Creation: Rebirth of the
By the Rev. Lee
Genesis 1; 2:1-3 Creation
In the beginning God
created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering
over the waters.
And God said,
"Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was
good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light
"day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was
evening, and there was morning--the first day.
And God said,
"Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from
water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse
from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky."
And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.
And God said,
"Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground
appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the
gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then
God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees
on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various
kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed
according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to
their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was
morning--the third day.
And God said,
"Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the
night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let
them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And
it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and
the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in
the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the
night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And
there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.
And God said,
"Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the
earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of
the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according
to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it
was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number
and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth."
And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.
And God said,
"Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock,
creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its
kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds,
the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along
the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said,
"Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the
fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the
earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God
created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him, male and
female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and
increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea
and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the
Then God said,
"I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and
every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to
all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures
that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give
every green plant for food." And it was so.
God saw all that he
had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was
morning--the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and
the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had
finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all
his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he
rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Mark 4:26-29 The parable of the growing seed
"This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the
ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows,
though he does not know how. All by itself the earth produces grain--first the
stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But as soon as the grain is
ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
Arcana Coelestia #5 Our new creation, or rebirth
From the literal
meaning of the first chapters of Genesis, no one realizes that it refers to
anything besides the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden which is called
"Paradise," and Adam, the first human to be created. Who thinks
anything else? However, these things contain mysteries that have never been
revealed until now. . . . In this inner meaning, the first
chapter of Genesis is about new creation of a human being--in other words, it is
about our rebirth.
And God said,
"Let there be light." And there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
For those of you who
are used to following along in the printed sermon, there isn't one today because
the Youth Worker's Conference that I just attended took up that time and I
didn't have a chance to write it out. So what I would like to present to you
this morning is some thoughts from Swedenborg, and some of my own thoughts,
about what this Creation story means for us in our spiritual life.
It is a wonderful
story to start out with in the Bible. You know how there is often a preface in a
book, and the preface will tell you what the book is going to tell you. They
always told us that in school: when you write a paper, first you tell them what
you're going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told
them. The Creation story is God telling us what he's going to tell us in the
whole Bible. He is summarizing the entire Bible, which is really, Swedenborg
tells us, about our own spiritual growth. It's about our process from when we
first start to awaken spiritually to the time when we become angels in heaven.
The Creation story is a wonderful summary, in just a little over one chapter, of
the whole Bible story. So if you don't have time to read the whole Bible, at
least read the Creation story!
I'm hoping to give
you a little enlightenment this morning about what this story means in terms of
our own growth toward becoming angels--as we talked about with the little
children. I'd like to go through each day, and tell you a little bit about what
Swedenborg said was the spiritual meaning of these verses.
First of all, to look
at the whole creation story, Swedenborg tells us that the first three days talk
especially about the growth of our mind: about our thinking, our
understanding, and our faith; and that the fourth through the sixth days speak
especially about the growth of our heart: about the love that we have for
God and for one another. So this is a wonderful summary, and it is very well
organized to show us how we grow.
We start first by understanding.
That's why God said, "Let there be light." Because before there is
light, there is darkness and void. Swedenborg tells us that the first state,
which is the state that comes before our spiritual growth, is a state that
starts from our earliest childhood and continues on through until the time just
before we begin to consciously decide to grow spiritually--just before we
consciously invite the Lord into our life, and decide that we want to not just
be material beings, but to be spiritual beings.
That first state can
last well into adulthood. There are people who don't decide to have spirituality
in their lives until they reach thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years old. So this
period of darkness can last a long time. We may be very intelligent, but we are
dark spiritually in that we don't see that God is working in our spirit;
we don't see that there is a higher purpose to life.
When God says
"Let there be light," that, in us, is our first realization that there
is something higher than all this material realm that we have been dealing with.
There is light: there is deeper understanding. Light is a universal
symbol of truth. When we say, "I see," we mean, "I
understand." So the very first beginning of our spiritual growth is when
the light dawns in our mind that there is a higher purpose to life; that there
is something more than this material existence; that there is something more
that we need to look to, to go for, in our lives. "Let there be
light." This is the beginning of our spiritual growth.
"And there was
evening, and there was morning, the first day." It is very significant that
every day starts from evening, and goes to morning. Because this is how our
spiritual growth happens. We start from not understanding so well, from a state
of darkness and obscurity, and we progress toward daytime: toward understanding
and knowing what our life is for, and what God wants for our life. We progress
from evening to morning each stage of our spiritual growth. So "there was
evening, and there was morning, the first day."
