The Essential Uses of New Church Education

The Essential Uses of New Church Education

(New Church Education, Part 3)

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


“All instruction is simply an opening of the way; and as the way is opened … there … flow in … rational things … [and into these spiritual and celestial things]” (AC 1495)

The Lord alone teaches and leads mankind. The Lord created the human mind. He opens it to spiritual and celestial things from within. He depends on knowledges acquired in the world to be the foundation for this work, and the best foundation is made from truths from the Word. The Lord can work with any kind of knowledge at all, but the human mind is designed by the Lord Himself to be built upon a foundation of truth from the Word. New Church Education is a formal system of learning that tries to cooperate with the Lord’s plan as it is revealed in the Word through our whole life in this world.

In the first sermon of this series, we spoke of how New Church education begins in the home as the newly married couple begin to establish their home routine, their habits, and their attitudes towards each other, towards life, and towards the Lord. It is extremely important that they establish a home that is physically, mentally, and spiritually clean and orderly. A New Church home should provide an environment which preserves the innocent states of the children, that fulfills the promises made at the time of baptism, and that teaches reverence to the Lord through family worship and regular attendance at church.

In the second sermon of this series, we focused our attention on formal New Church Education. We spoke of how we look to the Lord’s own example in the Word for teaching methods, and how the New Church school system was intended to be an extension of the ideal New Church home so that the school and the home could form a cooperative effort to educate children in a peaceful, orderly sphere where there could be the freedom to talk about the Lord and morality without fear of embarrassment. Finally, it was shown how the main focus of religious education in New Church schools is to teach the children how to read the Lord’s Word for themselves with understanding; for it is the threefold Word that is the center and heart of New Church education, and only those who know what the Word teaches can be truly, spiritually, free.

It is useful for us to remember that New Church education is not just something we do from tradition, or because we wish to be exclusive, but that our whole purpose is to raise our children in the sphere of the church, and it is our purpose because these principles of education and child care are taught in the doctrines of the church.

In fact, the principle of New Church education was the rallying cry around which the General Church was formed. Although Richard deCharms was the first leader to teach the importance of the doctrine of New Church education, he was unable to bring those formative ideas into concrete forms. His pioneering work was then taken up by Bishop Benade, who was both a great student of the Writings and a charismatic leader of men. Bishop Benade was the kind of man who was able to take a simple, basic concept and develop it into a structure and a plan that would work, in part because he had the force of character to get things done.

A group of ministers of the Convention Church in the United States were led by Bishop Benade to see that the Writings of the New Church clearly taught the need for New Church education, and that the Writings themselves were the Word. As these views were not held by the majority of the members of Convention, Benade and his followers left Convention and formed their own church organization.

Unfortunately, while Benade’s character was of the kind that is well suited to bringing revolutionary new ideas into light, at the same time it was poorly suited to working with people and managing the structures once they were in place. His forcefulness and self-assurance were essential to the founding of the Academy movement, yet they also made it impossible for him to govern that church when it was established and at peace. In order to survive, the Academy had to move away from its founding father, and reorganized as the General Church under the leadership of Bishop W.F. Pendleton a little more than 100 years ago.

New Church education was the principle, the concept, the goal that these men spent their entire adult lives fighting for, because, they argued, New Church education was essential to the establishment and continuation of the Lord’s New Church on earth.

The argument for New Church education that they presented followed these lines of reasoning: The Lord commanded every member of His church to help spread the “good news” or the “evangel.” However, as the farmer does not scatter his seed randomly, but rather first prepares a field to receive it, so those who wish to help the Lord grow the New Church should direct their attention towards those people who, like the freshly plowed and prepared field, are most likely to receive that seed in their heart. It was felt that the most fruitful field of evangelization is with the children of New Church parents.

There are several reasons for this belief. First of all, the Writings teach that few from the Old Church will receive the New Church, and 200 years of observation and experience confirm these teachings. Where New Church bodies have rejected the principle of New Church education, few of the children have become members when they became adults with the inevitable result that the church membership declines.

On the other hand, we believe that it is reasonable to hope that children will become adult members if we cooperate with the Lord in His endeavor to build His church. We do this by acknowledging the Lord in His Second Coming, both for ourselves and for our children. We cooperate by seeing and protecting the distinctiveness of the New Church, by preserving and following the laws of order in marriage, by keeping the sphere of the church in the home, and by providing New Church schools. In this way children are kept in the sphere of the church, in the home, in the school, and in their social life, until they reach adult age.

The leaders of the early church were working from a heartfelt resolve to provide for the future of the church through doctrinal study which would lead to a clearer understanding of the doctrines, and the number of people needed to support and perform the uses of the Lord’s Church on earth.

More than a hundred years of observation and experience tells us that more than half of the students who attend New Church Schools will eventually join the New Church as adults, which is a rate of success several orders of magnitude greater than any other form of evangelization.

Throughout all the points that have been made so far, there is the underlying theme that after all, first and foremost, the General Church is a church, and as a church it has certain goals and priorities.

There are many ways that we could describe the various uses of a church, and there could be considerable difference of opinion as to how to rank them because while the church on earth comes from the Lord through the Word, it is organized and governed by people, and the form that the church on earth takes is dependent upon their wisdom. However, we believe that there would be general agreement on the following goals of the church on earth because they are based on what the Writings call the “two essentials” of the church: acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a life of charity towards the neighbor.

The first and most important goal of the church is to help people get to heaven. After all, the Lord created the universe solely for the purpose of providing a means for getting a heaven from the human race. We are also taught that the Lord’s own ruling love is for the salvation of the human race, and that the ruling love of the priests of the Lord’s church should be the love of saving souls. From these points it should be obvious that the most important use of the Church is to assist people in making the necessary changes in their lives in order to prepare them for a life in heaven.

The second use or goal of the church is to help people live useful lives on earth, that is, to help them order their lives in such a way (by helping them to remove the sins that would prevent them from being able to function in society) so as to be able to at first support themselves, then a family, and finally be able to contribute in some way to the welfare of society as a whole.

Now, having laid out certain goals or priorities of the Church, and having established that the early leaders of the Academy movement within the New Church felt that New Church education was an essential, we must then ask ourselves to what extent does New Church education support and uphold the goals and priorities of the New Church?

If we want to understand the essential nature of anything, whether it be an artifact from some ancient people, a complex modern machine, or an organization of people, we must think of it in terms of the use it is intended to serve, for in no other way can we form a true concept of what, in essence, the thing is. Therefore, if we want to understand the true nature of New Church education, we must think about it not from external appearances (such as number of pupils, sports offered, convenient location), but we must judge it according to how well it serves the uses it was intended to serve. For us to be able to make that judgment, we must first understand what the essential uses of New Church Education are.

We can generalize, and say that the uses of New Church education are essentially the same as the uses of the General Church, but adapted to meet the special needs of the young.

The first use of the church is to help people get to heaven; the first love of parents is for their children to get to heaven; the first objective of New Church education is to introduce each child into a true idea of God as He presents Himself in the truths of the Word, because by so teaching the child, he is being given the tools that he needs to find his way to heaven.

The second use of the church is to help people to live useful lives on earth; the fondest wish of parents is that their children will grow up to marry well and live productive useful lives; the second objective of New Church Education is the formation of a conscience in the understanding. This is important because only through the formation of the conscience can there be a foundation from which to make life’s decisions in the correct way.

No one has the truth from birth. The mind is a blank slate, so to speak, when born, and the process of life in this world is for the purpose of filling that mind with various truths which can then be loved and lived. New Church education seeks to assist the parents and the church in filling the child’s mind with truths from the Word in a form appropriate to his age and state, so that a conscience of what is true and good can begin to be formed. It is obvious that a person with a conscience formed from truths from the Word will live a more complete, more useful, and happier life than the person whose mind is filled supermarket philosophies, and flexible ethics.

