This is the topic for week #6 of our seven week series called – PAUSE: Make space for God.
One thing I love about the New Church is that its teachings don’t require that we completely reject natural and worldly things. We simply need to keep them in their proper place – below spiritual and heavenly things. Is there anything wrong with enjoying good food, taking nice vacations, wanting to look pretty, or enjoying any of the other pleasures of a life in this world? No! As long as you prioritize and don’t make these things MORE important than spiritual things. This is a great way to understand what it means to follow the Lord. Yes, there are certain evils that we must completely reject from our life. But a large part of following the Lord doesn’t so much involve rejecting things, but rather reorganizing them.
The service on this topic was based on the story of the Lord walking on the sea (Matt. 14). The image of the Lord walking on the sea and then inviting Peter to do the same, is a wonderful representation of how the Lord wants to help us all reorganize our lives. The sea represents not just the hells but all of the more worldly thoughts and affections that the Lord Himself subjugated or put below the more spiritual and eternal realities of His heavenly kingdom. Peter being invited to “Come” out onto the water with Him is a symbol of the Lord’s invitation to help us do the same. Following the Lord is all about hearing this call to put the “sea” of our own evils and worldly concerns “beneath our feet”. Here’s a link to the sermon if you want to follow this idea more: http://www.newchurchaudio.org/event/20263.html
The Writings for the New Church give a good visual of this. They say that following the Lord and allowing Him to regenerate you can be compared to helping a person stand upright on their feet. A person’s feet are very important and useful, but only if they stay where they are meant to be – below the rest of the body. The natural world along with its concerns is also very important and useful, but only if it stays where it is meant to be – below what is spiritual and eternal. Unfortunately we all start off life like an upside-down person – our head (spiritual concerns) is below and our feet (natural concerns) are sticking straight up and flailing around in the air. Follow the Lord and He will literally help to turn your life around! He’ll help you get your feet firmly planted on the ground where they’re meant to be and the rest of your body centered ABOVE that. Once your body is properly aligned – Feet below legs, below hips, below chest, below head, and all with the Lord at the top – then you can walk and go anywhere you want. Here are two great passages from the Writings for the New Church about how if you’re not following the Lord, from heaven you appear to be standing on your head:
Speaking of those who have made worldly things more important than heavenly ones: “Viewed from heaven, they look to us like play-actors who turn their bodies upside down, support themselves on their elbows and thus move about. Or they look like animals that lie upside down on their backs, raise their feet in the air, and, digging their heads into the ground, from that position look up at the sky.” (Swedenborg – Conjugial Love 79)
WARNING: If you find yourself standing upside down in the life after death, you’ll know you’re in a bad place!: “All appear erect – both those in heaven and those in hell – with their heads in the air and their feet on the ground. Yet in themselves, and in the eyes of the angels, the body-positions in heaven are different from those in hell. Those who are in heaven appear with their heads pointing up towards the Lord who is the Sun there and so the common centre from which every station and position is derived. But those who are in hell appear in the eyes of angels with their heads downwards and their feet upwards, and so with an upside down body-position and also a bent one. For that which to those in heaven is above is to those in hell below, and that which to those in heaven is below is to those in hell above.” (Swedenborg – Heavenly Secrets 3641)
So on a spiritual level, which way around are you? Head up and feet down….or feet up and head down?