 8478:4). He couldn’t manage over the big things if He didn’t have control over the little things. And since He is the infinite God, His rule extends to everything that happens to us, with no exceptions. So, how do we deal with the things that just happen to us? How can a God of love, which is what He is, allow bad things to happen to us? In whose hands is our lot?

Often, we can see in retrospect how the Lord has led us; how He has guided our hand in drawing the lot that is our life (Divine Providence n.187). It is relatively easy to see how all the good things, our joys and successes, were given us by the Lord. For He provided the situation and the opportunity, He gave us the talent and the vision to see how to attain them. But what do we think of the bad things that happen, our sorrows and failures? What is our attitude toward them and toward the God that rules over them?

Many people conclude that God is not love, or that He doesn’t exist at all. Many people believe that, since God is love, and since His providence is always working for our good, that it is our sin that has removed us from His care, or that we are not protected because we are not saved, that we haven’t “found” Christ. The teachings for the New Church tell us that none of these are true (see Divine Providence n.117). God exists and He is love itself. And He is not limited in any way. And He always is working for our good, regardless of whether we are in sin or not, saved or not.

Christians know that God takes care of His children, but they haven’t known how. All believers know that God is love. But many people wonder how infinite love can allow evil (since He cannot be the cause of it). How can He permit accidents that hurt us or our loved ones? When we don’t know how or why God’s providence works, we’re left only with His “mysterious ways.” We’re told to have faith in Him despite all that happens, and then we will be made happy. This is just not true. That is, our happiness will not necessarily come just from believing that God works in mysterious ways. So the New Church has been given an understanding of how God cares for us so that we can place ourselves in His stream of providence. We may never fully know why something has happened to us, but we are able to understand our Lord and love Him. We have been given a new understanding that makes it possible for us to have a new attitude toward life. And it is this attitude that puts our life on earth into perspective.

First let us examine the teachings that give us this new understanding. The divine providence is the Lord’s government of His creation (Divine Providence n.1). That government is concerned solely with our eternal welfare. Now, of course, all that happens to us, no matter how trivial or traumatic, affects our eternal life. After all, life on earth is part of our eternal life. Yet His attention is on our reaction to what happens than on the event itself. He is concerned for our attitude because it is the product of our love–which can be materialistic and selfish or spiritual and charitable. The Lord’s leading does not look to temporary or earthly happiness solely, or primarily. He wants to lead us to heaven. And so He provides that everything that happens to us can be a vehicle for His leading us to a happy, successful, eternal life. Therefore He doesn’t prevent things from happening, or make them happen, simply because they will cause us some pain or provide us with pleasure. The Lord does not step in to change events that, from our finite, limited view, seem negative.

If this seems a hard saying, or limiting the infinite God of love, consider this: What if God provided something joyful to us, say, winning the lottery, and it caused us to neglect our spiritual life in the pursuit of material pleasure. Would He not then be working against our spiritual welfare? Or, what if God caused some terrific pain, say the loss of a loved one, and so we blamed Him and became bitter and resentful and turned away from Him. Would He not then be working against our spiritual welfare? These are extreme examples; but they portray a wrong understanding of who God is and how His providence works; an understanding that promotes a selfish, worldly attitude about life (Divine Providence n.217).

God is love. He is constantly reaching out to His creation to make all its parts perfect. When He created the human, His desire was that there should be something to return His love. To do this He had to create us with the possibility of imperfection. He had to provide that we would have absolute freedom to choose not to return His love. So, while He is not limited, His love’s infinite law is that He cannot violate human freedom. He cannot step in and change things simply because we think they ought to be changed. All the time He is leading us, bending our steps, providing opportunities. He is maintaining our freedom. If there is one great principle in the Lord’s providence, it is that He will not, indeed cannot, interfere with the people’s freedom to love, think and do what they want.

The issue is this complex as direct result of the creation of the material world, the world where space and time obscure our thought on the matter. We think this world is the very reality. We cannot help but think that its laws are the only laws there are. But this is not true. The spiritual world is very reality, and its laws supersede and, indeed, cause the natural laws we see operating all around us.

The laws of the natural world cannot but seem capricious and accidental in their effects upon us. Why did the brakes fail just then? Why were we at that spot? Why did the friend come to the door so that we forgot the roast? Why did that person die? But in fact, the Lord’s spiritual laws, which we don’t as easily see operating in this world, are much more stable than the natural laws we see operating all the time. Natural, physical law seems fixed and set: what goes up must come down; there is a limit to the speed we can go; things wear out; the odds are that you will have an accident. And yet, despite all this, there is actually much leeway in this world’s laws, for there is still a chance that you will never have an accident - there are odds! And physical law demands that things return to dust - so how stable can things here really be?

