LATE IN THE SEASON

Long shadows and a stillness in the air

In early August evenings, late in the season

While the August sun is still high in the west

Feels like autumn, but it isn’t.

The trees are still green

The air warm, sometimes hot

Despite the long, lingering shadows

And the sun long in the west

This melancholy season, this afternoon early evening

This time of year, time of day

Is mine and my melancholy

This late adulthood of my life

A life well-lived in turmoil, ecstasy, and joy

It is not depression responding to the season

Nor the memory of regret

It is a fond summation of it all

Waning season, waning day, waning life

Calling to mind the waning of it all

Waning ages and the summation of what they were

Late Egypt and its Sun King, before its conquest

Or Rome and its philosopher king before the invasions

Or Europe and the glorious cathedral building before the Reformation wars

Knowing now they were destined for disintegration, disruption, destruction

Swan song, summer, late in the season, late in adulthood

Long shadows while the August sun is still high in the sky

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SONNET: WEALTH IN POVERTY

School taught me life with meager earning

I learned to live, and also to live well

During the time I devoted my life to learning

I learned that the best things markets don’t sell

 

My material possessions now give

The means to continue to learn and grow

Impoverishment is showing me a better way to live

Books, guitar, and Bach on the piano

 

Excess wealth can turn into complacency

And self-absorbed indifference to others

Time can pass in mindless frivolity

In egotistical isolation from our sisters and brothers

 

Impoverished circumstances can be abundant

And meager income become, in fact, a major grant

Religious Post

Learn to Do Good

Rev. David J. Fekete, Ph.D.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20                                             Luke 12:32-40                                     Psalm 50

No time like the present.  Eternity is now.  Heaven isn’t in the future, it’s here and now.  Now is when good feelings happen.  Now is when we seek truth.  Now is when peace and joy come into our lives.

Our reading from the Old Testament talks about sacrifices.  God tells the Israelites that God takes no pleasure in sacrifice.  God even exclaims, “who has asked this of you,/this trampling of my courts?”  What God is saying is that God never told the Israelites to sacrifice animals in the temple.  Yet sacrifice became the central way to worship for Israelites.

If you look at the early parts of the Old Testament, you will see a lot of laws and moral commands.  God tells the Israelites to protect the weaker people in society.  God tells them to care for the orphan, who has no adult male to feed, clothe, and give shelter.  Likewise, God tells the Israelites to care for widows, who also need food, shelter, and clothing since they have no adult male, or husband, to do this for them.

But with the rise of kingship, and with the building of the temple in Jerusalem by Solomon, animal sacrifice became the predominant form of worship, not moral living.  Making animal sacrifice the centre of worship was a man-made idea.  It is not what God wants.  God tells the Israelites specifically that God did not teach them to sacrifice animals,

For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ (Jeremiah 7:22-23)

God wants us to live good lives.

We don’t sacrifice animals.  But the Isaiah reading makes us think about externals of worship.  Externals are the rituals we do on Sunday.  Externals are chanting the Psalms, listening to Bible readings, singing hymns, praying, hearing sermons, and taking communion.  They are called externals because they are behaviors that we do.  You can do all these things without having your heart in them.  You can just go through the motions.  You can go through the motions, and think you’re saved.  But if your heart is in them, they can have much power and meaning.

So this morning, I thought that I’d invite us to think about worship on Sunday morning.  Due to the financial issues we are dealing with it strikes me as something valuable to do.  So let’s first consider why we come to church.  Why do we take a few hours on Sunday to come here?  Let’s also think about what we like in church.  What parts of worship do we like?  Is it singing?  Is it the Bible readings?  Is it my sermons?  What do we like about church?  Another thing to think about is what happens to us in church?  Do we feel uplifted?  Do we experience a closeness to God?  Does the noise in our heads quiet?  Do we find an hour of peace?  Do we feel a connection and mutual love in the church community?  Do we come away from church different than when we arrive?

Another way to get at this subject is to ask different kinds of questions.  These may be hard to hear, but we are in a safe environment.  We can ask ourselves what we would miss if there were no church.  What aspect of our religious life would be gone without a church?  I hope that the answer to these questions would be something other than the rituals we do here.  I would hope that there is something in us that we would lose touch with without church.

Now we think about today’s Isaiah reading.  We realize that being religious isn’t only going to church.  Let’s think about what we get out of church.  What is there we can take out of church into the world?  Because if we don’t carry out into the world the spirituality we experience in church, we are like the Israelites who put all their faith in the ritual of animal sacrifice.  We would be putting our faith in the externals of worship, not what is in our hearts.  Maybe we leave church feeling inspired, and we bring that feeling of inspiration into the world.  Maybe we learn a new religious principle that we apply in our lives outside church.  Remember Swedenborg’s statement that, “All religion relates to life, and the religious life is doing good.”  In fact, real sacred space isn’t inside these walls.  Real sacred space is in the world around us where we do good to others and show our love for the neighbor.

Along these lines is another hard question.  What would we do without a Swedenborgian identity?  We can echo the words of Jeremiah in relationship to this church.  In Jeremiah, as we have heard, God says, “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  Our forefathers debated the very formation of this denomination.  Swedenborg himself never founded this church.  It was readers of Swedenborg in England who made the decision to start up a new denomination.  Many important voices said that the New Church was not meant to be a denomination.  Among these voices was Henry James, Sr. who wrote a pamphlet on that subject, titled, “The Church of Christ not an Ecclesiasticism: A Letter to a Sectarian.”  You can imagine God’s voice, maybe, saying, “I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning a new denomination.”

Where would we be without a Swedenborgian identity?  I faced this question a few weeks back.  I considered transferring my ministry to the United Church.  I wondered what it would be like not to self-identify as a Swedenborgian anymore.  What would it be like to be a United minister?  In a way it was surprisingly liberating.  I no longer would look out at the world from the small minority world of Swedenborg, who no one has heard of, and some who have heard of us think us a cult.  Being a Swedenborgian can mean an us and the other mentality.  And since everyone in the world practically isn’t a Swedenborgian, we see the whole world as the other.  If I’m not Swedenborgian, then I’m not apart from the world, but I’m among everybody else.  Put in its most extreme form, we can also think that being Swedenborgian alone means we’re saved.  But take away the label, and where are we?  It was men in 18th century England who gave us this label.  Maybe it is doing more harm than good.

So we ask, what is meaningful in church?  Why do we come to church?  What would we miss if there were no church?  And finally, who would we be without the label of Swedenborg?  Challenging questions indeed.  But good questions to ask as we consider the future of this church.  And more importantly, good questions to ask in relation to our spiritual process.

THE LESSON FOR TODAY (Not Necessarily a Poem)

Dollars and debts and interest compounding

Stocks and bonds and dividends

The bottom line and profit margins and markets

The economic drive some ride into obscene wealth

The likes of these bought Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

For the highest price ever in the ‘80’s

While Van Gogh, himself, died impoverished

Having sold only one painting in his lifetime

The likes of Van Gogh aren’t concerned with

Dollars and debts and interest compounding

His ecstasy was discovering how to paint a tree

The purchase of Sunflowers contributed to the GDP

But the production of the same didn’t

Obscene profits are no real incentive

PARNASSUS

The Other World is too much with me

And not enough getting and spending

I live downtown, not high atop Parnassus

Though I do consort more with the muses

Than I do with the Dow Jones Industrials

I bask in Apollo’s rays

Even in the coldest economic climate

Nectar is the food of the gods

My food is peanut butter and jelly

My books, musical instruments, art

Content me with little cash

I’ve made calculations, estimations, projections

Playing Prometheus with my present, future, future finances

I’m alright, going to be alright

SHATTERED COMPLACENCY

It can be surprising

How many doors can stay shut on a guy

How many things they won’t let you do

That you thought you could do

How many plans fall through

Goals don’t materialize

Dreams evaporate

How hard it can be to keep going

 

How sad a guy can get

 

Revenue streams abruptly stop flowing

While the clock ticks on the next bill due

But you are going to keep going

Keep trying to find that open door

A sign of the times, of a guy’s status, statistics

Cast-off ships that have likely sailed their last

But still are sea-worthy

Wisdom no one seems to inquire of

Talent not tapped

My cell-phone silent, but for Facebook notifications

SOME WORDS I GREW UP WITH

Vietnam, establishment, protest, revolution, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination, J. Edgar Hoover, Twiggy,

Woodstock, Buffalo Springfield, Richie Havens, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Crosby, stills, Nash, and Young, Janis Joplin, Cream, Ravi Shankar, Jefferson Airplane, Melanie, Ten Years After, Mountain, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

mind expansion, weed, LSD, hash, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau

The Man, tear gas, mod, freaks, hippies, bikers, jocks, counter-culture, mini-skirt, long hair, crew-cut, bell-bottoms, Spock, freedom, riots, tie-dye, Motown

peace, Nature, love

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