According to Swedenborg, humans are born with both a desire to seek love (that is they want to be loved) and a capacity to love (that is to be able love others besides and beyond oneself). Many human problems stem from the difference between our innate desire for love and our innate potential to give love. Seeking to be loved is a natural process for us, while loving others properly requires conscious acknowledgement, patience and inner cultivation.
► Hear “Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ”
Sermon by The Reverend Junchol Lee, December 21, 2014
Scripture readings: John 1:14-18, Isaiah 32:16-20
In Acts, Peter declares, “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus. (15:11)” If we take this phrase literally, it might sound like human salvation is just a free gift from Jesus that does not require any human collaboration. In a way, this could be true. But is that all? On Sunday, I would like to explore the meaning of the phrase “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” and its relations with the greatest teaching on love, loving and being loved.
The Gospel of John illustrates that the birth of Jesus meant much more than the coming of a deliverer and savior who would bring a temporary relief to the people of Israel from foreign oppression. Jesus is the Word through whom “the world came into being!” Thus, when he came into the world, he came into his own. Swedenborg pays a keen attention to this concept: “one’s own.” In Latin, one’s own is proprium. And, in Swedenborg’s theological writing, proprium means the original ownership of something as if that something is of oneself, that it essentially belongs to one. Consequently, we are and the world is God’s own! So, what does this mean? Let’s explore this on Sunday morning.
Whenever I hear and read the Advent story, it fascinates my mind. Somehow it feels the most meaningful and inspiring when read during the Advent season: God has become a human baby so that God can be fully united with humanity as a whole. The in-depth meaning of Advent stories seem to be endless. This year, I would like to reflect upon the meaning of Advent with the Gospel according to John. On this Sunday, we will begin the Advent season with a reading of the very first verses of John and Genesis.
When was last time you felt spiritual joy because you experienced the presence of God in your life? Or living in this modern age, and especially living in one of the most developed metropolises in America, would it be too much to talk about “realistically experiencing the divine presence” in our daily lives? On Sunday, I would like to explore the biblical meaning of giving thanks to God, its meaning and significance to us.
Sometimes I observe that my Christian brothers and sisters debate the priority of faith versus charitable works. And sometimes, I find myself in the middle of a heated debate over which one is more important. Certainly, this is not a new problem. Paul, as one of the most significant evangelizers of the message of Jesus Christ, was fully aware of the challenge in emphasizing faith in Christ and at the same time of the need for modifying of the ancient law, which was the standard for good works, especially when it regarded the newly converted non-Jewish Christians. Faith and work (or keeping the law), can they be separated? On Sunday, I would like to explore the nature and characteristics of faith and work.
► Hear “Think Spiritually, Act Materially”
Spiritual Message by Joy Barnitz, Parishioner and Swedenborgian Seminarian, November 9, 2014
The parable of the Good Samaritan bears an important message for our troubled times. The Samaritan was considered an outsider – practically an infidel – yet by his good work he attained the Kingdom of Heaven. Can we be as good as the bad guys?
► Hear “San Francisco’s Best Idea of Itself”
Dr. Kevin Starr, Renowned California Historian and Author, October 26, 2014
► Hear “The Transformational Power of Architecture”
Ted Bosley, Architectural Historian and Author, October 26, 2014
► Hear “A Memorable Experience”
John Gaul, Parishioner, October 26, 2014
► Hear “120 Years of Service”
Rev. Jim Lawrence, Dean of the Swedenborgian House of Studies, October 26, 2014
► Hear “The National Landmarking Process”
Michael Santimauro, Parishioner, October 26, 2014
► Hear “Paul Before King Agrippa: Telling Your Story”
Sermon by The Reverend Junchol Lee, October 5, 2014
Scripture readings: Acts 26:1-18, Jeremiah 38:14-28
After many missionary journeys, Paul was arrested in the temple at Jerusalem. They accused Paul of bringing Greeks into the temple and “defiling this holy place (Acts 21:28).” After that Paul went through a series of trial and defenses. He even had to appeal to the emperor taking advantage of his “Roman” citizenship. Unlike Jesus or Peter, Paul did everything in his ability to escape his obviously approaching death. Yet there was one thing that he persistently emphasized from the beginning to the end: the story of why he was preaching to and welcoming the Gentiles. This struck my heart deeply and made me wonder, “do I have a story like that?”
From Swedenborg’s True Christianity (§718): We are not life itself the way the Lord was, even in his humanity (John 5:26); we are vessels for receiving life. Life itself cannot become an integral part of us, but it can have contact with us and affect us. I have added these points to help you understand in exactly what way the Lord and his redemption are fully present in the Holy Supper.