So the process whereby the Lord’s spiritual laws that are His divine providence are manifested in the physical world is very complex (Divine Providence n.220). His laws are immutable. They do not change. They are infinitely predictable. But something happens as those laws descend in the process of creation. And in the end we are now in a world of seemingly fixed laws that really are not. We are in a world that seemingly we can trust to sustain us and protect us; and that seemingly will show us what will make us happy and what to avoid that will make us unhappy. And yet it does not. The world’s laws do not provide clear answers, especially when we are trying to discover spiritual truths, such as those relating to divine providence.

And here we come to the point. The teachings of the New Church tell us that we must not limit our understanding of God and what He does and how He does it to the physical world and our natural sensations. Our essential character, our freedom, our consciousness, are all spiritual things that operate on the level of our spirit–indeed they are our spirit. Our body, our actions, the things that happen to us, are all on the level of the material world. They are outside of our spirit and so are beneath and subject to, our spirit. The Lord works in our spirit in an effort to prepare us for heaven. A powerful way to make this real for us, is to picture how, regardless of the events and circumstances of our life here, the Lord counts the hairs on our head. He controls His creation so that every experience is a chance to turn to Him and follow His guidance.

It is in seeing life from this perspective that we can understand that the Lord leads the individual things in our life through us and through what happens to us. We are part and parcel of His creation and so of His providence, His government. And just look what He has done for us! In His infinite wisdom, the Lord has provided us with the ability to rise above our earthly life and our sensations, and put our place in His creation into perspective. We can look down and out to the world! What is more, He has provided us the perfect place to learn this lesson–on earth, where we can see and feel the difference between His leading of us and our trying to lead ourselves . There is no better place to learn that we are not God. We have the freedom to choose to live in His created order, or to invent one which we think is better able to operate in the material world. Nowhere else could we make this comparison, since we live in both worlds at once - material and spiritual.

We are here given the chance to see and feel the difference between charity–doing unto others what we would have them do to us, and selfishness–forgetting that our happiness is dependant upon others being happy too.

We have an opportunity to put into effect what we understand about our God and His love for us, experiencing both the pain of separation from Him and, in contrast, the joy of being in the stream of his providence.

What an opportunity He has provided us! Life on earth, with all its joys and sorrows, is our opportunity to see the Lord’s spiritual laws in operation, if we will but look for them. We can learn His truth in a situation in which we are absolutely free to accept those laws as our own. No matter what the event, we can, if the eyes of our spirit are open to the light of heaven, see how our reaction can be the result of a trust in Him and a sure acknowledgement that we live forever.

In believing this and living according to it, we have achieved the attitude that the happenings in our life are just that–things that go on around us and to us. Happenings are separate from our spirit. How our spirit reacts to these happenings determines our happiness here and now, and determines whether we will accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our God who infinitely loves us and cares for us, or not. We can trust in Him. Not a blind trust that knows nothing of the Lord’s providence. Not even a simplistic trust based on the fear of accidents.

We can trust in our Lord, a God of love, who wants us to be happy to all eternity. We can trust the Lord who maintains our freedom, despite all that happens to us. We can find confidence in Him in knowing how He uses all the things that happen to us to teach us about Him and His spiritual laws; in discovering how our essential being is above natural law; in experiencing how the purpose of life here is to build our relationship to the Lord; and how we do all this in absolute freedom (Divine Providence n.27).

This attitude will surely bring peace, contentment and happiness to our life here and forever, regardless of what happens to us. As He said, He knows about everything we need, and He will give us all of it, if we but “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Spiritual Growth Group Starting!

"The Joy of Spiritual Growth" a small group workshop, which will be introduced on Tuesday 30 January, 7-9 PM. Participants acquire the tools to advance their spirituality & partnership with God for a centered, whole life. This night is an introductory workshop for a 7-week course for those who want to work on themselves, discover ways to grow spiritually, believe closeness to God & their fellow human beings is desirable, & want to know how to achieve it; a support group with participants sharing experiences. The 7-week series begins 6 Feb; cost is $70 including the text & work books. Group facilitator, Clark Echols, is pastor of the Glendale New Church, a Swedenborgian community. Clark has spent his adult life studying Emanuel Swedenborg's philosophy. The course combines Swedenborg's insights into the human constitution, God, & the relationship between the two, with a task-oriented program for growth. At The Glendale New Church, 845 Congress Avenue, Glendale, OH. 45246. More info @513.772.1478,, &

Swedenborg and the 2nd coming

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote "Since the Lord cannot show Himself in person, as has just been demonstrated, and yet He predicted that He would come and found a new church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man, who can not only receive intellectually the doctrines of this church, but also publish them in print. I bear true witness that the Lord has shown Himself in the presence of me, His servant, and sent me to perform this function."