The point of this is to show that the church, the home, and the school all want exactly the same things for the child, and are trying to achieve these ends by similar means, each according to their own skills and abilities.

These are our goals in New Church Education. They may seem high and difficult, but they are not impossible.

Thought about the effect on spiritual life is behind every decision that is made, every change or modification of the curriculum. Every step is planned, from the first day of First Grade through graduation to teach children about the Lord from the Word in a sphere designed to affect him, and make him feel good about being useful and kind to others, and where he can feel safe to speak to other children about his faith in the Lord.

But the school can only be as effective as the support from the home allows. When the home and the school are working from the same guiding principles, and trying to accomplish the same spiritual ends, then it is extremely likely that the ideal of New Church Education can be reached. On the other hand, if the values in the home are completely different from those of the school; if external things such as material possessions and wealth, or hobbies, or recreational activities are the leading things in the home (or the school), then the ideals of New Church education cannot be achieved. It is really a question of what one values, what one really wants in the long run, for one’s children.

It is the responsibility of every member of the General Church, not just the parents of the children in the school, to make some contribution to New Church education, for by supporting the school, you are upholding the essential uses of the church; and when you help the Church, you are helping the Lord establish His kingdom in this world and in the next.

Amen.

Lessons: 1 Kings 21:1-16, Matthew 6:19-33, AC 1495

Preparing for Spiritual Life

Preparing for Spiritual Life

(New Church Education, Part 2)

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


Now it is permitted to enter into the mysteries of faith with understanding [TCR 508].

Once, while Swedenborg was in the spiritual world, he was shown a tableaux or representation of the what the New Church was as to its spirit and life. The New Church was shown to him as a magnificent temple, its entrance a single pearl and the Word open and illuminated upon its pulpit. Over the doorway to this temple, the Latin words, nunc licet were engraved. These words mean, “now it is permitted” and they represent that in the New Church it is permitted for each person to explore, think about, and understand all the doctrines of the church, even those that had been held as mysteries in previous churches. They mean that not only is it permitted, but it is intended that all men should read and understand the Word in its letter and spirit for themselves, without the need for priests to tell them what they should believe.

The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture tells us that, the Lord teaches every one by means of the Word, and He teaches from those truths which the man already has.… (SS 26:2) The more genuine truth from the Word that a man knows, the more prepared he is to receive influx from the Lord, and so an education based on Divine Truth derived from the letter of the Word makes the path to heaven easier. We read again from the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, The Word in the sense of the letter is in its fullness, in its holiness, and in its power; and because the Lord is the Word (for He is the all of the Word), it follows that He is most of all present in the sense of the letter, and that from it He teaches and enlightens man (SS 50).

This is key to our understanding of the true nature of the New Church now being established by the Lord, for it tells us that He requires us to learn truths from the threefold Word in order to prepare ourselves for the life of heaven. The Lord does not want us to just accept what others tell us, but to learn His truth for ourselves. The process of learning the Lord’s truth as taught in the Word is a lifelong process, for the Word is a well of living water that can never be emptied. This lifelong process of learning how to serve the Lord by serving the neighbor is New Church Education.

The Lord came on earth to teach men, women, and children. His formal ministry lasted for about three years, and many of His lectures have been recorded and are available for our study in the New Testament. For example, in our brief lesson from Luke, He taught first by performing a miracle (by healing the man with dropsy), then by analogy (to our own practice of inviting guests into our home), and finally by a parable (where He told of guests being seated at a feast according to their importance). The Lord frequently used parables to describe His new spiritual truths in terms of what was common and known to His audience. He argued with and enraged the scribes and Pharisees. He taught by example, by opposition, and asking questions. Every teacher, and parent should search the Old and New Testaments for guidance in how to teach the eternal truths to the children in their charge, rather than putting their faith in the popular gimmick of the moment.

New Church Education is intended to be an extension of the home, but we may ask, “What are the characteristics of a ‘New Church Home’?” We might say that the ideal New Church Home is one in which the children are protected in innocence until they can be gently led out of their states of innocence into wisdom; a home without strife; a home without fear; a home were the Lord in always in the heart, and the Word always on the lips. As beautiful as that may seem to us, it is simply not possible in the circumstances we are faced with today. We have to cope with an information explosion that has introduced preschool children to international tension. We also have to face the fact that while it may be ideal for the mother to teach little children and young women, and the father to teach the young men (See CL 176), most parents are not qualified to teach all the subjects that our children need to know to be able to make a living in today’s world. So, while we recognize the ideal of children being raised and taught in a New Church Home, and that the primary responsibility for their education rests with the parents (not the school), we also recognize that parents need professional help in providing New Church Education for their children.

This concept was developed in the early days of the New Church. The New Church school was to be an extension of the ideal New Church home, whether or not that ideal New Church home actually existed. What it really means is that there must be mutual cooperation and support between the home and the school. The school operates on the principle that the parents have placed the child in the New Church school because they want something special for that child, and are willing to make the extra effort to provide that kind of education.

There is a danger that parents may feel that because their children are in a religious school that they are therefore freed from the responsibility to teach them morality or discipline. The Word clearly teaches that parents are responsible for teaching their children the Ten Commandments, and about the reality of the spiritual world. However, a New Church school sets out to assist the parents in doing this, and desires to cooperate fully in this important job, but the school is not to take away parental responsibility. This obligates the school to inform the parents of its program, and obligates the parents to pay attention to what is happening in the school.

There is also the obligation of public support for the school and the teachers. It is destructive of the use of education for students to hear their parents and others enthusiastically criticizing their teachers. It teaches them the false idea that proper adult conversation centers around finding fault with other people, and fosters this kind of discussion among the students themselves. It is very difficult to teach children who have been taught to disregard their teacher and their school. In the same vein, teachers must support the parents by speaking about them with respect. If all the adults, both teachers and parents, involved in a school can maintain a public stance of support for each other in the important use of educating children, and make the necessary suggestions and criticisms in private to the appropriate individuals, then a New Church school can become closer to being an extension of the ideal New Church home, and it will benefit from the spirit of charity and cooperation that will be engendered.

The Threefold Word is the center of New Church Education. For this reason, each school day begins with reading from the Word, for the beginning of a day qualifies and affects all the events that follow. It is also an important symbol that we order our lives around this simple ritual, to actually spend the time to reflect on the Word each day. It is our hope that this will establish a lifelong habit of daily going to the Word for comfort and instruction.

Those students in 5th Grade and above also receive regular religious instruction from a pastor. These regular meetings provide opportunities for several important things to happen: There can be formal instruction in the doctrines of the Church. There can be questions and discussion. There is the chance for the pastor to get to know the children as individuals, for the children to know their pastor, and for a pastoral relationship to begin and grow that will last for many years. However, the most important thing that happens in a Religion class is that the students learn to read the Word with understanding. They learn the culture and geography that give the words and events meaning. And as they learn from the Word itself, as the people in it begin to come to life in their imaginations, they begin to see things about them and their problems that are similar to the problems they face in their own lives. They begin to have confidence that if the Lord can help the children of Israel, then He can certainly help them. They are also free to talk about such things as God and morality without fear of embarrassment. They learn spiritual laws, and find that they can begin to answer their own questions by applying those laws to their own individual situations. Through Religion classes, they become people who know how to read the Word to find the answers to their problems, they learn spiritual laws that they can apply to their own lives, and they become spiritually free because they have the power to change the course of their lives through knowledge and understanding of spiritual truths.

The foundations for New Church Education are laid at home as the parents teach their child to say the Lord’s prayer, to pray before meals, to come to church regularly, and to obey the Ten Commandments. The walls and the roof are built upon the foundation in the Primary grades, where, in the sphere of the home and the teacher as a mother, they learn little songs and recite passages from scripture that they have learned by heart. In this sphere of love and safety during their first few years of school, the children are affected with many lovely and gentle truths about the Lord, and worship. These things remain with them throughout their life, and they are some of the “remains” that the Lord uses to regenerate them.

