Readings: Luke 24:44-53, True Christianity #339 (see below)
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Today we hear the conclusion of the Easter story. As it is told in the gospel of Luke, three days after the crucifixion, three women discover the empty tomb and report it to the incredulous disciples. Then, Jesus casually appears to two followers walking on the road to Emmaus and spends some time with them. Finally, Jesus appears to all the gathered disciples, allows them to touch his body, experience its realness, and eats a meal with them. And it is towards the end of this meal that we enter into our text for today.
These are the last things that Jesus will do before he leaves. He reaches back to remind the disciples that everything is playing out exactly as he had told them it would, communicating reassurance that the Divine can be trusted, and grounding them in their own scripture and tradition. Then he speaks to them about the future. The disciples were witnesses to a fundamental revealing of God’s nature, and the experience of witnessing such things would change them, and charge them with a new way of living.
And then finally, Jesus blesses his beloved friends, and as he is doing so, ascends to heaven. This moment, which we might reasonably assume would be tinged with sadness, is greeted with joy. “And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel like if I had been in the disciples shoes, I might have been sad to see Jesus go. A beloved teacher, someone they relied upon, was leaving. Our attachments are not always so easy to release. Our closeness to someone is proportional to how much we will miss them when they are gone.
But it also must be noted, that with Jesus gone, the responsibility of the disciples to bear witness was even greater. And this of course, was the plan. Despite being divinely incarnated, Jesus was just one person. One embodiment of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom. And the point was always the existence of Jesus was for the purpose of freeing, empowering and transforming all humanity, each of us. In order to make that happen, Jesus needed to leave.
And so we grapple with that reality. There are many ways that Jesus may feel remote to us, and becoming more so. Each day takes us further away from him in time, takes us a little further away culturally from the human society that existed 2000 years ago. And the gospels themselves, they were written by others decades after Jesus left, reflecting the various lenses of the developing Jesus movement just as much (or more) as documenting what actually happened.
Yet, somehow, Jesus still speaks. There is something about the shape of his life, his vision, his devotion, his courage that reaches out to us even now. The reaching out of God then took a human shape, a shape that we fundamentally recognize now, a shape that we and everybody we know literally embodies, that we see before us everyday. Despite the fact of the ascension, of his appearing to leave, the fact that our God was a person, even for a relatively few short years so long ago, that God had a body with blood, bones, muscles, organs, had an emotional life with fears, hopes, relationships, and failures, a spiritual life with full of grappling with faith, leadership, being called, and sacrifice, this connects us deeply to Jesus because we recognize something shared and fundamental in the story of his life.
As we heard in our reading today, Swedenborg insists on the importance of us believing in a human God, a visible God. And that doesn’t so much mean believing in a God with human foibles, but rather, believing in a God we can relate to on a deep level, with a form that we recognize and with which we feel comfortable. Swedenborg worried that humans beings cannot connect with an abstract God, that this type of God would seem remote and vaporous and therefore would not have any real effectiveness in our emotional and spiritual lives. So he argued that when we think of God as having a human form, as suggested by the incarnation, we will feel deeply understood and affirmed by such a God, we will feel closer to such a God and believe that such a God really wants to be closer to us. We will recognize the ways in which the Divine connects to and infills and enlivens that which is earthly, and so we can believe that the Divine can connect to, infill and enliven us. And this makes a lot of common sense. We will naturally be much more empowered by the God who does not despise our earthliness but rather, willingly took it on, and affirmed it.
Which leads to the second point I would like to make about this text today. We started out by thinking about how despite the ascension, the incarnation itself counters the potential remoteness of God with the fact of Jesus’ humanity. And this very naturally prompts us to consider our own humanity, and how it is reflective of the Divine. How we might be called to further and amplify Jesus’ mission in this world. This is indeed a very personal consideration, but that is not all it is.
For we note that the gospel does not end with a story of individuality. While earlier accounts post-resurrection highlight the individual experiences of Mary Magdalene, Peter, the two followers on the road to Emmaus, by the time we reach our text for today, Jesus is speaking to all of his disciples… all we hear of is they and them. Jesus was blessing them, they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem, and they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. There is a reason that Jesus chose twelve and not one. He knew that we would need each other.
The human shape of Jesus and his life that deeply connects each of us to him through our own experience, that human shape can also be seen in the way that we connect to each other. Swedenborg writes that in the Lord’s sight, the whole of heaven, and then also each individual heavenly community, reflects the form of a single human being). Human community reflects the beauty, the variety, the inter-dependent differentiation of the human body. And thus, human community is also called to amplify Jesus’ mission, called to create openness that can be filled with God’s spirit, called to work and learn together in a holistic and dynamic way. Other traditions call this the Body of Christ, and we call it the Grand Human, a picture of the way God’s divine humanity permeates the shape of human relationships.
And so, on this day that we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, a day by its very name pictures a God moving away from us, we can know that the opposite is true. The human shape of Jesus was not simply a shell taken upon himself, not a concession, not an accommodation, and certainly not a disguise. The humanity of Jesus was a deep expression of the humanity of God; we were created thus, an image and likeness, and so was Jesus. The image of Jesus as a human being reveals the truth about God and also about ourselves.
