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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

accentOur 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 wind.

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 rebirth.

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 rebirth.

accentScripture:

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

accentReading from Swedenborg:

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 

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Music: Dreams Do Come True
1999 Bruce DeBoer













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