Most of the time I feel uncomfortable with this assertion. I go through a thought process to, again, convince myself that the second coming, the Writings and Swedenborg all make sense, are believable, and indeed contain advice necessary for my salvation. I end up concluding that the amazing internal consistency, the experiential proof of its correctness, and about thirty years of my use of the teachings, all confirm the good feeling I have about the them and about the reality of Swedenborg’s experience.

Then my thought naturally proceeds to consider how I can share these teachings with others. And, again, I go through a thought process that takes me from embarrassment and defensiveness to an urgency to get the message out for the sake of my neighbor, my country and even the planet! I come to the realization that it is not primarily the truth of the teachings, and thus the veracity of Swedenborg, that I am to share, but, first and foremost, my delight in those teachings.

I have noticed again and again that I am spiritual and emotionally energized when the beauty and effectiveness of the New Church teachings are combined with an opportunity to share them. It may be a chance meeting on an airplane, in an office, when a person shows an interest. It may be when I put myself before people, as at the Village Fair or at some breakfast forum. It may be when the person has come to church, thus manifesting their interest rather boldly. Of course each of these settings is different, and I must adapt. But in every case, all the Lord wants me to do to express love for my neighbor is share my delight in what He has given me. The stranger, no matter what their interest, will be served well, fed spiritual truth by means of my delight.

I am frustrated that more people don’t have and use the wonderful teachings I am often amazed I have available. But my trust in the Lord makes it possible to go through the processes of thought that bring me again to the affirmative attitude that the Lord is taking care of His church. He asks me to love my neighbor by, in this case, sharing the truth. So long as I am caring enough to brighten someone’s day, ease their burden, or relieve their confusion while showing them my delight in the truth I have, I am fulfilling the Lord’s goal of accomplishing His second coming.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Spiritual Growth Group Starting!

"The Joy of Spiritual Growth" a small group workshop, which will be introduced on Tuesday 30 January, 7-9 PM. Participants acquire the tools to advance their spirituality & partnership with God for a centered, whole life. This night is an introductory workshop for a 7-week course for those who want to work on themselves, discover ways to grow spiritually, believe closeness to God & their fellow human beings is desirable, & want to know how to achieve it; a support group with participants sharing experiences. The 7-week series begins 6 Feb; cost is $70 including the text & work books. Group facilitator, Clark Echols, is pastor of the Glendale New Church, a Swedenborgian community. Clark has spent his adult life studying Emanuel Swedenborg's philosophy. The course combines Swedenborg's insights into the human constitution, God, & the relationship between the two, with a task-oriented program for growth. At The Glendale New Church, 845 Congress Avenue, Glendale, OH. 45246. More info @513.772.1478,, &

Monday, January 22, 2007

Managing the Tension

Suspension bridges are among the most beautiful of human fabrications. I am not an engineer and cannot speak to the advantages of such bridges. All I know is that they are wonders. And I also know that they do what they do because the tension in the wires is perfectly matched between the towers. Perhaps I am fortunate to have experienced the wonders of suspension bridges across America, from the Golden Gate to the Verrazano Narrows, as well as an amazing single tower bridge across the Ohio river (see

I drive slowly across such bridges in the right lane, straining my neck to look as straight up as possible. It is amazing! However, perhaps you have seen the old movie of an early suspension bridge that was caught by the wind and its rocking increased simply because of its own situation until it was destroyed. Further, it is likely that thousands of workers have died while making such bridges. Indeed, Mr. Roebling, who invented the machine to wind the wires to make the cables, thus making such bridges possible, died during the construction of his most famous bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge. Still, I have never felt any fear, or any anxiety as I crossed such a marvelous span. It just feels very strong and solid; all because of the tension maintained by the wires.

The Lord tells us that perhaps His main effort on our behalf is maintaining our spirit in a perfect equilibrium between the forces of hell and heaven. This is particularly tricky because He never gives power to the evil side. Humans invented evil, and we each give evil spirits power over us. So the Lord has to be constantly adjusting the tension He is applying through heaven as we pass through the many states of life. Now, He is not playing some game with us. He is not enjoying our trials. He is never vindictive, for instance, letting the pressure of heaven be just a little bit less, just for a moment, although it can feel that way to us! It is more likely that we would claim that He did, just so we can blame the Lord for our troubles!

Perhaps it would be helpful to picture the Lord as the perfect bridge designer, builder and maintainer. He designed humans with three anchor points: soul, spirit (mind) and body. Our soul is His domain; that is where His love is anchored; we are not ever conscious of it and cannot manage it. Our bodies, as the opposite anchor, cannot be conscious, yet (unless there is something else interfering) we have complete control of this anchor. Our spirit, our conscious life, is in the tower in between, held in place by the pressures from either side. We are conscious of the thoughts and feelings of our spirit, and we have control of some of our mind’s operations. This design provides both for our individuality and for the influence of the Lord. We are His creatures AND we are our own, eternally existing being. We are radically free AND able to reject the influence of love and truth that is the source of our freedom.

This is amazing. Sometimes, I just have to go slowly, emotionally and cognitively, and appreciate the beauty of the human constitution. Often I don’t really know how life works, especially as I watch others who are filled with a joy I have yet to experience; or when I see someone destroying them selves and I can only sadly wonder why. All I know is that, from my experience, from the descriptions of life others give me, and from what the Word says, there is a perfect tension preserved by the Lord that makes the whole thing work.

It is futile for me to try to “do” something about the tension I feel in my life. It is always going to be there. To resist it is to seek to interfere in the Lord’s work of providing for my salvation. The better course is to find ways to remind myself that the tension is holding my spirit in place, providing for my freedom, and for the possibility of choosing to give in to the power of heaven rather than hell. A tool I am currently experimenting with is the phrase “It’s all good!” Try it, and see what happens to your thoughts and so your feelings at any moment of stress. And let me know!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Spiritual Growth Small Group!

"The Joy of Spiritual Growth" a small group workshop, which will be introduced on Tuesday 30 January, 7-9 PM. Participants acquire the tools to advance their spirituality & partnership with God for a centered, whole life. This night is an introductory workshop for a 7-week course for those who want to work on themselves, discover ways to grow spiritually, believe closeness to God & their fellow human beings is desirable, & want to know how to achieve it; a support group with participants sharing experiences. The 7-week series begins 6 Feb; cost is $70 including the text & work books. Group facilitator, Clark Echols, is pastor of the Glendale New Church, a Swedenborgian community. Clark has spent his adult life studying Emanuel Swedenborg's philosophy. The course combines Swedenborg's insights into the human constitution, God, & the relationship between the two, with a task-oriented program for growth. At The Glendale New Church, 845 Congress Avenue, Glendale, OH. 45246. More info @513.772.1478,, &

New Church Birthday

“But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21:22, 23)

“A person who has faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbor is a church on a small scale. The church on the large scale is composed of people like this. It is a remarkable fact that every angel, no matter how he turns his body and face, sees the Lord in front of him. For the Lord is the sun of the heaven of angels, and appears before their eyes, when they meditate on spiritual matters. It is much the same with a person in the world who has the church in him as regards his spiritual sight. But because his spiritual sight is obscured by his natural sight, and the remaining senses endorse this, being directed towards bodily and worldly matters, he remains in ignorance of this condition of his spirit. This way of looking at the Lord, however one turns, is due to the fact that every truth, from which wisdom and faith arise, and every kind of good, which leads to love and charity, come from the Lord, and they are the Lord's with him. As a result every single truth of wisdom is as it were a mirror in which the Lord is seen, and every kind of good which is part of love is an image of the Lord. That is the origin of this remarkable fact. (True Christianity n.767)

The second coming of the Lord, which is the central event we celebrate as the birthday of the church, brings blessing to multiple levels of our life. On the surface is the peace and security of the presence of His love and truth. Fear of failure, condemnation or even death no longer runs our life, determining our action and speech. We talk of our future with a confidence born of our internalized knowing that we live forever. We are secure in the assurance that no matter what happens in the circumstances of our life, our eternal welfare is being cared for by the One who loves us. Instead of winning arguments, enforcing our will, or complaining about circumstances, we are able to see the Lord’s love in others, assured that He is leading them to heaven according to a perfect plan. Thus our regulation of our behavior is strengthened by means given to us through His second coming.