But to see that, to really really believe it and know it, we cannot fixate upon Jesus or even upon the biblical accounts of his life. Jesus and his story are but one part of God’s gift to us. The rest of the gift is being able to see the ways the shape of Jesus shows up in ourselves and our world. Just like with an optical illusion, when we stare at a particular shape so long that still see its image even when we shift our gaze, Jesus’ ascension gives us a chance to observe the incarnation of God all around us all the time.
In ascending, Jesus has given us space to find him again in ourselves, and in each other, and in what we create together. For this blessing we give praise. Amen.
(1) Heaven and Hell #59 & #68
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
True Christianity #339
We are to believe or have faith in God our Savior Jesus Christ because this is believing in a God who can be seen, in whom is what cannot be seen. Faith in a God who can be seen - who is both human and divine at the same time - goes deep within us. Although faith is earthly in its form, it is spiritual in its essence. Within us faith becomes both spiritual and earthly, in that everything spiritual has to be received in what is earthly to become anything to us. Something purely spiritual does indeed enter us but we do not accept it. It is like the ether that flows in and out of us without having any effect. For something to have an effect, we have to be mentally aware of it and open to it. We have no such awareness or openness unless something affects our earthly self.
Readings: Genesis 2:1-3, Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24, Divine Providence #333 (see below)
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Photo by Kei Scampa: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-string-light-2370726/
Psalm 139 is such a wonderful psalm, just an amazing piece of poetry, no wonder it is a favorite of many people. And it is particularly appropriate for the Sabbath, the day on which we are gathered, because it invites us to shift our focus from our own preoccupations to God’s wide and timeless perspective. As we approach the transition of spring into summer, a lovely but sometimes busy time, hopefully that shift in focus from our perspective to God’s, can lead us some much needed rest.
The 12th century German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by subtracting. Our lives are often about adding more, doing more, creating more, and that is definitely not a bad thing….the curious and innovative human spirit is amazing, and when we come together we can create wonderful things. In the Swedenborgian tradition, it is so important that our theological ideas become embodied in our life, for it is our actions over time make us who we are, we create ourselves in partnership with God, patterned on God’s creation of the world in Genesis. However, in the Sabbath, the day God rested, we are also reminded of a necessary balance to all our doing, which is a subtracting, a stripping away of our earthly preoccupations. When we take a moment here and there to subtract away our striving, our controlling, our meriting, then we come to understand, as in the psalm, that God has known us before all that existed. We find that God created us, God created our inmost being, God was present to us in the primordial intimacy of our creation…and so it is God who truly knows us, more fully than anyone else possibly could. And more than anything, I think it is this sense of being known that speaks to us most powerfully in Psalm 139.
We put a lot of energy into being known on a daily basis. We communicate to people with words, both spoken and written, trying to make known our expectations and our desires. We communicate through our actions, physical intimacy, body language, what we buy and what we do with what we buy, what causes we support, how we spend our free time; we communicate through what we create, who we associate with. We make known our opinions, our experiences, our disappointments, our celebrations, and in doing so, we create community with each other.
Sometimes though, we may find ourselves managing our image for other people, and only broadcasting the parts of us that we think are acceptable to know. We may do this because it feels safer; vulnerability and authenticity can be uncomfortable sometimes and so we avoid them. But then we may find ourselves surprised to feel empty, misunderstood, lonely, not satisfied by being known so superficially. Even with the multitude of ways we signal our worthiness to the outside world, many times we still yearn for something.
Psalm 139 speaks to that yearning, to the amazing quality of the very deep knowing that God has with us. Being known, being truly seen as we are, and not as we imagine is acceptable to others, is such an incredible gift. This kind of being known weaves us into the fabric of relationship. We experience our own worthiness through God’s eyes, we feel profoundly validated, we experience relief and freedom because we know unequivocally that we belong.
And this is where the Sabbath comes in. When we are truly known, then we can also truly rest. When God knows all of our going out and our coming in, knows the words we are going to say, knows where we are and where we are going, knows all of the ways we have failed and will fail and still loves us, well, there is nothing more to be said or done. We can lay down our efforts to be known for a moment because God has become our constant. There is nowhere we can go, nothing we can do to escape the profound intimacy that is promised by a God who has been present with us from the very beginning. Present with us before we even knew about it, present with us when we we turn away, present with us in who we are now, and who we are to become. What an amazing promise. This is a promise that we can truly rest in. This promise is holy.
In one of his books, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel asks an interesting question: What was the first holy thing in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?” Nope, neither. According to the book of Genesis the first holy thing to be created was a day - the Sabbath. All the other things made during the first six days of the creation story, they were called “good.” But the Sabbath was called “holy.” Heschel points out that after all that creating, the world and everything in it, we might reasonably expect that God would create a holy place. But no…God created a holiness in time. The Sabbath day. Something that all people can have access to—for space and things, even sacred space and sacred objects, can be owned, withheld, and dominated…but time….that flows unimpeded to all equally.
