My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Suffering World

Last week we remembered 13 years since the horrific events of September 11th.  It is still vividly burned into my mind, and seems like just yesterday.  I also remember the outpouring of love and aid that happened as our nation came together and addressed so much suffering.  

I was talking with someone recently about how the media allows us to be aware of more of the world than we once were able to be aware of, which has both pros and cons.  The cons involve the fact that there are horrific things happening throughout the world all the time.  People dying from wars, abuse, hunger, sickness.  We can sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much is wrong with the world, and we can feel very small in the face of it all.   It can sometimes make us feel depressed, and even guilty for experiencing happiness while knowing and seeing that others are suffering.  

But it is also something that can make us more aware of the good things we can be doing to make the world a better place.  “When anyone looks with charity on someone in distress. . . a feeling of compassion is aroused. And since the feeling is stirred by the Lord, it is an alerting by Him. Indeed when people who are perceptive have feelings of compassion they know that they are being alerted by the Lord to offer help.”  (Emanuel Swedenborg - "Secrets of Heaven" paragraph 6737).  

In the next Bryn Athyn small-group Bible-study program called "What Would Love Do?"—which is a study of the last parable in Matthew chapter 25—we will be focussing on other people’s suffering.  People who are spiritually hungry, thirsty, lonely, vulnerable, sick and trapped.  It may feel like a focus on what is negative in ours and others’ lives, but it is something that can really inspire those feelings of compassion that allow us to feel the Lord’s love more, and therefore bring happiness and peace into our world.  Every little act of love in this world is an integral piece of the Lord’s powerful presence for goodness in this world.  There is a lot of suffering in the world.  But there is also a lot that love can do.  "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Different Ways

In Joshua chapter 22, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh traveled back across the Jordan river to the East side, where they had chosen to inherit their land.  This was a different choice than the rest of the tribes had made and it worried many of the western tribes.   As these three eastern tribes traveled back to their chosen home, they built an altar at the Jordan.  When the other tribes heard this, their worry turned to alarm.  Were they now going to turn away from the Lord and worship other gods on this new altar?  The western tribes, led by Phinehas the son of the high priest, chased after the eastern tribes and confronted them at the Jordan, ready to do battle with their fellow tribes-people, and to seek to prevent evil from being done.  After being confronted, the eastern tribes explained that, far from turning away from the Lord, their altar was built to be a witness and a reminder that the western and eastern tribes were still one people, despite being divided by the river Jordan and living in different lands.  The eastern tribes were faithful to the Lord.  The western tribes were satisfied with this answer and, in the end, the evil of unjustified warfare was prevented through this reconciliation.  

Sometimes we too can look at our “fellow tribes-people” and worry about their choices.  We can see them choosing to live in different spiritual states and worshipping in different ways.  We can worry that they might be turning away from the Lord.  But often times—especially when we are looking at externals (the east side of the Jordan)—we can make false assumptions about other people’s intentions, like the western tribes did.   We can assume that other people are not following the Lord, when in fact they might be,  but in different ways and in different lands.  Hopefully in the various confrontations we may engage in, we can seek for understanding and avoid warfare.  If we can remember what unites us: love to the Lord and love to our neighbor, which is the altar of love built out of the whole stones of truths from the Word, then we can be reminded that even though we differ in our choices, tastes, perspectives and opinions, we can still all be one people.  “Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh, ‘This day we perceive that the Lord is among us.’” (Joshua 22:31).  

Keeping Up With Esau

Here are the links to a sermon and talk that I gave at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, called "Keeping Up With Esau."   It's about moving from a place of simply doing what's right, to actually loving to do what's right.

Here's the video of the family talk,

And here's the adult sermon: video version and audio version.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Doctrinal Foundation for a Gender Inclusive Clergy in the General Church

This is a paper I wrote for the council of the clergy in the General Church of the New Jerusalem in May 2014.   At the time of this writing, the tradition and policy of the General Church is that of a male-only priesthood, of which I am a member.  In writing and sharing this paper I am not speaking on behalf of the organization.  I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong. This is simply my own individual understanding of what the doctrines say in regards to gender in the priesthood.  This paper (book) is very long because this conversation has been around for a long time, and a comprehensive approach involves examining a large number of passages and doctrines.  My hope is that this will be useful in helping us to make sure that our discussion of this topic is coming from what the Word says.  The paper can be read here:  A Doctrinal Foundation for a Gender Inclusive Clergy in the General Church.   

