Rev. Kit Billings
May 15, 2005
Canons n. 40
THOSE THREE, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT, ARE THE THREE ESSENTIALS OF THE ONE GOD, BEING A ONE IN THE SAME WAY AS SOUL, BODY, AND ACTIVITY, WITH MAN ARE A ONE.
The Divine Trinity, which is at the same time a Unity, cannot be comprehended by anyone in any other way than as being like soul, body, and activity, in the case of man; consequently in no other way than that the Divine Itself called the Father is the soul, the Divine Human called the Son is the body of that soul, and the Holy Spirit is the activity proceeding.
TCR n. 92
…the Divine Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is in the Lord, and that the Father in Him is the originating Divine, the Son the Divine Human and the Holy Spirit the emanating Divine.
This morning we are blessed to celebrate Pentecost, which many consider to be the spiritual birthday of the Christian Church. It is a great day to celebrate together, one that many Christian churches celebrate by bringing out lots of “red” in various ways—red vestments, red banners, banners with red and orange flames on them (that signify the coming of the Lord in Spirit and with “fire”, which signifies His Divine Love pouring forth into life)! The original experience of that first Pentecostal moment that we read about this morning in The Book of Acts is certainly a great and powerful moment in the life and history of the church, a supremely wondrous event, one which some folks are not completely sure how to make sense of it. It was one of many inspiring moments for the Lord’s disciples, in addition to a time when thousands who were there when it happened converted to Christianity that day.
Was it the time when the Holy Spirit was first birthed? No indeed. Both Old and New Testaments attest to the presence and reality of God as Holy Ghost before the day of Pentecost happened—our reading in John reveals this clearly. Was the day of Pentecost an experience that reveals God to be in three distinct Divine Persons? The answer again, no. Definitely no. It is impossible for there to be more than one omnipotent God Being. However, Pentecost does beautifully and powerfully reveal that something new in history began on that day—it was a moment when the full power of the Divine’s emanating love and truth poured out over those people in immensity. For indeed, Jesus Christ’s glorification (His journey from becoming Divine only in soul and not in His human, into becoming fully Divine in soul and Humanity!) was completed the week before when Christ ascended. And given that the One Infinite God-Creator had never before incarnated into our finite human flesh and psyche, the resulting effect of Jesus choosing on the side of Divine good and truth within His own mind every day of His life let loose the emanating power, truth and love of God into creation like never before! Pentecost, therefore, was that marvelous moment when the moving, comforting, vivifying power or breath of God came into life in a renewed way; indeed, the emanating or proceeding Divine life of God had always been in existence before this moment. And yet something wondrously new and more amazing had come into being—like never before had God’s Divine emanations flowed so fully and greatly into creation.
Some of you may know about the true story of what happened when one of the Soviet Union’s first Russian cosmonauts had his first glance at the openness of space after achieving orbit for the first time in Earth’s history. The Russians were the first to actually send a human being into space, as you probably remember from your history. Well, it so happened that when this Russian space traveler was sailing proudly through space in his space capsule, he radioed triumphantly down to his comrades on earth that after flying through space for days there was no indication of God anywhere! This real event mirrored what happened when the Babylonians first broke into the Holy of Holies after capturing Israel and her great Temple. Since they saw no physical sign or presence of Israel’s God, they declared that entire religion debunked…false…worthless!
Isn’t it fascinating that even though the birth of Jesus Christ (which changed our very calendars…or very sense of time itself…forever) is real, His great words and miracles that transformed thousands of lives back then was real, His resurrection that transformed and empowered the disciples was real, and the awesome full-force giving of God’s Divine life proceeding forth into creation at Pentecost was real, that still humanity finds it worthy to ignore the truth that God is real and vital. I suspect that there will always be those who will want to see or find a physical and undeniable presence of God in order to make them believe. How awesome it is, then, that God is beyond anything that can be present or represented in any natural, physical form. Symbols will always abound, yes. But the living Lord of all life will forever exist in a much higher form than that.