Swedenborg writes that the holy day of the Sabbath (however we may decide to enact it in our lives) represents the whole of God’s redemptive work for us(TCR 301). It is holy because it contains God’s vision for us, a sacred vision mediated by the fact of God’s presence with us throughout time, no matter where we might go…“if I take the wings of the morning, and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” This sacred vision of constant leading is God’s; we cannot earn it, we can only co-operate with it. We can let go of our owning, conquering, and accomplishing, and we can find that God’s steadfast, active presence remains. And where there is God’s presence, there we find also God’s searching gaze, there we find we are known by God, an intimate and loving knowledge of who we are and who are to become.
This knowing stems directly from God’s Divine Love, a Love big enough to create the whole world, but then also big enough to give us something beyond it, to give us a holiness in time, born out of the holy vision for our future. This holiness in time, the Sabbath, and any Sabbath-like moments we create, is a divine portal, in it we are reminded that our be-ing, our existence, belongs to God, is cherished by God. And in this knowledge of our cherished existence, the fact of being beloved, we are able enter fully, with courage, into the final words of the psalm…”search me God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts…see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” We don’t have to be afraid of what God will find in us because God’s leading will happen anyway, in and through all our selfishness and our challenges. We can be searched, we can be completely known, because God has promised to be present throughout. As we celebrate a baptism today, let us remember that God’s unequivocal bestowal of love and worthiness is the very ground of our being, it is holy, and in it we may truly rest. Amen.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Psalm 139:1-18, 23-34
1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Divine Providence 333
…for our salvation, divine providence begins at our birth and continues to the end of our life. To understand this, we need to realize that the Lord knows the kind of person we are and the kind of person we want to be and therefore the kind of person we will be. Further, the Lord cannot deprive us of the freedom of our volition if we are to be human and therefore immortal…so the Lord foresees what our state will be after death and provides for it from our birth all the way to the end of our life…So divine providence is constantly at work for our salvation; but it cannot save more of us than want to be saved…The Lord sees all this and still leads us, doing so under the laws of divine providence, laws the Lord cannot violate because that would be to violate God’s own divine love and divine wisdom, and therefore God’s self.
Readings: Exekiel 37:1-14, Secrets of Heaven #2916 (see below)
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Our text today tells us of the Lord bringing Ezekiel to a valley full of bones, a great many on the floor of the valley, all dry, and lifeless. It is powerful imagery, and it was written to a people in exile. The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians and its people were scattered. The Kingdom of Judah held on a while longer but eventually was also defeated by Babylon and its people taken into exile there. God’s promise to Abraham, that they would be a great nation, given many hundreds of years before, now seemed shattered to pieces. They were not only defeated and subjugated, but not even allowed to remain in their own land. Understandably, many felt there was no way forward.
The book of Ezekiel depicts this despair with the imagery of the valley of the dry bones. Could there ever be a picture of something more lifeless? Not just a dead body, but bones separated from each other, dry and dessicated. It’s incredibly bleak, no space for hope, no space for life.
But these images are full of symbolism of course, which is why texts like these speak so powerfully. Swedenborg writes that a valley represents our lower states of mind, times of obscurity when it feels harder to see the bigger picture.(1) We recall Psalm 23 from last week: Yea, though I walk through the valley of of the shadow of death. Valleys can be low dark places, difficult to see where we are, difficult to see where we are headed, difficult to see how to get out.
The bones themselves represent to us our selfhood. In the book of Genesis, Eve is built out of one of Adam’s rib bones, and Swedenborg describes this as the creation of our sense of living autonomy, our sense of self. It is the thing that allows us to have a relationship with God, to exist with self-consciousness. He writes:
When the Lord brings it to life, our sense of self gives us the ability to perceive all the good desired by love and all the truth taught by faith. So it holds within it all wisdom and understanding, joined to an indescribable happiness.(2)
So, in one very real sense, our selfhood is incredibly necessary. It can be an immense and effective gift; it holds us up, it structures our life. We rely upon it and that is appropriate and good. But our selfhood can only take us so far. And this is because anything living in us comes from the Lord's life, not our own(3). The bones scattered on the valley floor represent to us the limits of our selfhood, the limits of self-reliance, the limits of believing we can do it all and control everything. The limits of identifying too closely with our God-created selfhood and believing it originates with us.
Not only are the bones in a valley, but they are also dry. Being dry represents a lack of truth, a lack of a way to structure our thinking and our acting(4). Perhaps this strikes a chord —in an increasingly divided country, in an increasingly online world, how thirsty we all are these days, for sources of information that we can rely on, for systems that will tell us what to do, for tribes that will make us feel okay, for something that can give us some hope.
And finally, the bones are scattered about, disconnected. This may resonate as well. Not only in regard to a time when we were on lockdown, but also for the many ways in which we yearn for community even now, for the ways in which we separated from each other, by things as deep as ideology and prejudice, and as unseen and ordinary as urban planning. In a larger sense, in times of crisis, it is also easy to feel disconnected from providence, from a sense of God’s care. Swedenborg writes that angels can easily see how things are connected but often it is harder for us(5). And so sometimes we find ourselves in the valley of the bones: shadowed, scattered, desiccated, and seemingly alone.
