A Sermon by Rev. Kit Billings
11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
This has been a rather ominous week hasn't it, what with huge power failures in New York, Michigan, Ohio, some other states and parts of Canada, not to mention raging forest fires in Montana and elsewhere. Wasn't it amazing to see or hear news of New York City itself coming to a screeching electrical halt? The subways didn't work; traffic lights were dead; Times Square looked like a digital ghost town—it's massive TV screen looking as if someone suddenly pulled it's plug.
I was struck by reports of city water systems throughout the northeast not working and many of the high-rise buildings in New York literally not getting ANY water to their upper floors. Airports all around the world were drastically affected, many flights canceled, and many people who would normally take the subway home simply had to walk miles on foot. People stood in extremely long lines to get a slice of pizza. Meat shop owners chose to have sidewalk Bar B' Q's for anyone who wanted it----ALL OMINOUS SIGNS that the northeast was suddenly, hauntingly without POWER.
The tremendously good news amongst New Yorkers at least is that due to the aftereffects of 9-11 residents of that famed city were incredibly kind, forgiving, patient and helpful with each other when the big chips were down this week. Indeed, those people seem to have discovered what I learned in living through six long and now and then bone-chilling winters in Minnesota (where lengthy exposure to below freezing temperatures will ultimately kill a man)---within all of us is an ever-present reservoir of kindness that can always be tapped. That is what New Yorkers have learned.
New Yorkers as a majority today are being very kind to one another when chaos and selfishness would be easy. Their electrical grids may have been out of power, but sure as God's Kingdom lives on earth, those people's hearts weren't out of power!!
ENERGY—a rather vital subject isn't it? This week's power failures remind us how incredibly important energy and power are in life. And, they also remind us that all around us there's an enormous amount of electromagnetic power flowing, which is generated from many sources, and is LARGELY UNFELT and UNRECOGNIZED by most of us most of the time. Electromagnetic energy largely runs the show down here on earth…it powers a great deal of what we enjoy and make use of.
This past week did you ever take a moment to pause and think about the thousands and thousands of voltage that surge underneath, through the walls in your home, and overhead of you in power lines? And then, did you ever think about how many different gadgets, appliances, engines, radios, CD players, TV's, computers, life-support systems, grocery stores, cinemas, mass transit systems, and most of all the LIGHTS WE USE are all utterly dependent upon regular resources of constantly flowing ENERGY and POWER?! It's downright scary in a way how immensely dependent we are in modern society upon electrical energy. Without it, as we saw this week, much of modern life dies, and comes to a bewildering halt.
I wonder, though, if things like this are allowed to happen within God's Divine Providence, in part for the purpose of spiritual instruction. What lessons can we learn from all this?
In a SPIRITUAL SENSE these great power failures can be greatly useful in helping us to clearly understand our position in life in relation to God…they can help us also understand how profoundly vital God's inflowing Life-force is (which powers spiritual life everywhere)…and our power failures can therefore become quite inspiring! For they remind us on a correspondential or symbolic level of life that you and I and all of the power of life that flows through us comes from another source (from God actually), and that without the Lord in our lives we are dead.
I read on vacation not long ago that if God were to take His inflowing power of love away from us for the slightest moment we would simply cease to exist! How's that for a mental wing-dinger?! Also, I was reading that the source of all energy to create and sustain everything in the natural universe flows from the Divine into the deepest substructures of all natural and spiritual things. Therefore, every one of the cells in your body, and every least cell in your spiritual body (the one you'll live in in Heaven for all eternity after you die) receives its existence right now as a creative act of the Divine! Thus, the entire daily power you and I use within us to power our will (our affections), our thoughts, and our ability to move and be active stems not from ourselves but from the Lord.
OUR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD,
is almost unbelievable.
We read this morning in Psalm 62 that “power belongeth unto God.” Our Incarnate Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke personally to this great truth after He had fully glorified His humanity at the end of His earth-bound ministry and revealed: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The Lord's greatest joy is to give you power to live…He gives you His life and gives it abundantly, yet it is up to you to choose how far-reaching God's influx of love and wisdom can reach throughout your will and understanding.
Swedenborg was blessed to learn some marvelously deep things about how it is that you and I receive the power to live, both naturally and spiritually. After many years of deeply studying God's Holy Word, he wrote that God's life-force inflows constantly and beautifully into the inmost, subconscious depths of your being, as well as into the innermost parts of everything in creation to give it substance and life! And perhaps what is most important of all is to understand that Infinite and Pure Love Itself is the One powerhouse of heaven and the natural universe, and it is this Divine Love that pours itself into you to give you life…in a way that makes it feel like it comes from you.
In a sense, you see, you and I are like New York City. There's a great deal of activity going on inside of you, which depends upon the constant, ever-present inflow of a great deal of power, of spiritual electricity, you might say, which is surging and moving within you! And it is this spiritual power from God that makes all manner of light bulbs go on within you when you're open to seeing and understanding scientific and spiritual truths. But your needed cooperation with God's power is enormous! Whatever QUALITY or type of affections and thinking patterns you choose to have will take in the power of God's gift of life from Him. It's up to you to make certain that the spiritual power grids within you are good, up-to-date with sound spiritual doctrine or hardwiring, and ready to let God's power of love surge deeply through you.
Swedenborg discovered that God's inflowing love and power to light your mind descend into the upper regions of your spiritual mind, then into your basic power of rationality and your will to care about God, heaven, the church, the world, your country, your neighbor, your family and yourself. But this power is given to you in an aura of tremendous freedom, to use it for what is good or for what is evil. And this, we come to find, is where natural power failures lend us useful spiritual light for “insight.” Recent news reports tell us that these major northeast power failures occurred due to human error and perhaps antiquated electrical grid systems that need replacement. It's quite possible for us humans to encounter lapses within us of the power to love, to reason wisely and do what is good in life. Sometimes our internal power grids seem to lack the power to love as we should, to live up to the awesomely powerful potential God gives us to live as His apostles.
In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push.
After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.
Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life!
For two years needless trouble had become a routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting the power to work. J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians 1:19-20: "How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God." You, your spirit and your body, are great and awesome power grids for the Lord's Infinite Generator of Love and Truth. When we make firm our connection with God, His life and power flow through us.
Our theology reminds us that the core issue is really one of spiritual charity—that is, our deep and simple openness to a deeper form and substance of kindness toward others. I continue also to find how vital my own ability to feel and experience real spiritual charity has a lot to do with genuine love and esteem for myself. As Christ so wonderfully put it: “Love others as yourself.” Those in tune with their own internal preciousness tend to perceive such diamond-like qualities in others and just love giving it.
Given this week's power failures, perhaps you've started to see how enormous is our dependency upon God's spiritual electricity. I urge you to examine your own life and see how major losses of spiritual power happen in your life and why. President Bush is urging congress to spend the money for upgrades that will ensure no future major power failures. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is urging you to maintain and develop a depth and degree of faith and deep connection with Him, as well as kindness toward all people, that will power your mind with more power and light than all of Manhattan and the other four New York boroughs combined!
We're designed to be very “power-full” beings. Are you deeply and faithfully plugged into the Divine Powerhouse of heaven and earth? If so, then let your light shine for all to see! Amen.
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