A Question of Values & Priorities
by the Rev. Erwin Reddekopp,
retired Swedenborgian minister
In the April, 1994 Issue of Our Daily Bread
  

A few years ago I was listening to an Easter message delivered by a young minister form the Los Angeles area. He told a story about a young college student, a woman, whose parents, as is normal, were concerned about her physical and moral welfare. She had not communicated with them for some time. The young woman, in not wanting to shock her parents too much about her bad grades, gave them an account of an incident in her life at college which really disturbed them - but further in her letter she told them it was not true, but - she did want to tell them that she had miserably failed some of her grades. They were so relieved that the first incident was false and therefore far less distressed that she had failed some of her grades. So, as we say, it was a matter of perspective.

Such in our life in general. The early followers of Jesus had the same problem. At first they could not accept the crucifixion of Jesus in the perspective of the greater work that He had to do for the spiritual redemption of the whole human race. In the same sense we do not, for the most part, accept life here in this world, with all its ups and downs, griefs and joys, successes and failures, in the perspective of the reality of the spiritual world and our part in it, and most of all, our preparation for angelhood in heaven. We have need to constantly, even daily, consider our goals and our priorities in order to keep our perspective focused on that which is really valuable and eternal.

On the same day that Jesus had risen, and his close followers were grieving over his shameful death from crucifixion, two of his followers were on a walk to Emmaus. Suddenly a stranger was walking with them. They did not know it was Jesus! We are told that their "eyes were kept from recognizing Him." We would now assume that for the time it was not "permitted" by providence. Conversing about the loss of their beloved leader, they said to the "stranger," "We had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel." Later they would begin to understand a bit more about Jesus' real mission, but at this point they could see Him only as a social leader who would eventually be the one to lead them in the overthrow of the Romans who were their masters and oppressors.

In our view this concept of Jesus as a leader was basically materialistic. From their perspective at that time it was more important that they should gain political and social freedom. The main thrust of our theme now is to emphasize the reality and the nearness of the spiritual world, and our part in it, and to help us to see and to know that Jesus, our risen Lord, makes available to us the freedom and the rationality to keep a healthy and proper perspective on the two worlds in which we live. On the one hand the physical or natural world has a very strong hold on us, and to some extent rightly, so that we will be motivated to take care of those things proper to this life and our responsibilities. On the other hand, the spiritual world and life is the one in which we live, even now, and for which we were born. This can be somewhat illustrated by words from Swedenborg whish say to us, in very practical terms, that we should learn to strike a good balance between the two worlds of which we are citizens, living in each now, and to make the best use, unselfishly, of this natural life - treasure it and enjoy it, but only as it provides the means of achieving a more satisfying and useful life now and to eternity, in heaven. WE ARE ALL BORN FOR HEAVEN. Let us not forget that!

In this sense then, we see the clear message of Easter in the death and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We sometimes say in our church that we worship a living and risen and glorified Jesus Christ, not the crucified one. His is the Divine example, really, for us all. He did have at one time a natural, earthly body, taken from Mary, to clothe his Divinity. Our lives lose their purpose if we cannot see for ourselves, and for those for whom we care, the reality and the inevitability of the death of our physical bodies. Too often it seems, we want to deny the fact of death, even by not referring to it as such. We say, for example, when someone has died that a dear one has passed away.

Jesus, in referring to his own forthcoming crucifixion and death, said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12). It seems to me that a common tendency for us all is to view death as a termination of our usefulness, our productivity, and even our enjoyment of life. That's because we see only one side of this seemingly tragic event. We just can't see the other side of happy and useful experiences of life that far exceed anything that we could ever experience here. How often do you hear a comment such as, "Here our good friend was just getting ready to retire and enjoy life, without his daily work, and enjoy that long planned for trip, and then he died!" How sad! But what is sad about it? True, those near and dear to him will grieve for a time and miss his physical presence, but how much sadder still would it be if there were no future life of useful activity and heavenly enjoyments, far beyond the temporal ones, waiting for him? 

[Note from Judy: I humbly take issue with this last paragraph which  sounds flippant to a bereaved person -  having experienced the loss of so many loved ones and being a member of a church that did not teach the beautiful teachings of Swedenborg, I was greatly hurt.  The pain of the grief (both the years of repressed grief and the years of active bereavement) caused me to make choices that I would not have made otherwise and  of which I am still dealing with the consequences.  I know from my chats that others are greatly hurt by death as well - especially a death that is not due to old age and particularly a "senseless" death - due to violence or negligence of a third party.  I do agree however, that God can bring goodness out any tragedy - and the resulting search for answers can bring AWESOME spiritual blessings of comfort, healing and delight to any individual.]

But the reality and the tragedy is this, that there is also a hell, and this by Divine permission even as there is evil and wickedness in this life and in us. For that reason there must be reformation and regeneration. "You must be born again." Jesus said. It must be obvious to us then that love of self and the world, being the opposite of love to the Lord and the neighbor, are then the opposite of heaven and consequently are hell. It is from these two infernal loves that Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer, constantly endeavors to withdraw us.

Redemption is a Divine act and it is provided for all of humanity (not just Christians), but redemption is meaningless, in a sense, unless we do our part according to Divine precept. We can do our part, that is, living according to principles of love and truth in relationships with our fellow human beings, because we have the spiritual freedom and a rational mind to do just that. This freedom we have because Jesus our Redeemer, by His life in the world, fought the evil and false forces of the hells, subjugating them, so that they could no longer control our bodies and minds in this life. We can now live the "good life" if we want or we can live wickedly. Unfortunately, often we do not life the way we ought to and that's hell.

How wonderful life here could be, all over the world, if ALL people tried to live according to the values and priorities that the angels of heaven live by? Just think what our human society would be like IF we lived by that angelic principle (which is from the Lord) to feel delight and happiness in the delight and happiness of others. It is almost inconceivable, isn't it? Yet, we can all experience this at times!

I hope that this Easter might be a time for us to look seriously at our values and our priorities, weigh them according to the uses that they serve in achieving that kind of life that Jesus really wants for us all. He wants us to be happy, but not at the expense of others. He wants our joy to be full! Happy Easter!

Scripture:

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - "Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder.  Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

John 12:23-36

Reading from Swedenborg:

Natural and temporal things are the extremes and outmosts into which a person first enters; and this one does at birth, in order to be able afterwards to be introduced into things more internal and higher. For extremes and outmosts are containants; and these are in the natural world. And this is why no angel or spirit was created such immediately, but were all born first as human beings, and were thus led into higher things...

Every one who duly reflects is able to know that eminence and wealthy in the world are not real Divine blessings, although from the pleasure in them people so call them; for they pass away, and likewise seduce many, and turn them away from heaven; but that life in heaven and happiness there are the real blessings which are form the Divine. This the Lord also teaches in Luke: - 

"Make for yourselves treasure in the heavens that faileth not where their draweth not near, nor moth destroyeth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (12:33,34)

Divine Providence #220
Arcana Coelestia #10776

 
 
 
  

Music: Forever and a Day
1999 Bruce DeBoer