We all know that “remains” are important, that they are implanted by the Lord, that everyone has them, that they counterbalance our hereditary evils and that they help us get ready for heaven. But how do they do these things? “Remains” are the glue that sticks truths into our minds. This applies to everyone of every age. You cannot receive truth unless you can be affected by it, or, to put it another way, unless you have an affection for it. Once you have the affection for truth which is a gift from the Lord, you then have to acquire truth for yourself.

We all know that there is an infinite variety of truths. They do not come to us by accident or by magic. We must seek them out for ourselves, and the selection of which truths we seek out is a reflection of our own character and freedom of choice.

If you wish to prepare yourself for life in the world, you must seek out natural truths that relate to your chosen field. If you wish to prepare yourself for life in the spiritual world, you must seek out spiritual truths. The natural truths you need come from a great variety of sources, but the spiritual truths you need to prepare for a life in heaven come from but one source, and that is, of course, the Word – in its letter, and in its internal sense.

It becomes obvious then, that learning how to read the Word with understanding becomes one of the most important tasks of human life, and because it is an exercise which requires both skill in reading and a degree of reason, it cannot be taught only in the Primary grades. The affection for reading the Word can (and must) be established in the first years of school, but the skill itself cannot.

This is one of the most important reasons for continuing formal New Church education beyond the Primary grades through High School, and forms the support for the dream of someday having a true New Church University. And it’s all expensive and time-consuming.

Why are they going to all that trouble and expense? Why are we? Because the doctrines of the New Church clearly teach that the only purpose of life in this world is to prepare ourselves and our children for life in the spiritual world. The Word has been Divinely provided to us for that reason, and it is our obligation to do everything in our power to learn its secrets, and New Church schools give powerful support to those who seek to enter into spiritual truths.

Nunc licet. Now it is permitted to enter into the mysteries of faith with understanding. The purpose of the New Church school is to cooperate with the New Church home in preparing the student’s understanding so that he may freely enter into the mysteries of faith in the light of understanding from the threefold Word, and therefore it is right and proper that we make this effort to lead ourselves and our children according to the ways provided by the Lord in His Word. Speaking as the Divine Truth Itself, Jesus taught us, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).

Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 11:6-9; Luke 14:1-14; AC 1495:2

Striving for Eternal Goals

 

Striving for Eternal Goals

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Then they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

Let us recall the image of the Lord as described in the first lesson and repeated in our text, the image of the Lord surrounded by the little children. The Lord had been teaching the crowds as was His custom. According to the account in Mark, He was at that time in the region known as Judea on the other side of the Jordan. He had been teaching the Pharisees His new doctrines concerning marriage, that man and woman had been created to become one, and that once joined in marriage, should not be separated by any human act. And as He argued with the Pharisees, the people from the surrounding towns and villages heard that He had come, and they began to gather ‘round. We can imagine that they were somewhat excited by the news of His presence, and brought the children to see the famous teacher.

Remember that the Lord was already famous for healing the sick and other miracles. These simple people believed that His touch could bring good health or good fortune to their children, so they began to press in around Him, pushing their children towards Him. Like parents in any time and any place, they wanted their children to have the best, were eager for their children to receive something that might give them an advantage, something to help them do well in their lives.

The disciples were not only students and ministers of the Lord, they were also His bodyguards. They saw that this session of instruction and argument with the Pharisees was rapidly being turned into something else – possibly a riot! So they rebuked the people, and began to send the children away. There must have been much shouting and argument, because the parents really wanted their children to be touched by the Lord. Eventually there was enough noise and commotion that the Lord turned away from the subject of His discussion with the Pharisees and used this opportunity to give a different lesson to the crowd. He taught them that His words are not just for adults, but for every one of every age.

He also used this opportunity to teach the gathered crowds that the delightful states that we perceive when babies and little children are with us are states of heaven, of innocence, of willingness to be led by the Lord. We find children delightful because, like angels, children want to learn about the Lord, they want to follow His teachings, they wish to be affirmative towards things that are from the Lord in the Word. The Lord taught us that we need to be like little children, innocent, curious, affirmative, and charitable if we are to come into His heavenly kingdom.

The Lord taught us in many ways and in many places that children are His gift to us, and we have certain responsibilities toward the children under our care. New Church Education in its most general sense is the care and education of children according to means and forms set forth in the threefold Word.

Many people identify New Church Education with such things as

                  1. schools, or
                  2. personal growth, or
                  3. learning, or
                  4. a school that begins the day with morning worship, or
                  5. a school that adds religion classes to its regular curriculum, or perhaps
                  6. a school that has all of these things and also teaches its regular courses with a distinctive philosophy.

New Church Education is involved in all of these things, and is also much more than these things.

New Church Education begins with young men and women as they begin the process of finding a married partner who will share the same faith and ideals as they themselves hold. Once they are married, they begin their life’s work of compromise and growth that makes the home. It is here that the seeds of New Church Education are sown, as a young couple consciously, idealistically, looks forward to having, raising, and educating their own children. What goals do they set for themselves? What do they consider to be the most important things for their children? What part will the Lord and His church play in their lives?

The home that they build, the attitudes that they develop, their hopes and dreams for their own future and the future of their children yet to be born, will all have a profound effect on the environment in that home, and the Writings are quite clear that the environment in which children are raised has a powerful effect on their spiritual growth. So profound is the effect that if parents are selfish and worldly, they can actually “shut the doors of heaven” for their own children. And the Writings reveal the sad fact that this is not an unusual or exceptional thing, but that it is the result of the present spiritual state of the world. We read in the Arcana, The present quality of the men of the Christian Church was exhibited to my view by means of representations. … There appeared children who were being combed by their mothers so cruelly that the blood ran down; by which was represented that such is the bringing up of little children at this day (AC 2125).

While we aren’t told specifically what this scene represents, we can work out a reliable message. We know that hair represents external matters, or external truths. Combing the hair signifies putting these external things into order, so this brutal scene, revealed to us to show the state of the quality of men in the world tells us that there is an excessive or obsessive concern for external things, to the point of causing real harm to the child. What are these external things that cause this tension and cruelty today?

                  1. Having the right signs of material success,
                  2. the right clothes,
                  3. the best grades,
                  4. the right school
                  5. to be a top achiever in sports.

We are being told by the Lord in the Word that our obsession with external signs of success and material possessions can cause serious spiritual harm to our children!

All parents know that however many gifts you may give a child, they always want something more, something else. Natural gifts are like natural water: no matter how much you drink, you will soon be thirsty again. As Jesus said in John, Chapter 4, Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13,14) Wise parents do not lead their children to seek natural water, but they lead them to seek living water, to search out those things that are of eternal value.

This is a serious responsibility, and parents need help to accomplish it. This is why the New Church has developed its school system: to assist the parents in keeping the promises made at baptism to instruct children in the moral virtues, and in the spiritual truths of the church. The school does not take on these responsibilities in place of the parents, but serves as an extension of the home to assist the parents in their responsibility. The primary responsibility for the education and care of children rests with the parents, to whom the children were given by the Lord.

Recall for a moment our second lesson, where education in heaven is compared with education on earth, and the example is given of boys being incited to fight by their parents. We are told that by extinguishing the natural states of mutual love and innocence by inciting them to compete so fiercely amongst each other that they were actually fighting, they initiate the children into hatred and revenge. This shuts them out of heaven, for heaven is a place of mutual love – those who delight in revenge and hatred cannot live there. We are given the warning: Let parents therefore who wish well to their children beware of such things (AC 2309).

And who among us does not wish well to our children? Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11) New Church Education is the philosophy, the means, by which parents can provide the environment at home and in school which will nurture and protect those states of innocence and mutual charity that children are endowed with from birth – and are the keys that open the gates of heaven.

