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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Spring" Break?

Ice.  Snow.  Spring?  Last week the church school where I work took its “Spring” Break.  Spring Break actually came early, due to two snow days at the end of the week before.  Spring technically begins on March 20th, at the end of this week.  When I was growing up we would  sometimes refer to Spring Break as “Dreary-Weather Break,” because it never seemed to quite line up with what we think of as the bright, warm feeling of Spring.   And even once Spring has technically begun, the warmth often seems to take its time about coming.   One year when I was in college, we were all "fooled" into thinking Spring had arrived, when we woke up on April 1st to one of the largest snowfalls of the winter.   

I was recently reminded of something said in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and that is that the rational (higher) part of our mind is regenerated before the natural (lower) part of our mind (see Secrets of Heaven 3493).  Spring comes to our rational mind before it comes to our natural mind, just like Spring technically arrives before it often feels like Spring.    In other words, we might sometimes feel frustrated that even though we’ve learned something about how to live our life better, and rationally committed ourselves to being a more useful, loving person. . . we can still feel stuck in our natural bad habits, like being stuck in the snow and ice during Spring Break.     It doesn’t feel fair or right.  And yet stepping back and looking at the big seasonal picture reminds us that we have made enormous progress since the middle of Winter.  Spring is coming in our minds, even with snow and ice on the ground of our lives.  

This is one of the reasons why practicing mindfulness can bring us into a state of peace.  Mindfulness gives us the bigger picture, and allows us to experience hope in the present as we trust in the Lord’s guidance amidst the confusing seasonal changes of our minds.   Spring is coming. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day for Feasting

Here is the link to the audio of a Thanksgiving service I gave in Bryn Athyn in 2012.
Thanksgiving Service Audio.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Wooden Church of Living Trees

Emanuel Swedenborg described
a church he once saw made out of living trees:

“They are built not of felled trees, but of ones growing in their native soil. . . .  From their earliest stages they arrange these trees in rows to form porticoes and walkways, shaping the branches while still supple, and cutting and pruning them, so that as they grow they will interlace and join to make the floor and pavement of the temple. They make the branches at the sides grow up to form walls, and overhead bend them into arches to make a roof. From these materials they construct with admirable skill a temple raised high above the ground. They make a way up composed of branches stretched out horizontally with no space between and firmly bound together. In addition they decorate such a temple both inside and out with various kinds of topiary work; and so they build up whole parks. . . . Sunlight is admitted through openings between the branches, and is everywhere passed through crystals, which turn the light around the walls into colors like the rainbow.”  (from Earths in the Universe paragraph 151).  

I’m always impressed by this description, and it gets my imagination going.  I think about how much patience must be involved in building a church out of living wood.  How many years would it have taken to achieve the finished state?  What must it be like to build with a living branch, knowing that it would be months and years before it arrived in its desired location?  What must it be like to know that most of the growth of this church was accomplished by the Builder rather than the builders? The builders would only occasionally make subtle adjustments—little turnings, little prunings—while the trees themselves kept on with their relentless and powerful reaching towards the sun.   And even once the church was “finished,” it would probably keep changing as the trees grow and change.   I think about how the finished product would be strong enough to withstand the strongest winds and storms, by retaining the quality of flexibility.  

What a wonderful image for how the life of religion (or the “church”) can grow inside each one of us, and in our community. We all grow and change on our paths towards the Lord’s love and wisdom.  Just like the building of their wooden churches, the growth of the state of the church in us takes a lot of patience.  Living wood is a symbol for the Lord’s goodness slowly growing inside of us (Secrets of Heaven 3969.10; see also Heaven and Hell 223), and this can take a long time.  The Lord is the One that makes it grow, not us.  We can do our small part; turning a little this way in our life, pruning a little of this out of our life.  And even though we are working towards the state of regeneration or spiritual rebirth, we are never really finished growing.  And if we truly have that goodness as a part of our life, we can feel safe in the strong flexibility that that provides (see Secrets of Heaven 7068).  

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"What Would Love Do?" Video

This is a video which I got to be a part of, which is geared towards teens, and was produced by General Church Education for the "What Would Love Do?" Journey series.

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.