On the second day,
everything begins to get cleared up. We were kind of confused about this
"spiritual" thing before. But now the Bible tells us that God created
an expanse, or a "firmament" in the heavens, to divide the waters from
the waters. There would be the waters above the firmament, which are the clouds,
and the waters below the firmament, which are all the waters on the earth.
Here we begin to
realize that there is a spiritual truth that is higher than all this material
knowledge that I have. Maybe I'm good at building things; maybe I'm good at
figures; maybe I'm good at preparing meals; maybe I'm good at raising children.
There are all different things we can be good at on this material plane. The
second day of creation is when we realize that there are higher things.
There is a higher truth, and it has everything to do with how we care for one
another; how we understand each other; how we respect each other; how we love
God; and how we show God's love to each other. These are the higher truths that
we need to distinguish from just being able to get along in this world.
We do need to
be able to get along in this world; that's very important. But as we begin to
follow a spiritual path, we realize there are also higher truths that we need to
follow--truths that relate to God and to heaven and to our relationships with
each other. This is the second day: distinguishing the waters above the
expanse--the spiritual truths--from the waters below the expanse--all the
material, worldly truths that we need to get along in this world. "And
there was evening, and there was morning, the second day."
After we realize that
there are higher, spiritual truths, this is when our mind begins to grow and
blossom spiritually. On the third day, God separates the waters (the ones below
the expanse) from the land and lets the dry land appear. This is when the plants
can first begin to grow. These are the growing spiritual awareness in our mind:
first the tender herb, the grass--at first we have a very sketchy idea of what
this spiritual life is all about. But soon there are the shrubs, and then there
are the trees.
The trees are fixed
principles of living; those principles that we live by, such as that we should
love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Trees are the idea that we should always
guide our life by a principle like that: that we should love our neighbor just
as we love ourselves. That whatever we would have our neighbor--other people--do
to us, we should do to them. These are fixed principles of spiritual living that
grow up as strong trees, which we can then be sheltered by and be guided by as
we live our life. So now we are beginning to develop a real understanding of
what it means to live in a spiritual way, and not just in a material way.
"And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day."
All of this, as I
said, is more or less the development of our mind. We're realizing that there is
a higher life. We're distinguishing between the spiritual truths and the
material truths. We're beginning to develop those principles of spiritual
living--and we are applying them. On the third day, there are fruits that
come from the trees, and the fruits are the good deeds that we do for others.
But Swedenborg says
that up to this point, it's still a struggle--and it continues to be a
struggle--because up to this point, we still think that we're doing these things
by ourselves: that we're the ones that understand, that we're the
ones that love, that we're the ones who are producing those fruits. And
so, Swedenborg says, those fruits are not really alive yet. And the reason
they're not alive yet is that all goodness and all truth really comes from the
Lord. And as long as we think that it's coming from us, it's relatively dead
because we don't have that living relationship with the Lord so that we can feel
that everything good in us, all the love we have, is God's; all the truth; that
everything we know is God's.
This is what begins
to happen on the fourth day. It's a little bit strange, isn't it, that God says
"let there be light" on the first day, but it's not until the fourth
day that we get the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars. I like to
think of this, in a physical image, in this way: up to this point, those waters
above the firmament were pretty thick. In other words, there was a pretty thick
cloud cover, and the light was actually coming from God, but we didn't
realize it. Now the clouds are clearing, and we can see that everything good we
have is actually coming from God, and we begin to feel that in our heart.
This is the fourth
day, when God creates the sun, which is our love for the Lord and our
recognition that God loves us in a living way. And the moon, which shines at
night. In our dark periods, our times of difficulty, we have our faith,
our knowledge that God is there. Even if we can't feel God right now, we know
that God is there for us. That is the moon, shining in the dark periods of our
And it says he also
created the stars: those fixed spiritual principles that we guide our lives by
through the difficult times. For example, if we are involved in some business
dealing, and before we had been content to cut corners a little bit and figure
that nobody is going to notice the difference. But at this particular point in
our life we've decided we want to follow God, and yet God feels distant right
now; we're not really feeling God close to us--it's a nighttime period. At that
point, we may say, "Well, it wouldn't be so bad if I went back to my
old ways, and did my business the way business the way I was doing it
But then we think
about something that we read in the Bible that said we shouldn't cheat our
neighbor, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. And we realize,
"Even though I'd like to do this, my principles tell me that I
shouldn't." And so the stars guide us through the night just the way the
stars guide sailors through the night when otherwise they might go the wrong
direction. Those principles that we have learned and we have put in our
"heavens"--in our higher mind--guide us through the times when
otherwise we might weaken and do what we know we shouldn't do.
