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Sermons and Spiritual Messages
► Hear "What's Truly Important?"
Sermon by The Reverend Junchol Lee, June 25, 2017
Scripture readings: Isaiah 3:10-17, Mark 9:33-37
There are many things that we considered important throughout our life, but only a few things stand out as truly important. On This Sunday, I would like to explore those few things that are truly important to us and the reason why.
On this Sunday, I would like to reflect on how leaders are selected to govern through the story of Saul and David. What do we value and see as important when choosing leaders of our nation, state, or city? Certainly, I will not get into any political issues, but explore how we express our spiritual nature when we choose our leaders.
There is one question that arises in my mind whenever I read the books of Samuel in the Bible: what does it mean to be a good king (or leader of a nation or people)? Apparently, there is a big difference between what humans and God believe it means to be a good king. On Sunday, I would like to explore matters relating to leadership reflecting on the Bible, Daoism, and Confucianism.
Today on Easter Sunday we discuss 1) Life is change, and everything changes; 2) Knowing and living are two different things; 3) Death is not the end, it is the beginning. How does this make sense? How can we believe what we cannot see? Our inner perception tells us this is what we really are. What we truly believe becomes our reality.
Today on Palm Sunday, we consider the spiritual meaning of palm branchs as the "good" we can hold in our hand and how to cultivate our nature so that it is pleasing to God and delightful in His sight.
We explore the difference between what appears to be important and what is actually important. When Saul went searching for his father's donkeys, he found the prophet Samuel, who would anoint him the first king of Israel.
► Hear "A Rising and Setting Sun: On the Appearance of an Angry God"
Swedenborg was harshly critiqued by his contemporaries for his suggestion that God is never angry and never punishes. This position came with profound theological implications, and some eighteenth century theologians couldn't reconcile this view with the biblical accounts of an angry God in both the Old and New Testaments. We will take up this interpretive challenge, and consider the possibility of a God who is "absolute love, absolute mercy, and absolute goodness" in light of key passages from scripture, and in light of our own desire for divine justice in the affairs of the world today.
Rebecca Esterson is a faculty member of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies. She received her Ph.D. at the Graduate Division of Religious Studies at Boston University working in the Texts and Traditions track. She earned her Masters of Theological Studies in 2002 from Harvard Divinity School with a focus in world religions, and also studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a visiting graduate student in 2000-01. After receiving her masters degree, she worked at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions for 9 years where she was able to further develop her interest in comparative studies and interfaith learning.
Dr. Esterson's research interests include: the history of biblical interpretation, hermeneutics, Jewish and Christian mysticism, Jewish-Christian relations, eighteenth century intellectual culture, Christian Hebraism, comparative religious studies. Her dissertation demonstrates, via the example of Emanuel Swedenborg, the persistence of biblical allegory in eighteenth century Christian thought, and its entanglement with both the developments of the scientific revolution and the figured discourse of Jewish and Christian religious identity.
Historically speaking, it was a natural progression that the Israelites desired to transform from a tribal alliance into a kingdom. Yet, both Samuel and God reacted with strong emotions, stressing that they were rejected by the Israelites. We explore what it means to believe and follow the teachings of God, and the difference between rational faith and blind faith.
Things happen in our life, some expected and some unexpected. To a degree, our life is made up of our reactions to the things that happen to us. Sometimes, something that was unthinkable suddenly becomes real and takes our minds away. This Sunday, I share the story of the Ark of the Covenant as it was captured by enemies of the Israelites, and its spiritual applications to us.
Scripture calls us to heal and be healed, particularly both our internal, spiritual selves as well as the world around us. This Biblical theme is all the more relevant today, when bigotry is magnified, Jewish centers of worship and learning are continually threatened, social systems are undermined, and egotism seems to reign supreme. This Sunday we'll explore God's call to heal, the process of renewal that is salvation.
Rev. Lee describes his personal spiritual journey through Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and Swedenborgianism, concluding by sharing with us what he found as the same in all of the teachings he studied.
In these troubled times, our disagreements and divisions can seem the most intense when they are within the family and with those we love. In the Bible, there are many examples of interfamilial strife, but also visions of both reconciliation and new kinds of belonging. This sermon reflects on what God might mean when it is written that we will be given a new name.
Devin Zuber is an Assistant Professor of American Studies, Literature, and Swedenborgian Studies. Dr. Zuber centers his inquiries in literary aesthetics, hermeneutics, and cultural history, which includes the environment as special zone of engagement. His scholarly interests include exploring the different ways people have imagined and constructed their relationship to the environment through various practices of cultural representation. He is also a Swedenborgian specialist, and particularly interested in the legacy of Swedenborg's thought in Romanticism. His work has appeared in Religion and the Arts, American Studies, and Variations.
Being religious or spiritual is about being aware of one's own mindset. Actions are certainly important as the final expressions/manifestations of one's mindset. But at the same time, actions could be misleading or misrepresenting. On Sunday, I would like to reflect on the appropriate mindset of being a Christian.
It might cross the mind of any believer in any religion at least once: Why doesn't my God fix everything and make the world paradise? This Sunday, I explore the possible reasons and ways that we can understand the process of divine providence: how God manages the created world.
New year, new dreams, new goals, new challenges, new awareness, new friendships, new memories. "I am making all things new," said the Lord. This Sunday, we get the year off to a good start with our first-of-the-year communion.