New Church Education begins in the home and continues throughout life. It begins with parents who provide a home that is physically, mentally, and spiritually clean and fit for children. The signs of a healthy environment are parents who teach and consistently encourage prayer, family worship, and regular attendance at church and Sunday School; who at home speak about the world and life with confidence in the Lord and His Divine Providence, who speak to their children about the Lord’s influence in their lives frequently and without embarrassment.

Again, the Heavenly Doctrines tell us what it is that the Lord wants us to do for our children. We read from the Arcana, From infancy until childhood, and sometimes till early manhood, by instruction from his parents and teachers a man is imbued with goods and truth; for he then learns them with avidity, and believes them in simplicity (AC 5135). If we do our part by bringing the Lord and the Word into the daily life of our home, the children will do their part by learning to Love the Lord and trust in His guidance. They will be preparing themselves each day for life in heaven, for everything that happens to us, from the day of our birth onwards, has an effect on our spiritual life.

The child’s education should centre around a number of specific spiritual ideas which he is pre-disposed to eagerly learn and believe. They are the following:

                  1. That there is a God, and that He is one.
                  2. He has created all things;
                  3. That He rewards those who do well, and punishes those who do evil;
                  4. That there is a life after death, in which the evil go to hell and the good to heaven, thus that there is a hell and a heaven, and that the life after death is eternal;
                  5. That he ought to pray daily, and this with humility;
                  6. That the Sabbath day is to be kept holy;
                  7. That parents are to be honoured;
                  8. That no one must commit adultery, murder, or theft
                  9. And other like things.

These things man imbibes and is imbued with from early childhood; when he begins to think from himself and to lead himself, if he confirms such things in himself, and adds to them things which are still more interior, and lives according to them, then it is well with him (AC 5135).

The Lord has not asked all parents to become theologians, nor has He asked them to give up all worldly pleasures. There is nothing that is very difficult in this list of things to teach our children, for it is essentially a restatement of the Ten Commandments with instruction about eternal life added to it. Anyone can, if they wish, create a home environment based on the Ten Commandments, teach children to say the Lord’s prayer each day, to take them to church each Sunday, and to regularly read to them from the Word. At stake is nothing less than the eternal welfare of our children.

This, then, is the real purpose of New Church Education: not to provide a an exclusive private school within which to hide from certain unpleasant aspects of life in the world, but to prepare children for a rewarding life in the world, followed by eternal life in heaven.

New Church Education is a life-long process that begins before the child is born, and reaches its maturity when that child grows up and begins to prepare for his own children. It is not difficult to do, but it is extremely important. What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to you children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Mt. 7:9-11) Amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord as it is written in …

First Lesson: MAR 10:1-16

Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. {2} The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him. {3} And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” {4} They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” {5} And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. {6} “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ {7} ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, {8} ‘and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. {9} “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” {10} In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. {11} So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. {12} “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” {13} Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. {14} But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. {15} “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” {16} And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them. Amen.

Second Lesson: Arcana Coelestia 2309

From what has been adduced we can see what is the nature of the education of little children in heaven, namely, that by means of the intelligence of truth and the wisdom of good they are introduced into the angelic life, which is love to the Lord, and mutual love, in which loves there is innocence. But how contrary is the education of little children on earth, with many, has been evidenced from this one example. I was in the street of a great city, and saw little boys fighting with one another. A crowd gathered and looked on with much pleasure; and I was informed that the parents themselves urge on their little boys to such fights. The good spirits and angels who saw these things through my eyes were so averse to them that I perceived their horror, especially at the fact that the parents incite them to such things saying that thus in their earliest age they extinguish all the mutual love and all the innocence which little children receive from the Lord, and initiate them into hatred and revenge; consequently that they deliberately shut out their children from heaven, where there is nothing but mutual love. Let parents therefore who wish well to their children beware of such things. Amen.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

Entrance into Heaven and the Church

Entrance into Heaven and the Church

A Holy Supper address by Rev. James P. Cooper

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. …She had a great and high wall with twelve gates, … and the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And … its gates shall not be shut at all. (REV 21:10,12,21,25)

The Holy city New Jerusalem, first seen by John in a vision while on the Isle of Patmos, is a beautiful image and symbol of heaven, and at the same time a vision of the Lord’s New Church which was to be established when men on earth were ready to receive the spiritual truths contained within the letter of the Word. John’s description of the New Jerusalem makes it sound heavenly indeed: a city in the sky with golden streets, with walls made of precious stones, and the gates each made of a single great pearl.

All the readings from the threefold Word today have been selected because they had “gates” as their central focus. Throughout the Word, gates represent a person’s entrance into the church or heaven, because a city represents the doctrine of the church, and to enter into the doctrine of the church by living according to the truths of faith, that is, by entering into it voluntarily, as if going through a gates, is to prepare oneself for heaven.

Gates are the means by which those who are on the outside of something are able to come in, whether it be an historical figure in the Word entering a walled city, whether it stand for a person joining the church, or whether it stands for a person who has passed on into eternal life and then finding the doorway that leads to their own particular home in heaven.

There are also gates into the mind through which we can, by our choices to do good or evil, invite evil spirits to enter, or through which the Lord may enter with peace and life if we invite Him. But most of all gates are important to our considerations today because they are the way that someone who is alone and unhappy on the outside can come in and find a comfortable, spiritual home.

We have all felt like outsiders at one time or another. When as adults we are compelled to follow our career to a new and unfamiliar place, or as children when we are suddenly moved into a new school, we feel extremely disoriented and uncomfortable because we don’t know the ground rules, the customs, and we feel that we are outside of the group. We’ve all felt this way at one time or another, and we don’t like to feel that way. When faced with such a situation, we feel a lot of stress, and we compensate by concentrating very hard on learning the things we need to know to find our way into the group, to feel a part, to feel comfortable and at home.

We are all outsiders in one way or another. For one thing, we are all outside of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom, and we are here today to try to learn the ways of His kingdom so that we may enter it one day, we are all standing outside the gate, hoping to be ready to enter when the time comes. If we want to learn about a new school, we find a friendly student and ask lots of questions. If we want to find out about a new neighborhood, we look for a friendly face and again, we ask lots of questions about the way we should act, the things we should do, the things that are expected. We should stand at the gate of the church and heaven and ask the same questions of our Heavenly Father. We need to ask Him what we should do. We need to ask Him what we need to learn. We need to ask Him how we should treat each other in order to fit into the heavenly neighborhood. If we regularly study the Word and pray for enlightenment, He will help us find these essential truths.

The first gate for us to enter is called Baptism, and through its symbolic washing away of evils, we represent our intention to shun evils as sins so that we can thereby enter into the church where we can learn how to live in the world, how to live with one another, how to be useful, how to forgive, and how to love the Lord.

The next gate for us to enter is called Holy Supper, for the Holy Supper is the sign that we have actually begun to shun evil, that we have examined our own spiritual state, found sin there, prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and help, and have then taken steps to sin no more. The Holy Supper, when taken worthily throughout life, is the process of passing through the gate of the holy city New Jerusalem.

Finally, when reflecting on the gates, or entrances to the church and heaven, we should take a moment to think about the two distinct views of the New Church seen from our readings today, the Holy City New Jerusalem seen by John, and the Nunc Licet temple seen by Swedenborg. While they both stand for the New Church, they represent that same church from different perspectives: John’s vision of the New Jerusalem descending stands for the ties between the Jewish and Christian foundations of the Word, the Old and New Testaments, while Swedenborg’s vision of the Nunc Licet temple stands for the Heavenly Doctrines, the New Word. The one thing that ties these two visions of heaven together is the fact that the gates of both the New Jerusalem and the Nunc Licet temple are made of pearls.

In the Word, the pearl, the precious pearl that signifies the ultimate treasure, the treasure that we should sell all that we have to obtain, is the knowledge and acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth. When we know and acknowledge the Lord as God, it means we not only understand what that means, but that we live according to its implications, that is, we live a life of charity towards the neighbor. This pearl of wisdom is the basis on which we are judged worthy to enter heaven. That is why the gates to the Holy City each made of one pearl.