► Hear “Holy Gossip: Telling Stories that Matter”
Spiritual Message by Darleen Pryds, Professor of Spirituality and History at Franciscan School of Theology, September 28, 2014
Scripture readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, Luke 8:40-56
This reflection explores story telling as a spiritual practice and focuses on one little known story of one particular woman, Jacopa dei Settesoli, who tended to Francis of Assisi at his death. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of the city of San Francisco and is celebrated on his feast day, October 4.
In Athens, Paul felt a strong calling to share his belief and faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah. In Paul’s mind, the Athenians were miserable because they were worshiping gods that were sculpted by humans. In another way of looking at this, Paul might have felt that the Athenians were devoting themselves to a reality that was man-made instead of seeking and finding the true reality, which in Paul’s mind had been revealed by Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Why is it important to know the real truth instead of just believing whatever one feels to be true?
“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Mohandas Gandhi famously said. The change we desire is the New Jerusalem. God’s hand will surely guide us, but our hands must do the work.
Throughout the gospels we see the Lord eating with people, feeding people, and blessing food to be shared. Food was, and is, and integral experience of life and being human. What does this mean for us as individuals and for what it means to be church? How can we be part of feeding and being fed?
Now, Paul has begun his famous missionary journey. In Acts 13, Paul stood with Barnabas before the Jews and others at the synagogue. Here, Paul delivers a speech that moved the minds of many Jews and others. Why was it so moving to them? On Sunday, I would like to explore what the ancient people, including the Jews, had been longing for and seeking in connection with the coming and the message of Jesus as the Christ.
What do we make of God’s great Silence in a world filled with so much challenge? How do we remain faithful – trusting in the ultimate Presence we know only as absence? Christine Rodgers will ponder these themes using scripture, poetry and shared life experiences.
Christine Rodgers is an actor and poet living in San Francisco. Her poetry has appeared in America, National Catholic Reporter, Fellowship, Radical Grace and on a variety of websites. She has published three collections of poetry: Into the Great Green Heart of God, Upon a Luminous Night and Embracing the Sacred Journey.
In Acts 9, we read of the single most significant story in the history of Christianity since the coming of Christ: the conversion of Saul (who was also called Paul). The conversion of Saul has such a weight because the first Christian churches that gave birth to Christianity as a world religion were either founded by Paul himself or heavily influenced by him. What caused this dramatic and significant conversion was a “personal and direct experience of the risen Jesus Christ.” I explore the importance of “the persona and direct experience of Jesus Christ” in Christian history, and how it might relate to us.
What is actual freedom? How and why could it be cultivated?
Is there a payment asked, possibly even demanded?
What do I really want? What do I actually love?
The Bible contains many stories. Some appear to have a deeper meaning while others seem to be just telling a story that might have happened as it is written. In Acts 3, we read a story of a miracle performed by Peter. It may just be a story that happened as it is written, but it could be a story that portrays something deeply significant to our spiritual journey. On Sunday, I would like to explore the significance this miracle story had for the first Christians as well as its possible application to us.
Reading Acts always brings my mind to wonder with the question: “What did Peter believe to be the reward and the meaning of being a follower of Jesus Christ?” Whatever it might have been, I am pretty sure that his expectation and purpose of being a Christian was different from that of the modern Christians. It is an age old question, but it is one worth asking again: “Being a Christian, what does this mean to you?”
The rock that God built his church upon, could that rock be in you? Rev. Speas explores Peter’s impulsive answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” The establishment of the first Pope isn’t the end of the story.
Right after the amazing event of Pentecost, Peter stood up and gave a speech to the all those who had witnessed it. The most urgent issue might have been to properly communicate to the rest of the people what had happened, and more importantly why it had happened. Peter’s heart was fully charged with the Spirit, and wisdom had been given to him. Yet, properly communicating the meaning of what had happened was not at all an easy task. Peter’s speech became the model for all Christian evangelists afterwards. Now, as we read it almost 2000 year later, what does it mean to me and you?
To Emmanuel Swedenborg, June 19, 1770 was a very significant day. On this day, he had the vision of Christ sending out his disciples to the entire spiritual world to preach the gospel: the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns and his kingdom will last for ages of ages. Later, June 19th was named as New Church Day by the first people who were inspired by Swedenborg’s message. Before they were identified as “Swedenborgians,” they called themselves the people of the New Church. On Sunday, I would like to explore a few issues surrounding a simple, but meaningful question, “what is the New Church?”