Pentecost essentially means the “fiftieth day.” That term actually has roots in the Old Testament. The original Pentecost celebration was the ancient Jew’s festival of wheat harvest, thus a time of fullness and joy. The Jewish Pentecost was as big a festival as Passover. There were three great Jewish festivals to which every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to come—the Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. This original Jewish festival was so called since it fell on the fiftieth day after the festival of Passover. Given the enormous importance and religious significance of that festival on the Jewish calendar, it would have been true that thousands of pilgrims from various parts of Palestine would congregate in Jerusalem, and why so many varied peoples were part of the account given us in The Book of Acts.
The timing of the new Christian Pentecost was no accident then. God, in a sense, was sanctifying the beginning of His New Christian Church, transforming the meaning of the Jewish Pentecost into something else, the birth of the First Christian Church era on earth! Which is why it can be so very fun to shout aloud today, “Happy Birthday Christianity! Happy Birthday!”
Our celebration of Pentecost this morning is more than an affirmation of the birth of the Lord’s First Christian Church on earth. It is also an affirmation of the great and wonderful spiritual truth of the Lord that His Divine love and truth have always and always will emanate and pour forth into creation—into Heaven in a direct way through the wondrous emanating Light and Heat from the Sun of that realm, and indirectly through the correspondent of Heaven’s Sun, none other than the glorious natural sun in our solar sky. The great marvel of our Christian thought and proclamation in my own soul is this: the originating Divine (God the Father we say…or the Divine Esse in Swedenborgian theology) is forever transcendent and beyond us; yet that infinite Life and power manifests and proclaims Itself in God’s Divine Humanity (also known to us as Jesus the Christ); and through God’s Divine Human the infinite, omnipotent Being and Creator proceeds……reveals……touches us and natural things……comforts us……blesses us!……enters us. And thus, the One transcendent Creator is both infinitely transcendent and at the very same time beautifully intimate and present with us. I am utterly and forever enthralled and in love with our Christian truths and religion because of this. The Lord launches me into spiritual orbit with this great aspect of life!
How wonderful it is for me (and I hope you as well) to begin to realize that I can look up into the vastness of the great open prairie sky, what many have called “Big Sky” country, and feel God’s vastness as supremely and always way above my own. And at the same time, how comforting and beautiful it is for me to feel and perceive that the seemingly simple yet profound yearnings and moving deep affections for all that is good and true are the Lord breathing Himself inside of my soul! How truly great and powerful indeed—my Lord, my Savior, who is One, is constantly and forever always beyond me, and yet also personally deep and tangibly inside of me. Not as some physical object that could be seen and captured by some traveling cosmonaut or Babylonian invader, but instead by a simple, good-hearted, imperfect follower of the Lord…like me…like you.
I am so thankful for how the Lord cleared up the matter of His trinity through the theology of His New Church. On Pentecost Sunday, I am moved so deeply by the goodness of God who so passionately wants us to fundamentally understand Him—that He is forever One, indivisible, yet One with three essential aspects, just like you and I have a soul, a body and an activity in life. There will always only be one Kit, one David, one Jennifer, one Julia Renee’; and also each one of us will always have an inmost, a visible presence, and a recognizable power, force and impact on life. Indeed, we each have been so miraculously made in the image and likeness of God!
And what wonders never cease by the truth that some 2005 years ago, the Holy One, the Eternal, poured His Divine power, breath, or moving emanation into this great world God had made, and brought those early followers of Christ into swoon! For indeed, Jesus Himself said that He would never leave us. The resurrection and ascension of the Lord never meant that He left this natural plane of life to then depart up into “heaven” somewhere up there. How precious it is for us to understand that with the Lord’s ascension and then His coming in Spirit and Divine-breath God birthed Himself into full power within the most natural degree of life. The ecstasy of Pentecost is that through Christ the Divine Itself had fused and brought together every level and dimension of Divine Love and Life for the purpose of the salvation of humanity, as well as the evolution of human consciousness everywhere. Up, down. Inside, outside. In Heaven, in the world of spirits, in every corner of the natural universe, and down here on Earth. Everywhere. Indeed, the Lord’s healing and comforting Spirit was and is everywhere—tangibly, palpably, kinetically, in the depths of your soul, and in those soft, marvelous feelings you’ve been feeling since you were in infant lying on your mamma’s breast.
Thank You, Lord, for always existing. Thank You for coming to us anew in Pentecost. Amen.