Where am I leading you to?
Where am I leading you to?
Have you ever wondered where I am leading you to? I think about it often.
As a congregation you voted to have me serve you as Pastor. The role is vary varied across both the church and school. The essence of the role you have called me to, is that of spiritual leader. The hope from your side is that I use my training, my time and my talents to guide all that we do to connect more deeply with the Lord.
Within your calling of me to lead you, there is a wonderful paradox that exists. Some may have thought about it and some may not have realised that it exists. The best way to express the paradox is this, “You have appointed me to lead you to where you don’t want to go.”
Let’s consider the paradox. Spiritual growth, and the accompanying church growth, are both directions that our proprium (sense of self, or what is our own) doesn’t what to go. The teachings for the New Church tell us that if left to itself, the proprium would run headfirst into the deepest hell of selfishness. The Lord wants to draw us out of that selfishness and up towards a heavenly life. Why don’t we want to go towards the heavenly life? Because it means we have to change. Our proprium is that part of us that is happy to stay where we are, it is comfortable with how things currently feel. So why change?
That is where the Lord’s Word (the bible & the teaching for the New Church) comes in. If it wasn’t for the Lord giving Divine revelation to this world, we would choose the comfortable path, otherwise known as the wide path and we know where that leads, selfishness and hell. It is through the Word that the Lord continually speaks to us and reminds us of another path, a narrower, seemingly more difficult path to walk. What makes it difficult is that we are called to constantly work against ourselves. The saying goes, “The hardest person to lead is the person in the mirror”. No one can walk the path for you, there is no other way into the sheepfold. The path to a heavenly life leads straight through the things we find most challenging to change about ourselves and our habits.
And so, we see the same paradox within each individual. To follow the Lord Jesus Christ is to choose to go where you don’t want to go! Strange but true.
Back to the question of where am I leading you? First and foremost, I see my role as leading you to the Lord as He shows Himself to us through His Word.
That is called the Church where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is; for the essentials of the Church are love to the Lord from the Lord, and faith in the Lord from the Lord; and the Word teaches how a person must live in order that they may receive love and faith from the Lord.Secrets of Heaven n.10761 – Emanuel Swedenborg
From this I see my role then as working with you, to encourage you and teach you the skills you need to find the Lord in His Word. But not the bare study of religious knowledge but to read the Word for a very specific purpose;
The religious knowledge can then bring our outer being into contact with our inner being, and when this happens, our study of it has served its true purpose. The inner self, after all, concerns itself only with that which is useful.Secrets of Heaven n.1472 – Emanuel Swedenborg
The purpose of learning from the Lord is to become more and more aware of our inner being. Last month’s article pointed out the idea that it is much easier to judge others and events outside of ourselves from the religious knowledge we have. However, the true purpose of learning from the Lord’s Word is to be guided by Him to turn that judgement inwards in order to break down the barrier of our outer self-centeredness, and discover and connect with our inner self. In order for this to happen, the Lord asks for, and needs, our co-operation.
The Lord can’t force you to co-operate. No one can make you co-operate. The only way is for you to compel yourself, for you to choose to go where you don’t want to go. The paradox of spiritual growth and a truly happy life!
We co-operate when we read the Word for ourselves, meditating on how it applies to our life, recognising where we are falling short, praying to the Lord for strength and then practicing to live a new life according to what He has taught. This is what the Lord calls each one of us too. We don’t always want to go there. We may be afraid or ashamed of what we might discover about our proprium.
It’s from this place of individual doubt, fear and uncertainty that I see my role as pastor appear. To find ways and opportunities to encourage you to compel yourself, to lift you up and dust you off when you fall, and direct you back to the Lord in His Word. After all, the Word is the Lord. When you read the Word with true purpose, you give the Lord the opportunity to teach you something about yourself, and show you the path of your life.