Commentary

 

The Gate of the Year      

By Rev. Emily Jane Lemole

The Gate of the Year
A sermon by Rev. Emily Jane Lemole

Readings:
Isaiah 26:1-4, 42:5-8
Matthew 7:7-14
Revelation 22:14
Secrets of Heaven 2851

---
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

by Minnie Louise Haskins
---

We are standing at the Gate of the Year, a threshold to the unknown in many ways. “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

We read many passages from the Word and the Writings about gates. Gates provide a connection between what is inside and what is outside. They suggest a choice – whether to open or shut it – whether to come in or stay out.

A closed gate makes us hesitate and stop. In this Sufi saying the gates provide thoughtfulness and reflection about what we say:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself, “is it true?”
At the second ask, “is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask “is it kind?”

How best to begin this New Year? There are the usual resolutions – to lose weight, be healthier, be more organized, and spend more time with loved ones. But there are deeper resolutions or intentions that are crying out for a new start, a fresh beginning. Number 1 – putting God in the center of our lives – seeing the Lord Jesus Christ as the beginning, middle and end of our day. A good habit is to pray – a lifting up of our perspective – of our priorities – several times a day. Even the physical action of looking up and pausing can shift an annoyed, resentful mood into a moment of correction – a turnaround of most of what we fuss about.

Sub specie aeternitatis is a great reminder. Under the auspices of eternity – what matters? Not most of what worries and upsets us. In the long view, with God at the center, what really matters becomes evident and what doesn’t diminishes.

So how do we put our hand into the hand of God? How do we open the gates of our minds and hearts to all that is good and true, wise, kind and peaceful? How do we shut the door to selfishness, unkindness, resentfulness, ingratitude and violence?

By what we do every day.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything,” says Fr. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest.

What do we pay attention to and give our time to? What do we love?

A New Year seems a good time to take inventory, a reflection on last year, not so much what we have accomplished as who we are becoming. What matters most to us? What are our priorities? Or as Swedenborg would ask, What do we love? For we are what we love!

We learn that there are two gates that are in each of us. The Gate to Heaven, surrounded by angels, leads to what is good and what is true.

And the Gate to Hell, surrounded by evil spirits, leads to what is evil and false.

These gates are in us. We get to choose, and what determines our choice? What we love!

Every year, every week, every day, every moment we have the freedom to choose who we are, what brings us pleasure, how we spend our precious time – what we love and how we love.

And let’s remember that if we don’t honestly like what we see in our inventory, we can repent! Turn around! Change our direction! Change our minds! Change our loves!

Swedenborg describes what we cannot see – our spiritual companions – the company we keep and are for the most part unaware of. Like guests, they come by invitation.

We are surrounded by spiritual guests, invited by our states of mind and heart: Through the Heavenly Gates come the angels and good spirits; from the Hellish Gates come the evil or bad spirits. My highschool Latin teacher used to refer to these as the “Basement Boys”.

It is out of fashion today to speak of evil, guilt, repentance or hell. These terms have become obsolete, uncomfortable and ones we really don’t want to be reminded of. But from everything Swedenborg teaches, these are spiritual realities.

Evil is very much alive and well in our world (if one reads the papers and watches TV) and in each one of us, recognized with some introspection! When we honestly become aware of our own intentions and emotions, we know this!

Evil, with its twin, falsity, is everything that is against God, that is selfish, dishonest, greedy, mean and cruel. But evil can also appear with a deceptive face – we can justify our resentments, our ingratitude, our unforgiving stance. Sin means missing the mark, the mark being God. All that draws us away from God makes us miss that mark!

Guilt – a very necessary emotion that makes us want to repent – not to wallow in, but to lead us to repentance – to persuade us to change course!

And evil spirits – these are the very real spiritual companions that we are told are fighting for our attention, and in the end, for our spiritual life. We are in the balance. We are between two gates.

An ancient Buddhist proverb teaches: Everyone is given the key to the Gates of Heaven; the same key opens the Gates of Hell.” The key is what we love.

Every decision we make feeds either our proprium (our unregenerate will) or feeds our "remains" – that inviolate treasure, a storehouse of all the good and true things we have experienced since before birth. Remains are our birthright, and we draw from it and add to it forever with true thoughts and good deeds.

Since the number one focus of most New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight (and I’m not against that, if needed) let’s try to use that concept for a spiritual weight loss – losing the burden of negative emotion, the bad habits of criticism, complaint, gossip, irritation, annoyance, being easily offended, anger – the list we know goes on and on. The diet for this weight loss is good thoughts, honest behavior, truthful intentions. Turning off the bad news, turning on the good news. Supporting a hopeful optimism that encourages others; kind acts that look for no return.