And when we find ourselves in the valley, it is hard not to imagine the worst. Our minds very naturally start to cast about for what might happen to us going forward. We shouldn’t shame ourselves for that, it’s our brain’s job to do this for us. We have been trained over millennia to project and anticipate potential dangers and avoid them; this is how we survive. Our brains are trying to protect us. But our world today is full on chronic and ongoing stress, many times with only a small part of it within our control. And so our brains keep returning again and again to the dry bones, warning us, prompting us to act, even though many times we can’t. The result is that we continue in anxiety, constantly in fight or flight mode. And this can be exhausting and debilitating. We especially learned how difficult this was during the pandemic, and lessons learned then can still be helpful now.
I recall one expert during the height of the pandemic, naming our collective stress as anticipatory grief. Our minds were doing their best to keep us safe in an uncertain situation, grappling not only with actual losses but telling us to be careful about potential ones to come. His advice: to find balance in the things we are thinking. Whenever our worst predictions start to take shape, we can choose to also imagine alternatives, and to place them alongside.(6)
We can choose how we try to balance the images we are focusing on. Our mind will continue to do its job and will talk to us about the dry bones; let us give thanks for its capacity for foresight. We rely upon it. And also, let us with intention focus on the other images that God has given us in the Ezekiel text: breath and enlivenment. For we see that the dry bones are not the end of the story, that God has something else to say, something else to prophecy. Our minds prophecy in their own way, speaking to our own personal context of survival and loss and how-to-get-to-the-next-day, our God-created selfhood doing what it needs to do. But God also has a prophecy to offer; one that speaks in a broader way about resurrection and hope and answers our most basic and plaintive question: can these bones live?
God tells us: Yes, these bones can live! This has always been God’s most basic and fundamental promise: what seems dead to us can live again. It is the heart of the holy day of Easter just a few weeks ago. The empty tomb with the stone rolled away is the same as Ezekiel’s valley where bone joins to bone, flesh and skin and breath come into being, and a nation of people figuratively come back to life. “Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.”(v13)
God can be relied upon to take the initiative, for this is the one true purpose of Providence, to always and forever bring us out of the valley that we find ourselves in, to give us a hand up and out of the graves we have dug for ourselves, to walk alongside us in any challenge that befalls us. God will bring life to the crucified parts of our lives, and in order to show us that this is so, God went first.
Now, enlivenment does not always arrive in the ways we might imagine. We don’t always get to direct the process or decide how and where the life and breath manifests. If we were in charge, we would always just want things to go back to exactly however they were before the valley. But when the people of Israel finally got to return to their land, it wasn’t the same as before. They had to rebuild their cities, they had to rebuild their society, they had to rebuild their relationships. And it wasn’t without challenge. But this rebuilding brought them closer to each other, and closer to their God. God hasn’t promised a lack of danger or difficulty; God has promised resurrection. God has said “I will put breath in you and you will come to life.” (v6). We just get to decide if we are open to it. We get to decide if we want to imagine it. We get to decide to make space for it.
In the valley of the dry bones, we find that we have reached the end of our selfhood. A necessary end, a painful and anxious one to be sure. But God whispers in our ear: “I will put my spirit in you and you will live.” May we see this vision God has promised us, and may our breath and the breath of God, join together as one.
1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ ” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ ”
Secrets of Heaven #2916
In the internal sense of the Word 'a grave' means life, which is heaven, and in the contrary sense death, which is hell. The reason it means life or heaven is that angels, who possess the internal sense of the Word, have no other concept of a grave, because they have no other concept of death. Consequently instead of a grave they perceive nothing else than the continuation of life, and so resurrection…Now because 'burial' means resurrection, it also means regeneration, since regeneration is the primary resurrection of a person, for when regenerated we die as regards our former selves and rise again as regards the new. It is through regeneration that from being a dead person we become a living one…
Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-8, Matthew 5:13-20, Secrets of Heaven #9207:1-2 (see below)
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Photo credit: Castorly Stock
I remember, as a child growing up in rural Australia, being involved in a number of tree planting initiatives. It seemed at that point in time, deforestation had led to increased salt levels in the soil, which had decreased the soil’s fertility. The solution was to plant more trees again. My beloved choir teacher had even written a song about it, which still makes me so happy to remember to this day. The words went like this:
We can halt the salt, we can help heal the land
We can plant trees with our own two hands
We can bring back the balance, a little each year
’Til the soil is sweet again, and all the rivers run clear.
It was branded onto my childlike heart, the wonder that I, small as I was, could do something beneficial and important to bring about a common good, and that we could all do it together. I will never ever forget that.
So in that particular context, too much salt in the earth was a bad thing. When Jesus called this followers the “salt of the earth” he was trying to get at something else entirely. Salt is certainly ubiquitous in our lives, and Jesus enjoyed using metaphorical language that employed the everyday. We have come to understand the “salt of the earth” to mean noble, no-nonsense, grounded, hard-working people. And this is basically who Jesus was talking to in this text. He had just begun the Sermon on the Mount, had just blessed the poor in spirit, the meek and those who mourn, people who normally don’t see themselves as blessed. And then he likened them to a valuable and useful mineral, something that anyone would be delighted to find and use, something of worth. But he also delivered a warning: salt without the quality of saltiness is pointless. It might as well be a random rock. Being “salt of the earth” was not a designation that could be bestowed, it was a quality that needed to be lived, a way of being. Salt isn’t really salt unless it is salt-y.
In the Swedenborgian worldview, salt corresponds to the “affection for truth.” It is old-fashioned phrasing to be sure, but basically, think of that feeling of relief and openness and gratitude and contentment in our minds when something clicks into place and makes sense and we know that it is true. That is a good feeling. We love that feeling. We usually want more of that feeling. Swedenborg calls this drive for wanting more of that feeling the “affection for truth.” The affection for truth simply means the love that we have for things that are true, and more broadly, the love that we have for the notion and the existence of truth itself.
So going further then, Swedenborg tells us that the state of being salted or salty represents the desire truth has for goodness. Swedenborg is nothing if not consistent. He tells us over and over and over again, that truth is not actually true unless it is also good, unless its inherent truthfulness springs from goodness. So, if salt corresponds to loving the truth, having the quality of saltiness corresponds to recognizing how goodness is the soul of truth, how truth is necessarily conjoined to goodness, and that loving what is true must also mean loving what is good.
And because of this, because loving what is true also means loving what is good, that Swedenborg describes salt as representing the conjunctive power of the heavenly marriage, which is the union of love and wisdom in God. He says:
'Salt' receives this meaning from its conjunctive properties; for it makes ingredients all combine and consequently brings out their flavor. (1)
This is one way to think about the so-called conjunctive power of salt, but I cannot also help but think of the chemical make-up of salt. Table salt is the result of the conjunction of two different elements: an atom each of sodium and chlorine. These specific atoms of sodium and chlorine need each other because of an imbalance in their electrons; one has one too many and one has one two few. They conjoin so that they can share an electron, and the force of that sharing (a positive charge and a negative charge coming together) creates a totally new thing: sodium chloride or table salt.
Even in its molecular form, salt models a principle of conjunction, the union of truth and goodness, for together truth and goodness become something whole and useful. Truth alone is like an atom missing an electron, deeply, inherently and desperately incomplete. It yearns for conjunction. So truth cannot just refer to good, or be adjacent to good, but genuine truth fervently wishes to be conjoined to good, to share its life, so that they together may be essentially one thing and one thing only: Truth-that-does-good.
Now, the Sermon on the Mount is not the only time that salt is mentioned in the Bible. There is also plenty of wasteland imagery to be found that speaks to what happens when there is too much salt and nothing can grow. This was the burgeoning reality of my rural homeland (which good people worked very hard to reverse). Swedenborg tells us that the in the contrary sense, salt represents the perversion of the desire for truth, and the consequently destructive desire that falsity has for evil. (2)
Because the reality is that the innate desire we human beings have for knowing can be turned inward. That shining beautiful moment of having things make sense can be addictive, we want to feel that way all the time, we want to claim that we have all the answers, that complete certainty is the only good and that doubt and questioning and nuance are all a sign of weakness and moral relativism.
But, it is an illusion that truth can be grasped and captured and turned into an unshakable certainty that serves to placate our fear of being alone, of being replaced, of being unworthy, of being broken. When truth is used thus, it is emptied of itself, it becomes a shadow, a shell. No matter how logical or sensical it might sound on the outside, truth emptied of good is falsity. It is soul-less. A black hole. A weapon.
This is a love for self, for safety, for superiority, and for power, that is dressed up as a love for truth. As Jesus suggests, it may look like salt but it is no longer salty. It cannot season or preserve, it cannot increase enjoyment or productivity, it is just sharp, spiky, hard and rocky.
And while I take Jesus’ point that such truth has lost its inherently useful quality, ie saltiness, speaking in this way actually downplays the dangerousness of a love for truth that is turned inward. The salt metaphor taken in another direction, the wasteland, as we heard in our Jeremiah reading, brings this home much more potently. Too much salt can lead to the ruination of the land, lays it waste, destroys it, prevents growth, fertility, generativity. Likewise, a grasping, rapacious desire for truth that keeps turning truth inside out like so many empty pockets, searching evermore for something that will finally prove the superiority of our selfhood, that will finally ensure the justification of our transgressions, that will finally erase the need for vulnerability…this desire will destroy everything it comes across, if given its way. This desire wants truth to serve and support power, but it cannot. Truth can only ever, and will only ever, serve love.
We read in Jeremiah… “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.”
Just as I planted tree after tree in my childhood home, trying to halt the salt, heal the land, and bring back the balance, so we too can strive to love truth in the right way, for the ways that truth grounds us and puts our hands in the dirt, makes us salt of the earth. We can strive to have an affection for truth-that-serves-good, not truth-that-serves-party, not truth-that-serves-power, not truth-that-serves-self-preservation, but truth-that-serves-good.
For we are the trees that will halt the salt, heal the land, bring back the balance. Let us plant ourselves by the Lord’s living water, truths that hydrate and flow, right through our branches and into leaves and fruit and flowers. A bounty of goodness for all.