But in our effort to clarify that central theme, let us not forget one other important feature of the entrances to the Holy City: there are twelve of them, three on each side. In the Word, the number twelve stands for all things that are good and true, while the number three stands for what is complete. By the fact that there are twelve entrances to the Holy City we are to understand that there are as many entrances into heaven as there are goods and truths — as many ways to attain eternal life as there are people striving to bring the Lord’s Word into their life.

Therefore, as we prepare ourselves to communicate with the Lord by means of His Holy Supper, let us reflect on the wonder of His creation, that He celebrates our individuality, that He has created a heaven that is perfected and made more whole by the variety brought to it by those who enter. And let us prepare ourselves to enter through those pearly gates into the Holy City by shunning evils as sins, by careful regard of the neighbor, and by keeping the Lord God Jesus Christ as the center and focus of our lives. AMEN.

Hear now from the Word of the Lord as it is written.…

1st Lesson: Psalm 24:7-10

Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! And lift them up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

Isaiah 26:1-3

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: AC 2851

As regards the signification of a ‘gate,’ there are in general two gates with every man; the one opens toward hell, and is opened to the evils and falsities therefrom; in this gate are infernal genii and spirits; the other gate opens toward heaven, and is opened to good and the truths therefrom; in this gate are angels. There is thus a gate which leads to hell, and a gate which leads to heaven.…

There are two ways which lead into man’s rational mind — a higher or internal one, through which good and truth from the Lord enter, and a lower or external one, through which evil and falsity come up from hell. The rational mind itself is in the middle, and to it these ways tend.

That mind, from the goods and truths which are in it, is compared in the Word to a city, and is called a ‘city.’ And because it is compared to a city, and is called a ‘city,’ gates are attributed to it, and it is often described as being besieged and stormed by enemies, that is, by evil genii and spirits; and as being defended by angels from the Lord, that is, by the Lord.

Sacred Scripture 36

The Word in its ultimate or natural sense, which is the sense of the letter, is signified also by the wall of the holy Jerusalem, the structure of which was of jasper; and by the foundations of the wall, which were precious stones; and likewise by the gates, which were pearls; for Jerusalem signifies the church as to doctrine.

True Christian Religion 508:1-5

One day there appeared to me a magnificent temple. It was square in form, and its roof was in the shape of a crown, with its lofty arches rising on high all round. Its walls were continuous windows of crystal and its gate of pearly substance. Within on the south side, and facing the west was a pulpit on the right of which lay the open Word, surrounded with a blaze of light whose brightness enveloped and illumined the whole pulpit.

In the center of the temple was the shrine, before which a veil was hung. This was now drawn back, and there stood a golden cherub having in his hand a sword which he waved this way and that. While I was looking at these things there flowed into my thought a perception of what they all signified.

The temple signified the New Church; the gate of pearl, entrance into this church; the windows of crystal, the truths which enlighten it; and the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching. The Word open upon the pulpit and illuminating the upper part of it, signified its internal sense, which is spiritual, now revealed; the shrine in the center of the temple, the conjunction of that Church with the angelic heaven; and the golden cherub within it, the Word in the sense of the Letter. The waving of the sword in the hand of the cherub signified that the sense of the Letter can be turned this way and that, provided this is done in application to some truth; and the drawing aside of the veil before the cherub signified that the Word is opened.

When I approached nearer I saw this inscription over the gate, ‘Now it is permitted’; which signified that one may now enter with understanding into the mysteries of faith. On seeing this inscription I was impressed with the thought that it is extremely dangerous to enter with the understanding into the dogmas of faith which are the product of man’s own intelligence, and therefore consist of falsities; and still more dangerous to confirm them from the Word.…

It is otherwise, however, in the New Church. Here one is permitted to enter with the understanding into all its interior truths, and also confirm them by the Word. The reason is that its doctrine are truths in series from the Lord, revealed by means of the Word; and confirmation of these by rational considerations opens the higher reaches of the understanding and so elevates it into the light which the angels of heaven enjoy. This light in its essence is truth, and in this light the acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in all its glory. This is meant by the inscription over the gate of the temple, ‘Now it is permitted’, and also by the veil of the shrines being drawn aside before the cherub. For it is a canon of the New Church that falsities close the understanding and truths open it.

True Christian Religion 721

…Baptism is an introduction into the Church; and … the Holy Supper is an introduction into heaven. These two sacraments are like the two gates to eternal life. Baptism is the first gate, through which every Christian is admitted and introduced into what the church teaches from the Word concerning the future life; and all this teaching is the means whereby man may be prepared and led to heaven. The other gate is the Holy supper, through which every one who has permitted himself to be prepared and lead by the Lord is admitted and introduced into heaven; there are no other universal gates. Amen.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

Spiritual Occupations

Spiritual Occupations

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1,2)

As we go through life in this world, we try to behave in such a way that we will “make it” to heaven but we all wonder what it will be like when we get there, what kinds of things will we do to keep ourselves busy all day long. But in order to get a better grasp on what spiritual occupations are like, we must look carefully at the loves that lie within our earthly occupations, and look closely at what the Heavenly Doctrines teach about life in the spiritual world. We read from the Heavenly Doctrines

“The works of the mind are intentions and endeavors, and the works of the body are utterances and actions. Both of these proceed out of a man s internal life, which is of his will or love. Whatever does not terminate in works, whether it be internal things or external things, these are not in the man s life, for they inflow out of the world of spirits but are not being received” (AR 868).

If earthly works are not terminated in actions they are not part of a person s life. Is it not also true that heavenly works must be terminated in heavenly actions for them to be part of the angel s life? Is not the spiritual world the mediate cause of the natural world? Do not the spiritual principles of the one apply to the other? Are not the angels in the loves of their life more perfectly than are people? Does this not mean that there must be as many spiritual ultimations of uses as there are angels? Is not the perfection of uses in the Grand Man of Heaven directly related to the variety of uses performed in the spiritual world?

Life descends from the Lord, through the spirit, and is terminated in a person s actions. For an angel, this life descending is terminated in his spiritual activities. There must be spiritually “physical” activities as a foundation for the influx of life from the Lord just as there must be an organic of natural substances of the spiritual body to rest upon as a foundation. Without determination, a spiritual cause is a breath of air, performing no use. And without use, in this world and the next, there is no real life.

Angels perform spiritual uses. An angel has a spiritual body through which he senses the spiritual world, and by means of which he acts. It would seem, then, that when an angel is present with a person, providing a means for influx from the Lord, his spiritual body would be performing some spiritual activity that represents that function perhaps planting spiritual tree in the spiritual garden.

In heaven, every angel delights in performing uses for others, and they are given food and clothing freely from the Lord. They love their work, He loves to give them the things they need. They earn, but have no sense of needing to earn, no sense of the relationship between time worked to rewards given. Rather, rewards and honors are given according to each individual angel s elevation of use and accumulated wisdom. Angels are never jealous of each other s riches, but instead, they feel joy that the other is permitted such a wonderful and elevated use. For example, imagine if a friend has been saving for a long time for something he really wanted, but that you yourself had no desire for, something you would not envy. Then think of the happiness you would feel when he finally succeeded in getting it. This would illustrate the unselfish joy of heaven.