Think on these things, Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians.

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8.

And the exercise required for this transformation of the soul’s health is spiritual practice – the exercise that brings the abstract into the real, the doing of what we say we believe. Perhaps this year we can embrace a spiritual exercise:

- Meditation
- Prayer
- Lectio Devina – slow, purposeful reading of Scripture and other Holy Books.

A dear friend of mine makes a habit of thinking about which type of spirits are influencing her, and then asking the Lord to send away the harmful influences, when there. Also, she has developed a practice of thanking the Lord for all good things when they happen.

We can open the Gates of Heaven. Angels can rush in at any time that we cause the gates to swing open by loving what is good, what is true, the Lord and one another. These choices open those gates.

We all need reminders to help us make the right choices. We forget so quickly and are distracted by the loud noise of our times. We are plugged into T.V., radio, our computers, phones and i-pads -- a secular culture that is immersed in what is natural, not spiritual. But it is not natural for us to turn away and turn toward God and the Heavenly gates. It is unnatural. It is spiritual. Here are a few reminders that I have found helpful.

SET A TIME FOR AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE LORD: Every morning and before bedtime are two commonly used times to reserve for the Lord. When feeling angry, raise your thoughts and vision upward, and ask for the angels at the gate for assistance. Try a phrase learned from one of our daughter’s friends: Bless and release! Work toward seeing God in everyone and in all things.

Let ugly states pass – bless your enemies, remembering that those who disagree or dislike us are likely our best spiritual teachers. We can see our response to them, usually a response that mirrors the behavior that irritates us. Love our enemies, we are told, as well as our neighbor.

We need to watch our thoughts.

From the Ancient Vedas:

"Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

Most important is to detect what we love, for that will determine which gate we hang around, and later, enter.

How auspicious it is that we have Holy Communion as we enter the New Year. What better way to begin, seeking first the kingdom of Heaven – putting what matters most into the forefront?

This is a beautiful prayer by Sister Joyce Rupp:

SACRED MYSTERY,
Waiting on the threshold
of this new year,
you open the gates
And beckon to me:

(You say) “Come! Come!
Be not wary of what awaits you
as you enter the unknown terrain,
be not doubtful of your ability
to grow from its joys and sorrows.

For I am with you,
I will be your Guide.
I will be your Protector
You will never be alone.”

Guardian of this new year,
I set aside my fears, worries, concerns,
I open my life to mystery, to beauty,
to hospitality to questions,
to the endless opportunity
of discovering you in my relationships,
and to all the silent wisps of wonder
that will draw me to your heart.

I welcome your unfailing Presence
And walk with hope into this New Year.

---

“Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.”

It really matters as we stand at the Gate of the New Year whose hand we will take – whose inspiration we will follow and whose influence may determine who we are becoming.

From Psalm 118:19-20:
“Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
By which the righteous shall enter.”

Amen!

The Bible

 

Matthew 7:7-14

English: King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

← Previous   Full Chapter   Next →

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

← Previous   Full Chapter   Next →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 922, 1011, 1017, 2851, 3463, 3477, 5890, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 376, 762, 951

Divine Providence 250, 330

The Lord 9

Sacred Scripture 51

Doctrine of Life 73

Heaven and Hell 534

True Christian Religion 226, 411, 444, 459


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 186, 254, 411, 556, 785

Scriptural Confirmations 14, 87

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 6:5, 8:21

Deuteronomy 4:29

1 Samuel 1:20, 27

1 Kings 3:5

1 Chronicles 28:9

2 Chronicles 15:2

Psalms 16:11, 86:5

Proverbs 8:17, 14:12

Jeremiah 29:13, 14

Word/Phrase Explanations

seek
The meaning of "to seek" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but there is a bit of nuance: Swedenborg tells us that in most cases...

Knock
Behold I stand at the door and knock,' as in Revelation 3:20, signifies the perpetual presence and operation of the Lord with a person.

opened
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

Every one
The phrase “Every one,” where it occurs in Genesis 20:7, signifies every thing or all things.

son
Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

bread
The idea of a “loaf” in the Bible is very closely tied to the idea of “bread,” and is often used to mean bread: Jesus...

fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

serpent
'Serpents,' in the Word, signify sensory principles, which are the extremes of a person’s life. This is because all animals signify affections of people, which...

heaven
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

all things
The Lord is life itself, is the Creator of the universe, and is the source of life on an ongoing basis. So in a literal...

to
'To jubilate' or 'make a joyful noise' signifies worship from the delight of good.

the law
Jews at the time of Jesus had a number of ways to break down and describe the books of the Old Testament. Among the more...

enter
All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

way
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

destruction
'To go into perdition,' as in Revelation 17:8, signifies being rejected.