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


It seems we often have a kind of love-hate relationship with snow.  It’s very pretty and festive.  It’s fun to play in.  It sometimes allows for the joy of snow-days.  But on the other hand, it causes disruptions in us being able to do our jobs, it causes driving difficulties and accidents.  It can cause power outages where we are left in the cold and the dark.  And it sometimes allows for the frustration of snow-days.    Snow represents the truth, because it is white and made from water (see Secrets of Heaven 8459; Apocalypse Revealed 47.6).  But it really represents truth without love, because it is cold:  “All this too may be used to form an idea of what a member of the Church is like when their faith is combined with charity - they are like a garden, like a park. But when faith is not combined with charity, they are like a solitary waste, like land covered with snow.” (Secrets of Heaven 7626).  

I think we can often have a similar love-hate relationship with that kind of truth.  The truth is needed for our regeneration.  It’s beautiful and fun to play with.  Simply thinking about the truth can be a nice break from the hard work of spiritual growth.  But truth without the warmth of goodness and love can be dangerous and treacherous.  Truth without love can pile up and get in the way.  It can cause major disruptions in our spiritual uses.  It can prevent us from being able to connect with other people in loving relationships.  It can leave us feeling cold.  We can get into accidents where we hurt people unintentionally.  And strangely enough, even though it's the truth, it can leave us in the dark.  

But if we allow the warmth of the Lord’s love to flow into our lives, then that same truth which caused problems in the Winter of our lives, can be turned into nourishing water in the Spring, and seep into the ground of our minds and allow for all kinds of future spiritual growth.   So we have to be careful with the truth, and especially truth without love.  But it’s all part of the Lord’s amazing creation.  

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:10-11) 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joseph: Looking for the Lord in Other People

Here's the audio for a Christmas sermon I gave at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral.  It's about Joseph and his relationship with Mary, and how that can describe our relationship with other people.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Changing Leaves

 I love the Fall for the beauty of its changing leaves. I’m looking forward to that beauty as we begin this new season. What might be symbolized in our lives by the leaves turning colors and falling to the ground? The teachings for the New Church describe leaves as a symbol for the truths in our lives:
 “The symbolism of a leaf as truth is established by numerous passages in the Word comparing us to, or actually calling us, trees. In those places, fruit symbolizes the good espoused by charity and a leaf the truth to which it leads (and charity and truth also function the same way fruit and leaves do). In Ezekiel, for example: ‘Beside the river, on its bank, on this side and that, grows every food tree, whose leaf does not fall and whose fruit is not used up; month by month it is reborn, because its waters are going out from the sanctuary. And its fruit will serve as food, and its leaf, as medicine’ (Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:2). The tree stands for the people of a church that embodies the Lord’s kingdom. The fruit stands for the good that results from love and charity, and the leaf, for the truth that develops out of it. That truth is used for the instruction and regeneration of the human race, which is why the leaf is said to serve as medicine.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 885) 
 Truths serve to bring healing to our spiritual wounds. Green leaves represent truths that are alive for us in that healing way (see Swedenborg's book: Apocalypse Revealed 401; and Jeremiah 17:8), because the Lord’s life flowing into our natural world takes on a green color (see Revelation 4:3, and Apocalypse Revealed 232).

 I think it’s important to remember the distinction between our lives represented by trees, and the Lord’s life represented by the Tree of Life. The Lord’s life will never die, fail or change. But our lives change all the time, and our understanding of the Lord’s truth is one of those things that changes. “Rational truths are truths which most readily welcome spiritual truths, for a person's rational mind is the first receptacle of spiritual truths” (Apocalypse Revealed 936.3), just like leaves are the first receptacles for the light from the sun. But our own rational truths are simply what our mind is capable of producing and sustaining. They are finite compared with the Lord’s spiritual truths. And so our understanding of the truth changes, the leaves fall, we grow new ones in response to the
Light of the Lord’s Word, and the cycle continues.

 I think there is a special kind of beauty in coming to the humble realization that everything we think we know to be true is nothing compared to the Lord’s unchanging Divine Truth. Our leaves wither and die, but the Lord’s leaves are always green. Our leaves turning gold and red represent the death of those leaves, but the colors gold and red also represent higher forms of goodness and wisdom (Apocalypse Revealed 167, 232, 912), so there’s a special and good autumn beauty in that wise humility. As we come to the beautiful and humble realization that we know nothing compared to the Lord, we take on a special glow, we gently lay down our old concepts, and humbly acknowledge our need for the Lord’s light and heat. And then we can begin to form new concepts which bud in the Spring of our new spiritual life.