In hell there is no delight in use. There, they wish only to do things that bring pleasure to themselves, the loves of self and the world rule. Thus they hate to do anything that might be of any benefit to another (unless they think that it will be a way of getting something). Yet even though they are of this nature, the Lord loves them too, and provides for them. But in hell the food and shelter are only provided in direct relation to their state of external order. They may want to do evil, but when they do, they are severely punished, and they are not given any food unless they keep themselves in order and perform the tasks required by their angel supervisors. This points out the tremendous importance of use. Even the devils must perform duties that are analogous to uses. They are completely external, but still they must be done. One might think that hell could be organized in such a way that devils do not have to work that the denial of their loves of self and the world would be torment enough. However, central to this idea is the false idea that hell was created to be a place of punishment for those who do not follow the Lord. The Lord punishes no one. Hell has been created by human beings and permitted by the Lord out of His love for everyone. Devils are of such a character that it would be unendurable torment if they were forced to live in heaven because it is totally alien to them. No worse torment could be thought of or experienced than for a devil to be forced to be present with the angels under the light and heat of the spiritual sun. It is a further aspect of the Lord s love that they are punished into external order and uses in hell, for they are such that they would kill each other if not restrained by angels who love order so much that they can associate with them. The Lord created us to live to eternity in heaven. We are free to choose hell if we wish, but we are not free to end our life.

These spiritual principles also apply to people in the world because the Lord s kingdom on earth is the church. This means that when a person comes into the truths of faith from the Word, begins to understand them, and apply them to his life, he is coming into the genuine life of the church, the life that leads to heaven. In order to do this we must practice self-examination and repentance, and amend our life; for good works are not really possible until truth is seen and applied in life.

When we shun a sin, the opposite love will be implanted in our hearts by the Lord therefore, after we have done works and won in temptation with the Lord s help, we come into the life of heaven, that is, the church is formed within us. When we become a church, we still continue to work in the world, even though love becomes more important, still, every love must have an ultimate expression, and so we continue to work in the world, but with renewed strength and joy. As the love of our married partner grows, so does our desire to express it in a great variety of external forms embraces, gestures, gifts, offers of help, and many others. In the same way, as our wisdom increases, we find new ways to do things that will bring delight to others, our loves continually seek new forms to express themselves.

The Writings teach further that “works” are not exactly the same thing as “occupation,” except that on earth works can be the same as occupation. It depends on the motive, the ruling love, the spiritual cause. Take for example a laborer working 40 hours a week soldering parts into circuit boards on an assembly line. If such a person were in the love of self, he might work to avoid the loss of his reputation if he were fired. He might try to do a good job to keep the paychecks coming regularly. Again, he may be inspired to work hard and do a good job so that he can afford to buy expensive presents for his children so that they will “love” him. Perhaps he sees himself in his children, so by giving them gifts, he gives gifts to himself. If the love of the world rules in him, he might do a good job because he wants to enjoy the pleasures of the world that his wages can buy.

On the other hand, if he is in the affection of natural truth, he may work hard and do the best job he can because he believes that this is what he should do. His pleasure from the job might be that he enjoys seeing the solder melt perfectly into the joint, making a perfectly finished product.

If he is in an affection of spiritual truth, and genuine love towards his neighbor, perhaps he might see that he is not just soldering joints in a circuit board, but rather he may reflect that the circuit board is part of a larger system, which might then be used in a truck which is used to carry useful goods to stores. He begins to see that his work stretches out in a hundred directions, touching many people, bringing them work, profit, and pleasure that they would not have if he did his job poorly and the truck kept breaking down. He thinks of all those people who depend on him doing his job well, and works with pleasure for them.

While this illustration may seem mundane, it does illustrate the true nature of spiritual occupations, for in heaven, each angel performs some task or occupation, not just to keep busy, or because the goods are needed (since every necessity is provided by the Lord), but they work because each one of them perceives that he is a part of the whole of heaven, and that his actions, as led by the Lord, contribute to the corporate life of heaven in a meaningful, unique way. On earth, any occupation can be a use, if the love within it is love to the neighbor or the Lord. In heaven, the physical tasks that the angels perform are representatives of each angel s own ruling love, so all occupations in heaven are uses.

Having spent a great deal of time considering the source and nature of heavenly duties, we now turn to a partial list of occupations that hopefully will help us get a feeling for what we will be doing to eternity. The doctrines point out that it is extremely difficult to enumerate because the various occupations are numberless each individual angel will have a unique occupation that is perfectly suited to his loves and abilities. However, we are told that each society has its own particular duty. Further, we are told that all the angelic jobs fall into one of three types ecclesiastical, civil, and domestic; and that those things that pertain to the general good are performed by the wiser angels, and those that pertain to smaller groups by the less wise, and so on.

As said above, all societies are distinct according to the use that they perform. Those uses are diverse, yet all those listed seem to have one thing in common, that they are all forms of education in some degree. There are societies employed in

Taking care of little children.

Instructing the boys and girls who have acquired a good disposition from their education in the world, and in consequence have come into heaven.

Teaching the simple good from the Christian world, and leading them in the way to heaven.

Teaching and leading the various heathen nations into heaven.

Protecting newly arrived spirits from being infested by evil spirits by helping them learn the customs of heaven, and keeping them away from those who want to enslave them with their lies.

Attending to the spirits who are in hell, and preventing them from torturing each other beyond what is permitted.

Attending to those who are being raised from the dead.

In general, angels from each society are sent to people on the earth to watch over them and to lead them away from evil affections and consequent evil thought, and to inspire them with good affections as far as they will receive them in freedom.

Those who in the world have loved the Word and eagerly sought in it for truths, not with honor of gain as an end, but on account of uses of life both for themselves and for others, are concerned with ecclesiastical affairs in heaven. These serve as preachers. Those who in the world have loved their country, and have loved its general good more than their own, and have done what is just and right from a love of what is just and right, are concerned with civil affairs. They are all in the delight of their work and labor from a love of use, and no one from a love of self or of gain. (See HH 383-393)

In the same way that you cannot solder circuit boards here on earth by just sitting around thinking about doing it, in heaven, your use must be expressed representatively by doing some activity with spiritual ultimates. In confirmation of this, we read the following

“…Ten men can do works that appear alike in externals, but which are unlike even with all of them, because they come forth out of a different end and cause, and the end and cause make works to be either good or evil; for every work is a work of the mind, and consequently such as the mind is, such is the work. If the mind is charity, the work becomes charity; but if the mind is not charity, the work does not become charity; yet both can appear alike in externals. Works appear to men in an external, but to angels in an internal, form; while to the Lord they appear such as they are from inmosts to outmost” (AR 76 Cf. AR 141, 641).

We all wonder what our lot in the other life will be. We wonder if we will be worthy of heaven when we are called. We wonder where we will live, what our neighborhood will be like, who our friends will be, what we will have to do that will keep us interested to eternity. We need not worry, though, for the Lord has assured us that there is a place for us there, where we will be happy to eternity, for He Himself taught us, In My Father s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (text). AMEN.

1st Lesson DAN 610-23

(Dan 610-23) Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. {11} Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. {12} And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king s decree “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” {13} So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” {14} And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. {15} Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.” {16} So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” {17} Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. {18} Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. {19} Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions.

{20} And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” {21} Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! {22} “My God sent His angel and shut the lions mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” {23} Then the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God. Amen.

2nd Lesson JOH 141-14

(John 141-14) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. {2} “In My Father s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. {3} “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. {4} “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” {5} Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” {6} Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. {7} “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” {8} Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” {9} Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, Show us the Father ?{10} “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. {11} “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. {12} “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. {13} “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. Amen.

3rd Lesson HH 387, 389

THE EMPLOYMENTS OF ANGELS IN HEAVEN.

It is impossible to enumerate the employments in the heavens, still less to describe them in detail, but something may be said about them in a general way; for they are numberless, and vary in accordance with the functions of the societies. Each society has its peculiar function, for as societies are distinct in accordance with goods (see above, n. 41), so they are distinct in accordance with uses, because with all in the heavens goods are goods in act, which are uses. Everyone there performs a use, for the Lord s kingdom is a kingdom of uses.