So God gives us the
sun: in our better times we feel the love of God in us, and that gives us life.
And God also gives us the moon and stars to guide us through our darker times.
"And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day."
And now we're
beginning a living relationship with the Lord: really feeling God in our
life. That is the point at which living animals start to come. On the fifth day,
we have the ones that populate the sky and the land: the birds flying in the
air, and the fish swimming in the sea. These are the first living, feeling
thoughts of doing goodness that are coming, not just from believing that
we ought to, but from feeling in our heart that this is what we want
to do from other people. We care about people, and therefore we really
want to do good for them from love.
These are the living
creatures. The living creatures represent our feelings, our loves; and these
develop later on. After we've gotten our mind more or less straightened out,
then we develop our heart. Then we begin to act from love. And this is the first
time that we really can be said to be alive spiritually: when we begin to
act from love.
The birds are the
living spiritual thoughts that we have, and the fish are the living material
thoughts that we have. And one of the nice things about this is that we don't
believe our spiritual life is separate from our outward, everyday life. We
believe that our spiritual life comes down into our material life, and
all of the knowledge that we had before about how to get along in the world now
comes alive from spiritual motivations. Everything we learned before about how
to run your business, how to take care of our home, how to raise our kids; all
of those things that we learned now come alive spiritually. We do our work, not
just because it's what we have to do, but because we want to love and serve one
another. And all the knowledge that we gained before helps us to do that, and
makes us effective as a person of God's kingdom working in this world. So we
have both our spiritual and our material knowledge working together to make us
good and useful people here on earth.
As we get those in
line, then, finally, on the sixth day we have the warm-blooded animals. We have
all the land animals, and finally human beings. These are when we really begin
to do things from faith and love together. Not just because we believe we ought
to but because we really love to. We begin to take joy in serving
other people. We begin to like it when we can do something for another
person. We don't do it because of a sense of obligation. You know: "God
says I have to do it, so I'd better do it." That was before. Now it is:
"I really enjoy doing what's good and right. This gives me happiness
inside, and I have pleasure and happiness from serving others."
These are the land
animals, and finally the human beings. This is when we become truly human. When
we're acting, yes, from faith, but especially from love in our hearts. When
we're acting because we care about other people and because we love God, and
when we get joy from serving one another. This is when we become truly human. At
that point, we finally reach the seventh day. There is evening, and there is
morning, and then there is the seventh day.
What is like when we
are acting and serving and loving one another because we love? There's no
conflict in us anymore. We don't have to say, "I'd really like to do that,
but I'm going to do this anyway because that's what God says." Now
everything flows from within. We do what we do because we love one another, we
love our work, we love God, and we're completely at peace inside of ourselves.
When it says "rest" in the Bible, it doesn't mean we're not doing
anything; it means we have no conflict within us about the things that
we're doing. That we do everything because we love to and we know how to. We can
be very busy outwardly, doing all sorts of things, and yet be at perfect peace
inside of ourselves, because this is the life that we love.
And that is what the
Lord holds out to us as true human life. When all of our conflict on this earth
is done; when we've gone through our struggles, when we've--with the Lord's
help--reformed ourselves and grown ourselves into people who do good because we
love to, then we have the peace and the rest of the seventh day.
This, of course, is
the state that the angels live in. They do good for one another. They live
useful, busy, happy lives because they all love one another, and they
don't have to fight about it anymore. They can simply do what they love
This is the promise
that God gives to each one of us if we are willing to go through the struggles
of the other days. And it's a promise that we can feel little bits of here on
earth, at the times when our life is just flowing along. We all get these
foretastes of heaven at the times when things are working out for us and we're
enjoying what we're doing. This is the state that angels are in all the time.
And this is the
promise that God gives us: if we go through all of these seven days of creation,
we will be people who love one another, who enjoy living in a good
way, who understand what we need to know in order to serve other people
and serve God in the way that we love best, and that fits our talents the most.
This is the promise that God gives us. And it's the promise of these seven days
of creation. Amen.
See also a