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


The Gates to Heaven and Hell

Are the gates to heaven and hell there to limit who has access? Are there even really gates? We dig into the symbolism of gates, how heaven and hell flow into our minds, and how we can help to open the "gate" of heaven in ourselves and our world.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Answers to Prayers
We need to learn about the Lord's way of answering prayers.
Article | Ages over 15

 Build a House on the Rock
Use blocks or small cardboard boxes to build a house on sand and sprinkle with water to see what happens. Then build the house on a rock.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Build on the Rock
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 By Their Fruits
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Choosing Heaven or Hell
A lesson and activities exploring how our choices lead us towards heaven or hell, day by day.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Correspondences of Mineral Kingdom
Illustrations of places in the Word that mention minerals.
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Doing Is Living
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Dramatize Giving Good Things to Those Who Ask
Dramatize and discuss the examples given by the Lord of a parent giving good gifts to a child. The Lord gives these examples to reassure us that He also will give us what will help us most. 
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Entering the Narrow Way
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 First Remove the Plank
Activity | Ages over 15

 Foundations for My Life
Reflect on beliefs or attitudes that are like “foundations” for your life. These are the constants that help you weather the storms of life.
Activity | Ages over 13

 Fruit of the Vine
Talk about grapes and other fruit that grows on a vine. Consider making "a grape vine" of good deeds with "grape" beads to put on a green cord.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Golden Rule
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Golden Rule and Prayer Crossword Puzzle
Crossword puzzle about the Golden Rule and the Lord's Prayer.
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Hear and Do
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Hearing and Doing
It is important to do what the Lord teaches as well as listen to Him.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Helping Out
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 House Built on the Rock and Sand
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 House Built on the Rock Demonstration
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 House Built on the Rock Diorama
Color the pieces of the diorama, then cut them out and assemble it. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 House Built on the Rock Rebus
Younger children will enjoy "reading" the pictures with help from an older child or adult. 
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 House Built on the Rock (sheet music with hand motions)
Song | Ages up to 10

 How the Word Enlightens
The Lord wants to help everyone see spiritual things more clearly but the quality and extent of an individual’s enlightenment depends on his or her own spiritual development. Enlightenment is affected by the questions we ask the Lord and the reasons we are seeking answers.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Illustrate the Parable of the House Built on the Rock
Illustrate the parable by picturing both the house built on the rock and the house built on the sand.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Judgment
When the Lord says “judge not,” the meaning is that we are not to judge falsely, or from a selfish motive, or based only on external appearances. And instead of looking for faults in others, we should concentrate on removing the evils and falsities within ourselves. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 Memory Verse: I Will Build My Church
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Looking for the Good in Others
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Praying to the Lord
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Pathways to Heaven and Hell
Contrast the paths to heaven and to hell by picturing some of things that might be seen along these paths by someone who can see clearly in the spiritual world.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Prayers for Adults: Dealing with Other People with True Charity
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Adults: Praying to the Lord
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Children: Being Kind to Other People
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Prayers for Children: King of Kings
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Prayers for Children: Praying to the Lord
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Prayers for Teens: Friendship and Judgment
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Prayers for Teens: Keeping the Sabbath
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Prayers for Teens: Praying to the Lord
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Quotes: I Will Build My Church
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Way to Heaven
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Song: The House Built on a Rock (3-5, 6-8 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Stormy Weather
Identify and write about some of the false ideas that may distort our thinking and challenge our commitment to the Lord.
Activity | Ages over 15

 The Golden Rule
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The House Built on a Rock
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The House Built on the Rock (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The House on the Rock
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The House on the Rock with Quote
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord's First Parable
The sermon on the mount ended with the parable of the house built on the rock and the house built on the sand.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Sermon on Mount--The House Built on the Rock
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Sermon on the Mount
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Sermon on the Mount (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 Tolerance and Judgment
Loving the neighbor is intending and doing good to all, but wisely loving others takes a variety of forms depending on others' actions.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Two Houses
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Wings of Truth
Lesson and activities exploring how truth can uplift, protect, and free us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 You Are the Man!
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14


Translate: