Some of us in a group were discussing a challenge in figuring out how to use some technology. There was a question about additional hookups being needed. So the group decided against trying to “force the issue” and just skip the project elements requiring additional hookups. However, a week later I figured out (or, as I would say in faith that the Lord Provided) a simpler possible solution. So I advocated for that but we as a group voted against that new idea. I concurred.
However, the next morning it occurred to me that, really, this is a “teachable moment” where I can tell something about myself and my life.
This reminds me of an old joke by Steve Martin I believe, “I was born a poor Black child.” This line typically refers to humble begins after achieving more laudable levels of success in life. In my case, from humble beginnings I have years been a high fashion executive and learned standard English, French, Spanish and some Japanese. And I could mention computer geeky skills, music performance, etc. But this isn’t a paper about me. It’s about faith. Faith like everything else good comes from the Lord, God, Divine Providence.
I’ll throw in some citations from Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How it Works by Emanuel Swedenborg and some Bible citations on faith. Regeneration doesn’t seem to list the particular books and numbers in the particular books by Swedenborg so I just list the Kindle location numbers.
The main theme for this paper that “came to me” was this: I can trust that the Lord will make a way for me. Or to slice up a Scripture “and if I have a faith that can move mountains,...” 1 Corinthians 13:2
In other words, as usual in my personal experience time and time again I could have had faith that the Lord will Provide solutions to challenges before me.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Matthew 6:30
Perhaps this above Scripture could refer to clothes or any other perceived need of the faithful. That is not to say that the simple solution given to me after a week of reflection works for the group in question. I’m saying that as was the case in actually learning some advanced technical skills I had read about, also a workable solution at least in my eyes I could have had faith would arrive. And this pattern has accompanied me throughout my life’s journey from ignorance and poverty to intelligence and wealth. Maybe even to wisdom above intelligence as Swedenborg would say. Actually I used to scoff at material wealth as back in the haute couture days I was engaged with “filthy riches” type greed. These days I can think of good purposes for wealth. Did anyone see “The Sting” movie back when? Well, it was about a couple “con men” (poor example here I know) who always proceeded to get the required “whatever” in order to succeed with the con job. Well, me and the fashion designer, Melanie, back in the day always had to figure out how to get whatever the business and lifestyle required. “Failure was not an option” as is said. I needed to learn or successful financial negotiations had to be done in order to get whatever was actually required for the business.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. Matthew 8:10
So I can look back over a full lifetime and last week and see that “great faith” is appropriate. In fact, I like to think that the whole Black experience in America is another example I follow and we African Americans can follow. Few there are that without great faith could imagine that a Black man would be Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States of America.
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26
I’m not talking about anyone else, but as for me I would not be called to be “afraid” that somehow quite good technology capabilities and performance would happen by hard work, practice and miracle of the Lord.
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. Matthew 9:22
By analogy perhaps, the tricky technical issues that were initially perceived were eventually in my mind “healed” by the idea of not using extra technical hookups but just using the provided microphone and the laptop. I’m not saying that this solution befits the group’s circumstances, just that this is just another example of how the Lord works with me. The Lord may not provide a Rolls Royce to ride to the Corporate Board Meeting, just a Bentley was provided back in the day.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:58 It would be unloving to apply this Bible quote to the specific group situation. It does not apply. But if you’re a Black guy from Chicago and you want to be President of the United States. Or if you are a young civil rights activist minister with a “Dream” like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Or if you were a humble Black guy from the Midwest, you’re going to need many miracles so don’t hang around a bunch of people who lack mountain-moving faith.
Here Jesus is juxtaposing faith and doubt I think. That is, faith in Him or doubts about Who He really is and, hence, what He can do in our lives. One of my friends reminded me that I didn’t earn my first computer or musical keyboard. But I learned on those given to me as I watched Japanese programming on satellite TV when the disks were huge, HUGE. And I should mention that my university education was also more miracle than parental-funded education plans. I received a “low income” grant to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. And continued studies at U. Vermont and U. San Francisco.
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
Of course Jesus as God knew everything but the question to Peter here was for Peter. I think, as God, Jesus is asking seriously why doubt. It’s just not the logical thing to do.
This paper was inspired by the online church I attend. This is the New Church. It is associated with the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772, Sweden). Following are some citations from one of his many books. Swedenborg (ES for short). Was a top scientist in the age of Enlightenment, struggled to understand the world of spirit, was a member of Queen Ulrika Eleonora’s Royal Court, Scientific writer (in Latin), Christian mystic recording in writing decades of spiritual experiences in Heaven teaching true Christianity, etc. He is also one of the few clairvoyants with, well, what we would call today a professional reputation and, thus, not shady or eccentric reputation.
Citations from Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How it Works by Swedenborg. This volume didn’t have the paragraph numbers and names of particular books by ES so I list the Kindle book location numbers.
“Faith is not faith for us until it becomes spiritual, and it does not become spiritual unless it becomes a matter of love. It becomes a matter of love when we love to live out what is true and good--that is, to live by what we are commanded in the word.” Location 363
Our “belief” as “Swedenborgians” is that “belief” is not the important thing. It fact it is nothing. What matters is what is real. That is, what we actually put into effect, into our life, into our actions. What ES is talking about as “what we are commanded” is to love God and one another in fact and through our actual actions. In this paper I’m writing about last week’s technical challenge which didn’t seem very doable. But, as for me, I could have had faith that as did happen the Lord Our Provider would come up with a way to make it happen. That is, if I were going to be using the technology. So I’m trying to explain that while the group decision the previous week was to skip it, too much hassle trying to figure out whether or not technical equipment would be available at the venue. As for me, I could have had faith that the Lord Jesus Christ would inspire a solution to the challenge, if it were all up to me.
“Then our actions come from goodwill and our words come from faith; we develop a sense of the goodness that comes from goodwill and a perception of the truth that is related to faith; and we are in the Lord and in a state of peace. In brief, we are reborn.” Location 834
This citation speaks of AFTER we are reborn or regenerated, as we say. Hence, before we are reborn, perhaps, it would occur to me to as an act of goodwill spend days writing a Bible Scriptures and ES citations paper explaining my faith-based thinking. And my imagining that I can perceive the truth that is related to an experienced consistent reality of daily miracles in faith. And I can be at peace knowing that if it were my presentation, it could happen with the entire vision regardless of the misperceived technology challenges at the venue.
“The power to do good things comes from the Lord.” Location Location 857
This is a quintessential Swedenborgian concept about the importance of not imagining that any good comes from we ourselves ultimately. Whom but the Lord gave us life, a good mind, the will to do good, the ability to perceive right from wrong, etc.?
We can take action together with the Lord and by doing so, form a partnership with him. Location 857
Married people or people with life partners know the value of having a good partner. (And for Swedenborg when he says marriage he doesn’t mean a couple people with a piece of paper saying that they are married. But he means a couple who are one in spirit. And ES says that such a couple is in fact viewed from have as only being one person.) But what if the action I take (or you take) is taken together with partnership of the Lord God Creator of the Universe? Good reason to have faith. And, if true, one could definitely see in their life a pattern of let’s call it “success” worthy of keeping the faith absolutely.
“The more we are reborn, that is, the more the process of regeneration is perfected in us, the less we attribute anything of goodness and truth, or goodwill and faith, to ourselves; we attribute it all to the Lord. We are taught this very clearly by the truths that we keep drinking in.” Location 1284
This is a clear Swedenborgian citation detailing how little our human effort is valued in the mind of the reborn Christian. Swedenborg was a SERIOUS scholar and I guess he assumed we Christians would keep “drinking in” truths. That is, be Bible and for Swedenborgians, doctrine books and literature readers.
“Just as all the elements of wisdom and love dwell within service, all the elements of thought and desire dwell within act, and all the elements of faith and goodwill dwell within deeds, and so on. This means all the elements that are of the same kind; that is, they are harmonious.” Location 1528
Here we can see how important not “belief” but service, action and deeds are. So wisdom and love, thought and desire, faith and goodwill are nothing unless the result in service, action and deeds. Which are also called charity, good works, at the job site doing a good job, etc.
“People have not yet recognized that the last member of each sequence--service, act, deed, and practice--is the composite and vessel of all the earlier members.” Location 1528
I think I just said that. So I can point of one of the aspects of reading Swedenborg’s writings that I find fascinating. I like the Christian mystic element. That is the “People have not yet recognized…” part of the sentence. So upon reflection one can see that for ES he feels like he has been given a mission to reveal things that “People have not yet recognized” regarding being a true Christian in this world. Cool stuff. In fact, a two volume big book is called True Christianity.
“All this makes it clear that people who have love also have faith and consequently heavenly life.” Location 2207
The scholar Swedenborg wrote in his Works things like, “If you were to sit down and think about it for an hour or two”. That citation is worthy of considerable thought I think. It’s not bad to restrict one’s writing to what we know. In this case, writing about my reality. One friend said among some of us elders, “We’re all getting older.” An old friend of mind said, “Not Elbert. He still looks like he did 40 years ago!” Which reminds me, ES wrote that even old women that go to Heaven return to the “flower of their youth” in appearance in Heaven. I mentioned the youth era poverty (and ignorance) above. My imagining that I have Love (from the Lord) and reason to have faith (again from Him) I have to look back a say that I have had and do have a heavenly life. Still today having a salad and a dessert seems odd to me. We certainly didn’t have such things “back in the day”. But by Grace I have enjoyed rapping in French, Spanish or Japanese after dinner over a beverage while sketching. Yea, I’ve been lauded for a bluesy jazz performance on keyboards abroad. Beats working!
“From the doctrine taught by faith, anyone can see that we cannot so much as think a good thought or will a good result or consequently do a good deed except through the Lord’s power.” Location 2269
ES, the scientist, stays focused on cause and effect. The Age of Enlightenment was a reaction to the former age of Roman Catholic Church doctrinal authority in Europe. “Doctrine” for ES is a big word. Often when he uses it he is referring to a large volume of written concepts and ideas. ES goes into great detail also about how one first needs to have an idea, then build up a will before doing a deed, good deed in particular. And, I think, ES would say and has written that you and I can upon reflection see that we would need the Lord’s great help all along the way in order to receive a good thought, build up the will to do the good thought-out deed and to effectuate the good deed in fact by Grace. I’m into the Power of Positive Thinking but ES spent a good half of his writing time delineating the whys and wherefores of the vain, self-centered, worldly folks and their ways and all.
“When we are regenerate, on the other hand, the angels are in charge, inspiring us with all kinds of goodness and truth.” Location 2454
ES prefaced this idea with a long list of reasons for why, in fact, anyone not well along the Path, hence the unregenerate or pre-regenerate cannot be helped hardly at all by said angels, alas. In sum, ES wrote that they are like people holding a mirror over their heads to reflect back the light (of Truth) and heat (of Love) being showered down upon us from above by the Lord Jesus Christ.
May you, the reader, accept and enjoy the Faith that Moves Mountains that is continually offered you and me on a daily basis in our personal lives even in these times.
Elbert E. P. Hill Smith, June 2015