On a deeper level, when we think about the Lord, a gentle and bright light spreads to the edges of our mind. When we think about ourselves, we recognize our strengths and weaknesses and are hopeful for clearer vision of spiritual realities. When we think about someone else, we consider their unique talents, the blessing their gifts are to the world, and the use the Lord is giving them to serve. Thus our thinking is a response to the presence of the light of the Lord’s truth shinning into our minds, opened by the Lord at His second coming and filled with a knowledge of the spiritual meaning of His Word.

On this same level of our life, the second coming has opened a level of feelings that we share with the angels. Anger, joy, grief, anxiety, gladness, compassion, worry and bliss are some of the feelings in a full constellation of emotions. The spiritual freedom we enjoy allows us to examine, experience, and choose to relish or avoid feelings. We give less and less weight to feelings of ill will and more to commiseration. We feel more like our fellow human beings, and less alienated. The warmth of the Lord’s love is flowing in a free and powerful force for good. Thus our old will can be let go in favor of the new desire for good available because of the second coming.

Seem impossible? Perhaps you can alter your thinking to match the repeated teachings such as those of True Christianity n767. Turn your face to the Lord, the sun of heaven, which is rising into view. Feel the warmth of His love and inspect your life in the light of His truth. This is extremely difficult to do in many circumstances of our life. And yet it is clearly the task of our life. With the Lord, the coming is possible. We each must make the effort and give the attention necessary to discover how to participate

We can each, and all of us together, bring this light and warmth to the world. We each need the support of each other, and we each have support to give. Our support consists of what we do, think, feel and how we respond to inflowing love from the Lord. Yes, is the task of our life, it is hard work and it is long term. Yes we are being asked to change, to give up the old and familiar ways of being. Yes, this is risky. Let us remain encouraged by the sure knowledge that this work is the way the Lord brings the New Jerusalem to the earth, with its light, living waters and healing leaves. Let us pray for the necessary strength, courage and wisdom to successfully cooperate with the Lord.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Lesson In Taste

“And the taste of it was like that of a cake in honey.” Exodus 16:31

“‘The taste of it was like that of a cake with honey’ means good that was delightful because it was made out of truth by means of delight. Here spiritual good is being described - where it originates and how it comes into being, thus also the essential nature of it. That is to say, in its first beginnings this good is truth, but this is made good when it passes from the will, and so from affection, into action. For whatever a person wills out of affection for it is seen as good, and is therefore also called good. Yet this good can be brought into being only by means of the delights that belong to the natural man. The spiritual man is brought to that good by means of them; and once he has been brought to it he is able to have a feeling for it. This then is what is meant by ‘the taste of the manna was like that of a cake with honey’.” Arcana Celestia n.8522

There is a warehouse size grocery store conveniently located along my route to work. It has fresh food from all over the world. And it has less expensive organic foods that my wife’s body requires, as it cannot tolerate the herbicides and pesticides that are so widely used. Every fall it has a great variety of apples, some of which I have never heard of before and had never tasted.

It turns out that not every small, mostly green, apple tastes like the hard, mostly green, very tart apples of my childhood backyard! And it turns out that to be sweet, crisp and tasty an apple doesn’t have to be the shiny red and “apple shaped” ones of the grocery chain!

There are apples that are large, round, mostly green and are soft and sweeter and tastier than what I ever knew. And there are small, red apples whose tartness is actually delightful. In fact, I am developing an expensive taste in apples! That aside, the real lesson is that the looks and tastes I had known before were a very limited experience of the delights available. And, seeking to grow spiritually, I can easily acknowledge the Lord’s handiwork in these varieties of apples and their textures and tastes, and can thank Him for the many blessings!

This is also a lesson about how I limit myself. Most of the time I limit myself in response to the Lord’s commands. There may be only Ten Commandments, but they cover all my spiritual life. When I step over the limits described by them, which I can do in so many ways, I will be hurt or will hurt others, at least spiritually. It seems the safe thing is to be wary of stepping over the lines.

I can, however, unnecessarily limit myself. For instance, when I limit myself to the literally not lying, yet still give my wife “the silent treatment,” thus lying by omission (and also lying to myself by saying that I am not lying, only reacting properly; and since she is not fooled and knows exactly what I am thinking, it is a double whammy lie!), I am limiting my opportunity to obey the Lord and participate in my being made spiritual. There is a new delight awaiting my tasting the experience of not lying spiritually!

