In the mid-1800s, a young man named William Loring Worcester and his father, Rev. John Worcester, took an unhurried camping trip in the valley of the Nile River and all over the Holy Land, consulting the Bible as they went. Imagine these two, taking their time, finding and discovering the places they had only read about; and in that time period, much of what they saw would not yet have been greatly changed by the advance of modern civilization. Both men were significant figures in the early New Church movement in America. They were particularly fascinated by and well-versed in the knowledge of correspondences, so that what they were looking at probably held unusual depths of meaning. William must have taken copious notes and made drawings, along with taking black and white photos, as evidenced in the books he went on to write.
The camping trip happened right after William graduated from Harvard, where he had studied science because his father advised him that a knowledge of science “was one of the best preparations for a New Church ministry,”* and William intended to enter the ministry. After the camping trip, William attended the New Church Theological School which existed at that time in Cambridge, Massachusetts. William was then ordained and began his ministry as an assistant to Rev. Chauncey Giles in Philadelphia. (Rev. Giles is the author of the piece about the ministry of flowers which was the subject of my November 2022 post.)
Continue reading William Worcester’s Books
A desire to protect people from hurt seems to be a major goal of American culture right now. Public and private conversations about various hot topics are often shut down or sidestepped by those who don’t want to hurt anyone by expressing an opinion that someone might not like. Causing hurt seems to have become the ultimate evil, and protecting from hurt is always the best, most inspiring choice.
I’ve been reflecting on this anti-hurt approach to life, and I don’t think it actually works. In fact, I think it can cause worse hurt than it prevents. For a simple example on a physical level, would we refuse to let a doctor stitch up our child’s wound because the stitching would hurt? If we avoid the hurt of stitching, we will actually cause a far worse hurt as infection sets in. I think you can apply this metaphor on the emotional and spiritual level as well. It seems to me that at every level, there’s a difference between hurt that leads to healing and hurt that truly harms. There are times when it is definitely the right choice to prevent hurt, but there are times
when it is not.
We need hurt in order to survive, and we need hurt to grow. I heard a wonderful church service recently about the story of Jacob wrestling with God. The minister began by telling the kids about an interesting thing that happened many years ago when he lived in Arizona. Some scientists built a huge greenhouse, and one thing they did was to plant trees inside the greenhouse. They provided everything a tree needs to grow, and for some odd reason the trees were weak and easily fell over. At first, they couldn’t figure out why. Finally, they discovered that trees need the wind to blow against them as they grow, or else they are not strong enough to stay up when they get tall. He explained to the kids about the Lord lovingly wrestling with Jacob to provide him with the ability to grow stronger and better.
Continue reading Hurt
In the 1800s, there was a New Church minister named Chauncey Giles, who eventually became one of the New Church leaders in America and who was well-loved by many people. He had discovered the Writings as a young adult, and the whole course of his life was changed for the better. He is probably my favorite New Church author, there is such affection and wisdom in his writing, and he wrote about so many important things. He felt that when he wrote his sermons and papers, he should make them as beautifully written as he possibly could, in honor of the subject matter. Below I am going to share a quote from a sermon he wrote entitled “The Ministry of Flowers.” I have returned to this sermon many times as a source of hope and inspiration. And I like to remember the Lord’s message when I enjoy the beautiful flowers He creates. This sermon is based on a text from Hosea 14 about the Lord descending like dew on Israel and causing growth and blossoming, and on True Christian Religion 392:2 about natural and spiritual flowering.
Continue reading A Hopeful Message
The changes wrought within us by regeneration are so covered up and concealed by the natural life and the material body that it is difficult to gain a clear and adequate idea of their nature and importance. They are to our spiritual faculties and to our life in the spiritual world as the secret processes that go on in the seed while it is in the ground are to the blossom. In our darkness, doubt, and difficulty of apprehension, the Lord says to us, “I will show you what the effect of my truth upon your spiritual nature will be when you return to me and receive my words into your hearts and lives. Look at this root; see how coarse and rough it is. There is no beauty in it; there is nothing you can discover in it that gives promise or hope of any loveliness of form or purity of color or delicacy of texture. And yet out of earth and rain and heat and light I will create one of the most beautiful forms in nature.”
Sin! Judgment! All right, buckle up, here comes gloom and doom. Get ready to feel like a worm. Get ready for judgment and catastrophe and indignation. Right? Isn’t that how we instinctively react to the whole concept of sin?
I learned a very helpful perspective about sin from reading a little book called The Forgiveness of Sin by Rev. Chauncey Giles, a New Church minister in the late 1800s to early 1900s (and a favorite author of mine). I know, it sounds dry as dust, but it turned out to be pretty awesome.
People often feel like the Lord made up a bunch of arbitrary rules about what would be good and what would be bad. So it seems like the Lord says something is bad or good because He feels like it and He gets to make the rules.
In reality, it’s not arbitrary at all. Sin means spiritual disease. There are lots of types of sins, and they are described in the Word with the names of natural diseases because those diseases are the physical symbol of those spiritual ailments. So to say that something is a sin is simply to state that it does harm of one sort or another to our spirits. The Lord’s statements about right and wrong are the equivalent to statements of scientific or medical law. In fact, scientific and medical law function the way they do because their functioning is modeled on the functioning of spiritual law. Physical and spiritual illnesses are two levels of the same things that function in the same way on different planes.
Continue reading Sin and Judgment (Cue the gloomy organ music!)