Pentecost literally means 50th day. This was what Hellenistic Jews called the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Weeks was and is one of the major celebrations for the ancient Israelites because it commemorates the day God gave Torah (the Law) to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai. Could it be just a coincidence that the day the Apostles of Jesus experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them happened to be the same day that God had given the Law to Moses and the Israelites? Or should we consider this as a kind of divine providence that connects the tradition and promise of the Old into the New? Also, what does it mean by being “filled with the Spirit?”
In Acts 1:6-11, we read of the ascension of Jesus along with the promise of his return, which has been a major source of hope and anticipation for Christians for the past two millennia. I still remember, as if it happened yesterday, the fever of the spiritually and emotionally charged people praying and crying for the return of Jesus Christ at a Pentecost Sunday evening service back in 1986, when I was a youth member of a Korean Presbyterian church in Korea. I would like to explore what the promise of return meant to the disciples and the first Christians and in what way this can still be significant to us living in the 21st century.
At the very end of the Gospel of Matthew is the commission of Jesus to his disciples. And according to Matthew, these are the very last words that the resurrected Jesus spoke to his disciples. When reading them literally, it seems very clear that Jesus wants them to spread the good news to the ends of the world and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For the past 2,000 years, most Christian churches took this literally and did their best to spread the good news and to perform this baptism. Reading these words 2,000 years after it might have been spoken, I get to wonder: “Did Jesus really mean this literally?” We explore the meaning and significance of Jesus’s final great commission.
We all have a mother. Mother may mean a human female in three different ways and degrees:
- One who biologically gave birth to a child;
- One who has raised or is raising a child or children;
- One who has nurtured or is nurturing one or more humans beings physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So, what does it mean to choose to be a mother in the 21st century, especially in a country like the USA? I would like to explore the meaning and value of being a mother, of motherhood in the 21st century on this Sunday.
On this Sunday, we sit together at tables for communion, worship, and a potluck meal.
Many know and remember Jesus’s resurrection and what preceded it quite well, but how about what practically and realistically happened after that to all followers of Jesus? At the end of Luke, there is a story about two disciples going to Emmaus. They seemed to have heard of the resurrection of Jesus, but it is apparent that they did not take the story seriously. Yet Jesus appears to them and explains the truth of the Word! In a way, this can be a story of our life…
► Hear “Mary Magdelene and Peter”
Sermon by The Reverend Junchol Lee, 11 AM Easter Service, April 20, 2014
Scripture readings: John 20:1-20, Exodus 2:1-10
How much love do you have? How often do you express your love?
Jesus had been coming down to Jerusalem to observe Passover every year. But on the third year, his entry was uniquely different from the previous years. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt and welcomed by people shouting joys and waving palm branches in their hands. They shouted loudly, “Hosanna (Save us, we pray)!” to Jesus as he was entering Jerusalem in such a kingly, victor’s manner. What was this victory of Jesus? And, from what had the people wanted to be saved?
If you read any given story in the Bible carefully, you may find a few things that you might not have noticed before. In John 12:20-26, there is a short story illustrating what happened to Jesus right after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the day that we celebrate as Palm Sunday. Greeks came to see Jesus, and Jesus’ answer to them begins as “The hour has come …” For me, the fascinating point of this story is that no one actually asked Jesus a question! Seeing the Greeks triggered something in Jesus to teach this teaching in John 12:20-26. I explore a few possibilities…
During Jesus’ last week, one of the most important questions asked of him by some Sadducees was one regarding resurrection and marriage. Luke captures this event and shares it with us in a short story in 20:27-40. Jesus’ answer includes two very important teachings: what resurrection is and how marriage is in the life after this life. In today’s sermon, the meaning of resurrection and the meaning of marriage in heaven is explored.
► Hear “Heavenly Cities and Earthly Gardens”
Spiritual Message by Anna Woofenden, March 23, 2014
Scripture readings: Genesis 2:4-17, Selections from Revelation 21 and 22
The Bible begins in the Garden of Eden and ends with a garden in the middle of the Heavenly City. What does it mean to engage in being part of heaven here on earth?
Anna is a Masters of Divinity Student at Earlham School of Religion and the Swedenborgian House of Studies, and an ordination candidate with the Swedenborgian Church of North America. She has fifteen years of ministry experience both on a denominational and local level prior to following her call to ordained ministry. Anna has a passion for spirituality, justice, beauty, compassion, and community, and is driven by a calling to re-imagine church.