389. All things in the heavens are organized in accordance with Divine order, which is everywhere guarded by the services performed by angels, those things that pertain to the general good or use by the wiser angels, those that pertain to particular uses by the less wise, and so on. They are subordinated just as uses are subordinated in the Divine order; and for this reason a dignity is connected with every function according to the dignity of the use. Nevertheless, an angel does not claim dignity to himself, but ascribes all dignity to the use; and as the use is the good that he accomplishes, and all good is from the Lord, so he ascribes all dignity to the Lord. Therefore he that thinks of honor for himself and subsequently for the use, and not for the use and subsequently for himself, can perform no function in heaven, because this is looking away backwards from the Lord, and putting self in the first place and use in the second. When use is spoken of the Lord also is meant, because, as has just been said, use is good, and good is from the Lord.

The Lord’s Presence and Conjunction with Man

The Lord’s Presence and Conjunction with Man

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (JOH 15:4,5).

  1. The Lord is present with all men, spirits, and angels.
    1. Every living being in the created universe has its life from the continual and universal presence of the Lord.
    2. And at the same time, the universal presence of the Lord gives to humans the faculties of understanding what is true, willing what is good, and free choice in spiritual things.
    3. These three faculties of understanding, willing, and choosing, are gifts from the Lord that are given to every one at birth, and are never taken away.
    4. Life from the Lord flows from Him like light and heat from the sun, radiating equally on the wise and the simple, the evil and the good.
    5. From its source, all life from the Lord is the same, it contains the same power.
      1. However, when it is received it turns into an infinite variety of expressions, for the human minds are each of a different character and receive life from the Lord according to their character.
      2. So we can say that while the Lord’s presence with mankind is universal, because His life flows into every human soul, we can at the same time say that His presence is particular, for each human mind receives life from Him according to its own form, and its own peculiarities. (TCR 580, AC 9594)
  2. The Lord’s presence with mankind is both universal and particular, external and internal.
    1. While the Lord is present with everyone, good and evil, universally and to eternity, He is only conjoined with those who work to approach Him in the particulars of their life, who live the life of religion by seeking truth from the Word and living according to it.
    2. When we deliberately and freely choose to live according to Divine order, we actually change the form of our mind, our receiving vessel, and the Lord can be particularly, or internally present with us.
      1. When the Lord is present with the particulars of a person’s life, there is conjunction with Him.
    3. Our minds are formed in the image and likeness of God’s .They are also in the image of the form and structure of the heavens:
      1. There are three degrees of height, and two distinct kinds of activity.
        1. The three degrees of height are the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial.
        2. The two distinct forms of activity are willing and thinking.
      2. The Lord’s presence descends through the three heavens, and then through the corresponding degrees of the mind.
        1. His presence is received and felt as consciousness in the natural world.
      3. However, those who struggle to shun evils as sins, and who seek to learn truth for the sake of life will have the spiritual degree of their mind opened by the Lord, and their understanding will be correspondingly elevated.
      4. Those who continue the process, and become angels of heaven will be able to have even the celestial degree opened, and will be able to feel life from the Lord in that interior degree, they will feel His love and His wisdom as a conscious presence in their lives.
      5. On the other hand, those who turn away from the Lord will remain in the natural degree to eternity, they will never have the interior degree of their minds opened to the Lord’s presence, for such an intimate presence would kill them.
        1. The Lord’s general, or external presence must then remain in the natural degree of the mind, for that is the degree of the mind that remains open in everyone, whether good or evil, whether on earth or in the spiritual world.
    4. We are taught in the True Christian Religion (no. 787) that conjunction with the Lord must be in the thought, and so in affection.
      1. This means that each of us must first learn truth by means of the faculties that are given to us by the Lord through His universal presence, and then apply them to our own lives from a desire to shun evils as sins against God, and a desire to do what is good because it is from God.
      2. Then the Lord can give us a new will which then can be filled with good affections and their related delights.
        1. The harder we try to bring ourselves into the Lord’s order by learning His truth and doing it, the more He reaches down to lift us up from His own power. The effort and intention are ours: the power and will are from Him.
  3. We are taught in the Writings that we will find our place in heaven according to the concept of God that we learn while in the world.
    1. We are further taught that no one can understand an invisible God, and this was one of the reasons why the Lord came on earth and took on the Divine Human: so that everyone might understand the invisible God by means of the visible manifestation, Jesus Christ.
      1. It is necessary for us to understand God as He is in His glorified Human, because this is the means by which He is present with us. (See TCR 728, AC 9594)
    2. In regeneration, we will to follow the Lord while He wills us to follow Him.
      1. When we and the Lord together look to the same end, the end of the subjugation of self for the sake of good ends, it brings the Lord’s particular presence with us;
        1. for when we receive love from the Lord after having first learned the truth, we make that love our own.
        2. Then, since the origin of that love is the Lord, and our mind has been organically changed into a receptacle perfectly suited to hold it, we are conjoined with the Lord by the bond of a common affection.
          1. We see this illustrated in the way we regard other people who share our loves and delights. Depending on the nature of the bond, we may join a club, form a business partnership, join a church, or even marry – but the point is that the thing that brings people together, that conjoins them, is their common affections.
          2. Common affections bring the Lord close to us, too.
    3. This law of human relationships is even more clearly seen when illustrated by the way angelic societies are ordered.
      1. Heaven is distinguished into innumerable societies, and the differences between them are in accord with the differences between their affections and delights.
      2. It is the law of spiritual space and time that those who are of similar affections, such as a husband and wife, are close to each other, while those of dissimilar affections are separated.
        1. In heaven, you become actually present with another person when you are in a similar sphere of affection.
          1. We often speak of this phenomenon by referring to good friends who are many miles away as being “close.”
          2. In heaven, those with similar affections live together in a home; and since a conjugial pair have the most similar affections possible, they live in a constant representation of the affinity of their love, for it is love alone which conjoins people. (See AR 883)
    4. While our main focus is on the conjunction that takes places between an individual and the Lord, we need to take a moment to reflect on the fact that this relation ship applies in many other areas, such as the relationship between a husband and wife.
      1. It is absolutely essential to the growth of our marriage relationships that we realize that knowledge does not bring us together, but similar loves conjoin.
      2. The same thing holds true for a church: doctrine alone will not bind a congregation together, but similar loves for the uses of the church.
      3. A husband and wife can express their mutual love and their conjunction by producing and raising children.
      4. A church is conjoined with the Lord by correspondence when it, like a bride, receives truth from the Lord and uses it to produce goods in the world.
      5. The key is that in every case it is similar loves that conjoin.
    5. It is an important doctrinal point to note that when we speak of conjunction with the Lord, what is actually meant is conjunction of the Lord with the things in our minds that are from Him, good loves and affections.
      1. The Lord is not actually ever conjoined, or one with a person, for such a union of the finite with the in finite would destroy a finite human.
      2. In order to protect us, He adjoins Himself to us by conjoining Himself to those things in us that are actually His own.
  4. In summary, we can say that Divine presence is both universal and particular, or external and internal.
    1. The particular or internal Divine presence is also called conjunction.
    2. Presence is with all humans, but as one is regenerated, he changes the organic vessel of his life and in this way it receives influx from the Lord in a new way, opening the Lord’s presence into new, higher levels of awareness.
    3. As one is regenerated, genuine goods are given to him from the Lord, and it is with these goods that are from the Lord that the Lord conjoins Himself so that what is Divine does not destroy what is human by attempting union.
    4. In regeneration, a person wills to follow the Lord, and this mutual desire to do the same thing brings the Lord’s presence, much as people of common interests band together in clubs, churches, and marriages.
    5. This is the effort of a man as-from-self that brings conjunction with the Lord in His Divine Human, and eternal conjunction with the Lord is the blessedness and peace of eternal life in heaven.

      A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you (JOH 14:19,20). AMEN.

    Hear now from the Word of the Lord as it is written.…

    1st Lesson:

    (Josh 24:13-18) ‘I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ {14} “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” {16} So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} “for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} “And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” Amen.

