God's Moving and Our Rebirth
by the Rev. Dr. J. Theodore Klein,
faculty member - Swedenborg School or Religion, Newton, MA
In the August, 1996 Issue of Our Daily Bread
theme is "God's Moving and Our Rebirth." For images around this theme
we can turn to Isaiah, chapter 44, verses 3 and 4:
"...I will pour water in
the thirsty land, and streams on dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon your
descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. They will spring up like grass
amid waters, like willows by flowing streams."
Think of yourself as one of many
trees by a flowing stream. In that you are not alone and are part of continuing
connections and growth.
You can consider what in you
could be like thirsty land or dry ground, and how it is in your life to be
touched by water. You can think of how God's spirit blesses you and others and
is present in connections you have with others. You can think of yourself and
others growing in rebirth like grass and trees.
With each of us God continually
supports, sustains, and moves in many ways. Some images of God's presence and
moving are the coming of warmth, the coming of light, the presence and flow of
water, the presence of life-giving food and drink, and the power of the wind.
Think of the power of the wind, used as an image for God's moving in our rebirth
in John, chapter 3, verse 8. We cannot change the gentle breeze or the strong
driving wind, but we can learn to adapt and respond, living in harmony with the
We can image God's moving and
rebirth with others and ourselves as water coming into dry and parched land. We
can think of how water nourishes life with people, animals, and plants. This
nourishing compares with the way God's love adn wisdom can spiritually nourish
us in the rebirth processes. We can image ourselves and others as like a garden
or a forest. Both need protection and nurturing, and we contribute to that in
actively caring for a garden and learning room for a forest to flourish as part
o nature. In our growth and rebirth we need protection and nurturing from God
and need to be in connection with others.
In the flowing of water, the
blowing of the wind, the growth of trees, grass, and gardens there are processes
and order. These can image processes and order in the moving of God from love
through wisdom into action. In our responding we can seek to be in harmony with
these processes, resisting what goes against them and cooperating with God and
others in making a difference.
Rebirth can involved great
transformations in one's life and it can also occur through many ordinary
experiences. For some rebirth may come through a dramatic life change: for
example, moving away from being preoccupied with one's own success and
advancement to engaging in cooperative efforts with others to build community.
For others rebirth may mean facing pains and finding new joys in daily actions
of contributing to a good home environment or a good workplace environment.
Swedenborg describes a tree, and
especially a fruit tree, as corresponding with a person as to one's affections
for good and perceptions of truth. (Apocalypse Revealed #401) Beginnings of what
is of love and wisdom, the church with a person, can be compared with the
growing of green grass. (Apocalypse Revealed #401) The church as what is among
and within people is a place of rebirth, guided by God's moving. One can think
of the church as a kind of growing community imaged in trees flourishing by a
stream or a growing and well tended garden.
As described by Swedenborg, the
pouring out of water corresponds to the presence and growth of truth, and the pursing
out of spirit corresponds to the to the presence and growth of good which is of
charity. (Arcana 8043.2) These outpourings are part of rebirth or regeneration
processes. These processes involved a turning to god and a looking to spirit in
others and ourselves, and an active life of bringing spirit to the world.
Rebirth or regeneration
processes take time and perhaps could be imaged as jagged spirals where one may
become stuck at times or even slips back but moves forward overall, much
connected with God and others. In reaching maturity trees pass through many
stages from a seed taking root, a shoot growing, leaves coming forth, a trunk
and branches forming, seeds being created. Processes of growth are involved in
the life of a tree, the ripening of a crop, the building of a house, the growth
of a person physically and mentally, the growth of a church community and other
communities. These comparisons go with the idea that a person's rebirth or
regeneration is much like a person being carried in the womb, born, and
educated. (True Christian Religion 586) Such growth involves God's nurturing and
our responding as we live with others in the world.
If we think about the life for
which God creates persons, we could image the growth of persons into a group of
fruit trees, a garden, or a paradise. (Divine Providence 332:3) Yet evil has
become present, real, and has consequences. In the face of the realities of
evil, there can be what Swedenborg pictures as a grafting of shoots taken from
the Tree of Life. (Divine Providence, #332:4) which can bring a transforming in
We can picture the relation of
God to a person's part in rebirth by imagining a garden. (Apocalypse Explained
#154:2,3) Think of a gardener working with the ground, planting seeds, taking
care of the seeds and the growing plants. This is much like our turning to God,
seeking to learn what is true, resist what harms, and contribute to what is
good. We need to do our part, as a gardener needs to do one's part. God brings
life and growth to the garden, working with the gardener, and nurtures our
rebirth, working with us as we seek to do our part.
Think about our lives today.
What is needed by a person we may encounter later in the day or in the evening?
What may be needed from us next week at home, in the workplace, in an important
friendship, o r in an important community of which we are a part? Life will
bring to us challenges and opportunities, places where we may be able to
contribute to rebirth for others and ourselves. We can go forward into the next
times of our lives with the assurance of God's moving and the possibilities for
Bless the Lord, O my soul. O
Lord my God, you are very great... You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses
quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the
earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for
the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to
strengthen the human heart. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the
cedars of Lebanon that he planted... You have made the moon to mark the season;
the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all
the animals of the forest come creeping out...
O Lord, how manifold are you
works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures...
From Psalm 104
The operation of the Divine
providence, humans not knowing it, may be illustrated by two comparisons. It is
like a gardener collecting the seeds of shrubs, fruit-trees, and flowers of all
kinds, and providing spades, rakes, and other tools for working the land, and
then fertilizing the garden, digging it, dividing it into beds, putting in the
seeds, and smoothing the surface. All these things one must do as if of oneself.
But it is the Lord who causes the seeds to take root, to spring forth out of the
earth, to shoot forth into leaves, and then into blossoms, and finally to yield
new seeds for the benefit of the gardener. Again, it is like someone about to
build a house, who gets the necessary materials, as timber, rafters, stories,
mortar, and other things, But afterwards the Lord builds the house from
foundation to roof exactly adapted to the person, through the person does not
know it. From this it follows, that unless we provide the necessary things for a
garden or a house, we will have no garden with the benefit of its fruits, and no
house and thence no habitation. So it is with reformation. The things that we
must provide ourselves with are the knowledges of truth and good from the Word,
from the doctrine of the church, from the world, and by our own labor. The Lord
does everything else while we are ignorant of it. But it is to be known, that
all things necessary to planting a garden or building a house, which, as has
been said, are the knowledges of truth and good, are nothing but the materials,
and have no life in them until we do them or live according to them as if our
ourselves. When that is done the Lord enters and vivifies and builds, that is,
reforms. Such a garden, or such a house is our understanding, for therein is our
wisdom, which derives form love all that it is.
Apocalypse Explained #1153