In Mark 12, Jesus teaches us ‘what the first commandment is.’ This is the first commandment, not as in the order of coming in numbers, but as in the priority. And, this is not an advice or recommendation, but a commandment. Following an advice or recommendation can be optional, but following a commandment is not. What Jesus commands us to do as the first priority of our lives on earth is “to love the Lord God, the Creator.” Yet, Jesus leaves it up to us to figure our hows and whats on living this life of loving the Creator. So, do you know your hows and whats?
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past” – anonymous Ukrainian nationalihttp://geewhizlabs.com/swedenborg/Sermons/st interviewed on Wednesday, quoting Thomas Jefferson. Our scripture readings this week also involve dreams and visions of the future. Is there something more to a “glass is half full” attitude other than, simply, a naturally sunny disposition? Is there something informed by faith?
In John 12, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints the feet of Jesus with a pound of costly oil. Jesus accepts this as an act of love and devotion, but Judas Iscariot is upset by Mary’s act. Judas argues that it is a waste to use oil in such a way, and it would have been better to sell it and spend the money for the poor. Love of God and love of the neighbor, how do these two important loves relate one to another?
Now the last week of Jesus Christ has begun with the great and public entry into Jerusalem the day before. For the following day, Matthew 21:18 states “In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry.” Somehow right after the grand entry into Jerusalem and the notorious act of cleansing the temple, Jesus came back to the city the next morning without having had breakfast and therefore being hungry. Whenever we read the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, we often focus on the fig tree and the unrevealed reason why Jesus had to curse the fig tree. But the real focus should be on Jesus’s being “hungry!” How many times in the entire Four Gospels do you read that “Jesus was hungry?” What does it mean by stating that “he was hungry?”
The design of the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church has the worshiper begin the approach to the service passing through a garden (with a bird bath!) that displays a Divine general revelation present in nature. The worshiper’s approach concludes sitting and gazing upon a book–the Word–placed directly below a stained glass depicting another bird bath, but this time a bird is seen drinking (the correspondence of water is truth).
The Word is God’s second revelation adapted directly to human communication, and we are to drink from it. And according to our scripture reading this Sunday, there is a very particular place where you can have a personal rendezvous with God anytime you wish. Come find out where that wondrous space is.
On Sunday, February 2nd, we had not only Communion, but a meal together! We gathered and created the experience of divine love that was expressed through our hearts, minds and bodies.
► Hear “Feasts of Charity: How to Party in Heaven”
Spritual Message by Dr. Devin Zuber, Swedenborgian House of Studies, January 26, 2014
How is coming together in community to eat and drink a spiritual discipline? On the eve of Swedenborg’s 326th birthday, this sermon meditates on the “feasts of charity” that Swedenborg talks about in his theology, which he saw as central to the social lives of angels in heaven. Looking at Swedenborg’s theology and the biblical texts he drew on offers us a rich resource for thinking about the spiritual reasons we are called to eat, drink, and enjoy each others’ company.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax-collector and thus a very rich man. For this reason, the Jews regarded him as a sinner. Jesus decided to stay at his house, and even proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” What does Jesus mean by this salvation? And, how should we relate to the very truth that Jesus obviously loves to reach out to the people who are classified as “sinners” in their own communities?
We are now “in the bleak midwinter”, as the old hymn says. And as we stay in touch with friends in the hard chill that dominates so much of the country, we can thank our lucky stars that here in Northern California “bleak midwinter” generally means little more than gloomy rain (would that it were so!)
Still, it is winter – the sun rises late and sets early. The dark of night seems to reign, an we tend to turn indoors and inwards. In the church, this period between Christmas (on the heels of the Winter Solstice) and Easter (the coming of a glorious Spring) is referred to broadly as Epiphany – a time when we consider a bit more explicitly than usual the particulars of our faith revealed in the Lord.
What makes us specifically Christian beyond being generally spiritual? The correct, technical answer is “baptism and the Holy Supper”. The Holy Supper comes to us directly from the Lord, but He Himself was baptized (by his cousin John). Did this make Jesus a Christian? This Sunday we will consider this exceptional baptism.
In Luke 8, we read an amazing story of Jesus bringing a dead girl back to life. What makes the story particularly interesting is that on the way to the girl’s house, a woman is healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothes. Here, in one story, two females are saved, one who is 12 years old, and the other who suffered for 12 years. The girl is called back by Jesus from death, and the woman was saved by her own faith and courage! What is the significance of these two females, one young and one older, and the number 12? Is this a mere coincidence, or did God design this parable to teach a truth that is deeply related to our spiritual growth?