5 This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in humankind, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. 7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Secrets of Heaven #9207:1-2
…The fact that truths perish with those who have no desire for good is evident from what has been stated…regarding goodness and truth when joined together. But something further must be stated regarding that joining together. Truths that have been joined to good always hold within them a desire to do good, and at the same time to be joined more closely to good by doing it. Or what amounts to the same thing, those who possess truths always have a desire to do good and to join it thereby to their truths. People therefore who think that they are in possession of truths but who have no desire to do good do not in fact possess truths; that is, they have no belief in them, however much they imagine they do have.
 Their condition is portrayed by the Lord when He speaks of 'salt', in Matthew 5:13-14…
…By 'the salt of the earth' He means the Church's truth that has a desire for good, and by 'tasteless salt' He means truth devoid of any desire for good. The fact that such truth is worthless is portrayed by the idea of salt which has become tasteless and no longer has any use…
Readings: Isaiah 42:16-20, Luke 24:13-35, Secrets of Heaven #3863:14 (see below)
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We hear today about one of the most beloved and detailed post-resurrection appearances: Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We begin the story with two followers of Jesus who are traveling to Emmaus from Jerusalem, after everything had gone down. We don’t know why they were traveling to Emmaus; it was not an especially notable town. Perhaps they were just going home. Along the way, they encounter someone, and here begins the delicious irony. The reader—us—we know something that these two followers do not yet know. The person is Jesus.
Jesus asks them what they are discussing. (The actual Greek is quite charming: it is literally “what are you tossing back and forth between you?”) The two are incredulous — how can this person not know the biggest news of the last few days? Jesus feigns ignorance. What news? So they give him a summary of the easter story that we ourselves have read over the last several weeks. Jesus is bemused, and begins to explain the significance of the events according to Scripture. Yet, still the two remain in the dark. Finally, when they reach the village, they invite Jesus to dine with them, and it is in the moment of breaking bread that their eyes are opened to his identity.
It is such beautiful story-telling. One of the reasons that I believe this story is so beloved is that resonates so fully with our experience. We have all had disappointed hopes, we have all had our expectations dashed, or felt overwhelmed and confused. And we’ve all had moments of being taken by surprise by the in-breaking of the spirit, a moment gone before we knew it was there.
But one of the main things that makes this story so compelling is the mounting irony: we know that Jesus has been resurrected but the disciples don’t recognize him. So, what keeps them from seeing? Well, the text makes pretty clear that it was their expectations kept them from seeing. They say it themselves: “We had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
They had their own story that they are telling themselves about what happened. They had their own ideas about what Jesus was, and why he had come. And this kept them from seeing Jesus right in front of them. You see, Jesus was the one who was going redeem Israel. Jesus existed for them within their Messiah construct, and that came with certain ideas about what success looked like, and it sure didn’t look like death on the cross. Now, we shouldn’t be too hard on them, when Jesus was crucified and put in a tomb, that really must have seemed like the end, and we in their place, we all have thought so too. But part of Jesus’ whole message was that, if we want to usher in the reality of the kingdom of God, we cannot always trust our own telling of the story. Part of the point of being crucified was to upend human ideas about what is righteous, so that we might learn to depend on God’s telling of the story more than our own.
We too, like the two followers, have stories that we tell ourselves about the way life is. About what has happened to us. About what other people have done, or not done. About what God’s plans are. About what, or who, is good or not good. Yet, our telling of the story will always be formed and marked by our social location, by our expectations, our community formation, and yes, our personal interest. Now that is not bad thing necessarily, in fact, it is kind of unavoidable. We all have our particular viewpoints, we all have our unique experiences. But it *is* important to remember that our story is not the whole or only story. It is important to recognize the existence of a variety of experience, a variety of interpretation, a variety of stories, which means that there is always more to learn. Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron likes to say “let the world speak for itself.” She says, “the world doesn’t speak for itself because we are so caught up in our story line…You just keep speaking to yourself, so nothing speaks to you.” (1)
So it is important remember not to get so caught up in crafting our own narrative, so invested in our own story-lines and expectations, that we can’t see what is unfolding right in front of us. We must let God, and the world, speak for itself.
But it is not quite that simple now is it? Because, certainly, our own self-centeredness and our expectations can absolutely get in the way of seeing how God is showing up for us, but is that the only thing that obscures God’s presence? Yes, the disciples had expectations, sure, and they were having a hard time letting go of them, and of what they wanted Jesus to do for *them.* But also, they were sad. They were suffering. They had had good intentions overall and an oppressive regime had crushed their hopes. They were reeling, they were hurting, they were confused and overwhelmed. Like most human beings, their experience was a complicated mish-mash of things that were their fault and things that weren’t, things that were in their control and things were out of their control. People sometimes suffer under things that are not their fault, and this experience can *also* make it hard to see God, to recognize God’s work in our lives. We shouldn’t heap shame upon ourselves when our circumstances…political, economic, biological…all make it hard to feel positive, open and receptive.