And so the tension of being human goes on. Spirit and body; will and understanding; self and others; self and God; earth and heaven; I exist in the perfect balance between them. To chafe against one side or the other is to live a disgruntled life. To shy away from one in fear is to live an anxious life. To make mistakes, even ones that leave scars, is inevitable. But sometimes, the apple tastes better than I have ever tasted before. What looks like an unsavory, mushy, ugly prospect, is a blessing from the Lord I am seeing in the hellish light of my evil desires and false thoughts.

A side story, that perhaps doesn’t fit neatly into this metaphor, is the fact that I discovered these new apples because my wife asked me to get her a variety of organic apples, in order to try them all to find those her body could tolerate. Of course, those that didn’t suit her needs I had to eat! In a sense, then, I was forced to expand my limits. Some outside pressure coerced me! I didn’t choose to expand my life. But when it happened, I discovered a wonderful blessing from the Lord. The interpretation I am giving this (although there are others!) is that “it’s all good!” Good and bad things happen, and I do good and bad things, I do things right and I make mistakes, but in every case, there is the potential of discovering a new blessing from the Lord. I constantly pray to the Lord that my eyes would be open to the blessing!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Truth in Broad Daylight!

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.” Mark 16:9-12

“All the churches which existed before the Lord's coming were representative, unable to see Divine truths except in shadow. But since the Lord's coming into the world, a church has been founded by Him, which has been able to see Divine truths in broad daylight. It is the same difference as between evening and morning. In fact the state of the church before the Lord's coming is called in the Word evening; and its state after His coming is called morning. Before He came into the world, the Lord was certainly present with the people of the church, but through the mediation of angels as His representatives; however, since His coming He is present with the people of the church without any intermediary. For in the world He put on the Divine Natural too, in which He is present with human beings. The Lord's glorification is the glorification of His Human, which He took upon Himself in the world; and the glorified Human of the Lord is the Divine Natural. The truth of this is clear from the fact that the Lord rose from the tomb with His whole body which He had in the world, and left nothing of it behind there. It follows that He took with Him from there the Human Natural itself from first to last.” True Christian Religion n.109

It is perhaps only a cold comfort, but comforting it is, to learn that the Apostles were as cynical and materialistic as we can be today. Not one of them would believe what they hadn't seen with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, or touch with their own hands. Doubting Thomas is only the most famous of them all, used by Jesus as an example, and a foil, for teaching (again!) about doubt and implicit trust.

The Apostles grew up being told that God’s presence was obvious in the miracles He performed. He punished those who offended Him and blessed those who obeyed the rules. And, those men who became leaders were also rich, proving that those who obeyed all the rules very carefully were blessed the most. Finally, God would occasionally send angels to His chosen people to tell them His messages. So their whole attitude was that for God to be present, He had to show Himself in some concrete way. When Jesus said things like, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father,” He was introducing an entirely new idea.

This idea may be new to us, too! How do we expect the Lord to show up in our life? Could it be that the Lord can show Himself to us only to the degree that we first trust in Him? How many opportunities to be blessed have we missed because we stopped to wonder whether the Lord would bless us or not? How many visions of the Lord's love in people have we missed because we wanted proof of the person’s reliability, or because they didn’t look like us? How many people have we hurt when we refused their testimony because it didn't jibe with the evidence of our own senses, the fallibility of which we conveniently ignore? How many times have we been right instead of kind?

If my physical senses were more powerful in my life than the evidence of my spirit, then perhaps I would believe if I had had seven devils cast out of me. If that is the way the Lord reveals Himself to me then I could believe anything. If there is no reliable witness beyond my five senses, then if some slick operator played on my grief and passed himself off as Jesus, doing some slick disappearing trick, I would be gullible enough to believe.

My belief in my Savior is not based on sense experience. It is much more firmly based than that. And it is not irrational or nonsensical; it is not intellectually empty. It is not dependent on my ideas, but on the internal evidence, the reasoning power of love, which I know I do not originate. My belief in my Savior excites my emotions, moves my spirit, and feeds my soul. My belief in my Savior motivates me to seek the balance of influences; to reject cynicism and materialism and join my beliefs and my feelings together into a coherent whole. I believe God is a spirit, and I am completely convinced of His actuality. I may not be able to see Him with my physical eyes, but I believe the report of His Word and my whole experience.

We can thus celebrate His resurrection displaying our spirit in broad daylight. Our love of what is good and true and our belief in His mercy will bring something new into the world. He will be the visible God living in us for all to see!