And as usual, the Word of God speaks to our human experience in a both/and kind of way. God shows up for us on the road of life no matter what, a companion to our hardest days and our deepest challenges. When everything feels like it has fallen apart, God is there. The text tells us that when Jesus asked what had happened, the disciples “stood still, looking sad.” The simplicity of this description just kills me. Their sadness literally stopped them in their tracks. Certainly there are times when we can all relate to that. A deep deep sadness. God shows up for us in this sadness, or whatever else we are experiencing, unequivocally, and non-judgmentally.
But God shows up with more than companionship. Even in our suffering, the stories that we are telling ourselves matter. God comes to us where we are and introduces the possibility of seeing things differently. Not judging, just gently asking, “hmm, so what happened again?” And listening to the way that we tell it. And then inviting us into a new way of seeing and understanding, if that is what we need.
God understands that we are both products of our environments *and* that we are capable of rising above our environment. When we quiet our litany of desires and interests and expectations, we open ourselves to the possibility that God is welcoming us into a new story. And this new story isn’t always about what we are doing wrong, although it can be. This new story is also sometimes about grace, or realignment, or rest, or forgiveness, or so many other things.
So, what helped the two of them to see? Well, first, they were curious and hospitable. They told their story and Jesus listened to the whole of it. But they didn’t argue the truth of it with him. When Jesus started to explain things to them, they listened, they were open. And then, they offered for Jesus to continue with them. They made space for what was being offered.
Second, they sat down to an ordinary meal and allowed Jesus to be the host in a situation in what he should have been the guest. And what Jesus did was draw their attention to the bread, to the breaking of bread, which is done for the purpose of nourishment. As we learned in our Swedenborg reading, bread represents goodness, represents love. God’s presence with us is most fundamentally grounded and recognizable in acts of service, is most fundamentally accessible and understandable in love that is given freely to one another. Many times our thinking is caught up in questions of what is right or what is best or what is efficient. But are we told that God is found in goodness, not in truth without goodness. All the explanations in the world don’t matter unless they are organized around the question of “how do we serve?” or “how can we bring goodness and love into being?”
The answer we give to these questions will be individually different. If we are already serving a lot, it might be loving to serve our own health for a while. If we are spending a lot of energy in trying to figure out how to serve in the best possible way, it might be loving to just serve in the one way that we can today. And of course, if we have privilege of some kind, it certainly might be loving to use that privilege for the sake of others. The key is, God is recognizable in love that is shared, in power that is relinquished, in concern that is extended. And this is why Jesus disappeared from sight, because God is seen in the moment that we give something away. Personally, I don’t love this idea. I want to hold on to God! But this comes from my own fear of scarcity. When we recognize what this story is telling us, that God is present and recognizable in each tiny ordinary bread-crumb moment of love and goodness, then we realize that God is all around us, all the time, and always will be.
(1) Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, p30
16 And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in graven images, who say to molten images, "You are our gods." 18 Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? 20 He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." 25 And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29 but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, 34 who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Secrets of Heaven 3863:
It came to pass when Jesus sat down with them, that He took the bread, and blessed, and breaking, gave to them; and their eyes were opened, and they knew Him (Luke 24:30-31);
by which was signified that the Lord appears by good, but not by truth without good, for "bread" is the good of love. From these and other passages it is evident that "seeing," in the internal sense, signifies faith from the Lord, for there is no other faith which is faith than that which comes from the Lord. This also enables a person to "see," that is, to believe; but faith from self, or from what is a person's own, is not faith, for it causes them to see falsities as truths, and truths as falsities; and if they see truths as truths, still they do not see, because they do not believe, for they see themselves in them, and not the Lord.
Readings: Isaiah 42:5-9, John 20:1-18, True Christianity #109 (see below)
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Happy Easter everyone! As I was thinking about this sermon this past week, I realized that there were to two particular things that I wanted to emphasize: the symbolism of the empty tomb and how that connects to grace.
In the internal sense of the Word, in the Swedenborgian symbolic worldview, a grave or a tomb or a sepulcher, any burial place really, actually symbolizes the opposite: life, renewal, regeneration. From Secrets of Heaven:
The reason it means life…is that angels, who possess the internal sense of the Word, have no other concept of a grave, because they have no other concept of death. Consequently instead of a grave they perceive nothing else than the continuation of life, and so resurrection… Now because 'burial' means resurrection, it also means regeneration, since regeneration is the primary resurrection of a person, for when regenerated they die as regards their former self and rise again as regards the new.(1)
I just want to sit with this for moment so that it can really sink in. I know that one of the reasons that I really love being with people who are new to Swedenborg is that I get to see the tradition and the teachings with new eyes. I’ve grown up in the faith, and it has always been the air that I breathe, so sometimes the really simple teachings lose their power. Sort of like this Easter teaching. Anyone in the Christian world is already familiar with it; the fundamental recognition that someone that we thought was dead becomes alive. And for Swedenborgians…yes yes, the tomb actually symbolizes life and regeneration, got it. Cool.
But…wait a minute. What this is actually saying to us is enormous. For, as Swedenborgians we believe that this cosmic meaning is more than just an interesting metaphor. We believe that this symbolism of words and concepts and things is what actually binds heaven and earth together, binds spirit and flesh together. So it is not just that Jesus’ tomb meant life for him, or even that Jesus tomb means life for us, it is that the whole notion of death/tomb/burial/ending/loss/suffering, that whole notion, in whatever way it comes it us in our lives, in whatever way we recognize it or experience it, this notion is connected spiritually to its opposite: life/renewal/regeneration/growth.
And I think it is important to recognize that this is not a connection that *we* have to make, through either goodness or progressive enlightenment. This is a connection that exists. God made it so. God gifted this to us. God made a loving universe in which the potential for goodness and growth exists in everything. I can’t think of a single other gift that is more important. Everything which we experience as unpleasant, no matter how small or large, no matter the kind of suffering, God has arranged the universe so that these things are fundamentally spiritually connected to that which is growing and renewing and living, all the time, every time, no exceptions. We really do not need to be afraid, ever. Oh we will be, and that’s totally okay. But, because of God there is nothing in the universe, no condition of fear or loss or overwhelm, that exists just purely as itself. There is no black hole of suffering that does not, potentially, come out the other side without some sliver of new life, new truth, new compassion, new understanding.
This means that God has our back in the most fundamental way. God can’t live our life for us, but God has arranged it so goodness and love and growth always have the last word, somehow, someway, somewhere.
And we see this borne out in the Easter story. As Jesus, God is reaching out and demonstrating this fundamental principle in a personal and embodied way, showing us that, yes, there will be loss, there will be death, and it will happen in the most unfair, evil, and shameful ways. That it will seem like empire, dominion, selfishness and cowardice (in ourselves and in others) will take the day. But Jesus rises from the tomb. There will be life, there will always be life because God has not left us alone with our suffering.
A simple but gorgeous truth. It seems like I know it and don’t know it all at once. It seems too simple. And it is exactly what I would want and expect a God of love to do.
But even this most lovely truth…well, human beings will weaponize it to hurt ourselves. Sometimes because our Lord conquered death so completely, rose so completely, even as to his body, as we read in our Swedenborg reading…because it was so complete a resurrection, we might feel that anything other than a complete resurrection in ourselves is a failure. If we don’t make the most delicious lemonade out of our lemons. If we don’t learn some amazing life lesson from our loss. If we don’t emerge from our suffering triumphant, changed, better.
The truth is though, the process is not often quite so neat. Our resurrections can sometimes feel barely grasped, scrabbly and wispy, and not enough, not nearly enough. Our resurrections can sometimes feel late to the party, or like they took the very very scenic route. They can be partial, they can be incremental, they can be incredibly hard won. Jesus was never supposed to be model but an inspiration. Our Lord wasn’t saying what should be so, but was revealing a potential that exists, revealing a gift and a grace that exists. In Swedenborgian speak, God works all the way to the ultimates, redeeming the whole of what can be redeemed and leaving nothing behind, so that the potential for redemption for us and the world and everything in it is always completely possible.
And because of this potential for redemption, there is often a lot of talk about belief around Easter. The traditional Christian notion has been that belief in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross makes God’s grace accessible to us. And certainly, being open to the import of Jesus life, death and resurrection *can* be transformational to our ways of thinking and being. But, the Swedenborgian tradition rejects the transactional nature of the belief for grace equation. We rather subscribe to a kind of naturalized grace, a grace as described earlier that is built into the structure of the universe, that flows out unimpeded from God’s being. And so often times, we don’t even speak of grace at all, firstly because it doesn’t always mean the same thing to us as it does to other traditions, and second, because it is so foundational, it is built into the notion of a loving God, it is a given.
And yet, sometimes when we don’t speak of it, we forget about it. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, when we are all just doing our best, but we are exhausted, afraid, disillusioned, and just barely keeping it together, this is exactly when we need to remember God’s naturalized grace, in the times when we are having trouble believing in it.
Because this is the actual gift. We don’t even have to fully believe in God’s naturalized grace, we don’t even need to believe that God can actually bring something good out of suffering. Our belief isn’t what makes it true. God’s love makes it true. Certainly, our beliefs have some relationship to what we see and what we are open to. Certainly, our partnership and engagement has some relationship to what comes into being for us. But it is also true that God’s power is not limited by our consciousness. Even in our darkest, lowest, doubting times, resurrection happens anyway. It happens with or without us, because God made the universe that way.
I’ve always enjoyed the quote: Grace is the face love wears when it meets imperfection(2). I don’t see this grace as a condescension or as pity, as “oh honey, maybe you’ll get it right next time” but rather it is a face full of hope and confidence because of the way God has designed the world, and us. Grace is an announcement of a pre-ordained newness, like the power and potential that exists in every seed, a quiet and serene and explosive power, waiting inside each breath, each moment, and circling back evermore as an offering to us, God’s beloved.
See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.
5 This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
True Christianity 109
The Lord's process of glorification was a transformation of the human nature that he took on in the world. The transformed human nature of the Lord is the divine physical form. A proof of this is that the Lord rose from the tomb with the whole body he had had in the world. Nothing was left in the tomb. Therefore he took with him from the tomb every aspect of his earthly human form. This is why after the resurrection he said to disciples who thought they were seeing a spirit, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Feel me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (Luke 24:37, 39).