    2nd Lesson:

    (John 14:8-21) Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” {9} Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? {10} “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. {11} “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. {12} “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. {13} “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. {15} “If you love Me, keep My commandments. {16} “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; {17} “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. {18} “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. {19} “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. {20} “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. {21} “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

    Amen.

    3rd Lesson:

    [2] The Lord’s … universal or external presence is what causes a man to live as a man, to enjoy the ability to know, to understand, and to speak rationally from the understanding; for man is born for heaven, and is therefore not merely natural, like a beast, but also spiritual. He also enjoys the ability to will and to do the things that from his understanding he is able to know about, to understand, and thereby rationally speak about. But if the will rejects the truly rational things of the understanding, which are also intrinsically spiritual, the man becomes external.

    [3] Consequently with those who only understand what is true, and good, the Lord’s presence is universal or external, while with those who also will and do what is true and good, the Lord’s presence is both universal and individual, or both internal and external. Those who merely understand and talk about what is true and good are like the foolish virgins who had lamps but no oil; while those who not only understand and talk about what is true and good, but also will and do it, are the wise virgins who were admitted to the wedding while the former stood at the door and knocked, but were not admitted (Matt. 25:1-12).

    Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

 

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

  1. The Easter story from the Gospel of Luke:
    1. (Luke 24:1-12) Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, [the women who had come with Him from Galilee1] and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. {2} But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. {3} Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. {4} And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. {5} Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? {6} “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, {7} “saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'” {8} And they remembered His words. {9} Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. {10} It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. {11} And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. {12} But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.
      1. A brief passage from the Writings to explain what it means
        1. AE 806:2 … the Lord came into the world to save the human race, who otherwise would have perished in eternal death, and that He saved them by subjugating the hells, which infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, and at the same time by glorifying His Human, since thus He is able to keep the hells subjugated to eternity. The subjugation of the hells, together with the glorification of His Human, was accomplished by means of temptations admitted into the human that He had from the mother, and by continual victories therein. His passion in Gethsemane and on the cross was the last temptation and complete victory.
      2. On Easter morning, the Lord accomplished 2 things:
        1. Victory over hell
        2. Glorification of His Human
          1. hell too strong
            1. fought them in the human.
            2. won when He refused to live.
          2. whole life a process of putting off, glorifying.

    2. Put off human nature from Mary (habits, mannerisms)
    3. Glorified the Body – with him now in heaven – He appears the same.
      1. Illustrations:
        1. Think of the trees today, how they looked just a couple of weeks ago.
          1. Now new life appears it what seemed to be dead.
        2. Think of the caterpillar, which creeps around, then “dies”, and emerges as a butterfly.
          1. The flowers/bulbs begin looking as lifeless as this but soon begin to sprout (show) and then fill the spiritual world.
      2. The Lord rose from the dead on Easter morning to show us the way.
        1. Do not seek the living among the dead.
        2. Look at all these beautiful flowers, and imagine that you are looking at angels in heaven – every one once a seed or bulb that seemed to be “dead”, but now alive, more beautiful than ever, because Jesus Christ has shown us the way.
        3. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? {6} “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, {7} “saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'” AMEN.


      1

LUK 23:55

Herod, Herodias, and Salome

 

Herod, Herodias, and Salome

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, July 27, 2003


And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” (Mark 6:22)

During the Lord’s time on earth, Israel was a Roman province, ruled from Rome through a locally appointed governor. There is some confusion about this, because there were two different governors of the same name during the Lord’s life, and both of them, although of Jewish stock, were hated by the people because they represented the rule of Rome. There is also some confusion because, while they were governors appointed by Rome, they were still called “kings.”

The king who ruled at the time of the Lord’s birth was “Herod the great.” He was born of Arab parents in Judea, educated in Rome, and a became personal friend of the Caesars. The Romans expected that because Herod was native to the region that he would be accepted in Jerusalem, that he would soften the grip of Roman domination. When Herod arrived in Israel he began a program of building and development unlike any seen before. It was Herod who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, developed the seaport of Caesarea, and built the fortress Masada. Under Herod’s leadership, Israel experienced a kind of golden age.

Unfortunately, it was purely external. The Jews hated Herod because he wasn’t really one of them. He instead represented the hated foreign rule because he collected taxes which were sent back to Rome. He is not called “Herod the Great” because of his wisdom as a ruler but because of his attempts to build and restore Israel to its former glory. He is best remembered, however, for his attempt to trick the Wise Men into revealing where the Christ Child was so that He could be destroyed, and for murdering all the male children in Bethlehem less than 2 years old.

When Herod the Great died, an angel told Joseph in a dream that it would be safe for him to take Mary and Jesus back to their family home in Nazareth.

When Herod the Great died, the rulers in Rome were unable to find anyone of his stature to rule their most difficult province, so the country was broken up into four smaller magisterial districts to be ruled by Herod’s sons.

Herod Antipas, Herod the Great’s son by a Samarian woman, was made the ruler of Samaria and Galilee, and as these were the most important parts of the country at that time, he became the most powerful of the four rulers. His brother Philip ruled a neighboring region, known as the Tetrarchy of Philip, and he was married to a scheming woman named Herodias – who also happened to be the niece of both Herod and Philip!

Herod coveted both his brother Philip’s wife and his kingdom, and he plotted together with Herodias to get both. Together, they arranged for Philip’s murder, and they then shared the kingdom he had ruled just as they shared the guilt for his murder. But, because they were royalty, they had no fear of punishment under the law, for they were the law. It must have seemed to them that they were above reproach, that the thing was done and behind them.

But John the Baptist had been called by the Lord to preach the doctrine of repentance throughout the land, and so he traveled throughout Israel seeking out the sins of the nation and pointing them out to the sinners, calling them to repent in time for the coming of the Lord. Those who heard his message and repented, he baptized with water as a sign of their desire to be cleansed of their sins, and the need to hear what Jesus Christ was teaching.

John was afraid of no one. His call was from God. He began to preach the sins of Herod and Herodias throughout the land. He called on them to repent. He demanded that they bring their lives into order for the sake of the coming Messiah. He brought them up for public judgment and ridicule by exposing their sins to all.

It seems that Herod was accustomed to public outcry concerning his behavior, and he seemed unaffected by the preaching of John. But Herodias was stung by the public reproach, and could not forget it. It became her consuming passion to destroy John the Baptist. But, in spite of his other faults, Herod was not willing to murder a popular public figure and prophet in cold blood without a major provocation. He seemed to think that John was nothing more than a temporary annoyance. However, under terrific pressure from his wife, he did put John in prison to keep him quiet for a while.

After arresting John the Baptist, Herod hosted a feast in his palace. From what we know about the royal customs of those days, it is not unlikely that the feast was extravagant, that many fancy and rich foods were served along with copious quantities of wine. It is not difficult to imagine that Herod soon found himself feeling expansive, stimulated, and just a bit muddled. He was primarily interested in having a great time with his friends, and, surrounded by his friends, safe within his own palace, looking forward to all manner of sensual delights and exciting entertainments, his natural cautiousness was put aside. He was in a position where he could be easily fooled – and he was with dangerous company.

Herodias was a woman who knew how to get her way. She knew how Herod acted at feasts. She knew his weaknesses. She knew what would delight him more than any other thing. She arranged for her daughter to dance at the feast after Herod had had plenty to drink.

Although her name is not given anywhere in the Word, secular history tells us that the daughter of Herodias was named Salome. From the context, it appears that Herod was not her father, but more likely her uncle. In any case, it is apparent from the letter of the Word that the combination of her beauty and dancing skills combined with Herod’s festive and drunken mood in just the way that Herodias planned. The temptress did her work well. Herod rashly promised Salome anything she wanted, and made this promise in front of all his friends who were guests at the feast. There was no way for him to retreat from his rashness without losing face. Herodias knew how he would act when faced with such a choice.

Salome, prompted by her mother, asked for John’s head on a platter. And Herod, knowing it was wrong, knowing that it was politically stupid, and knowing that he had been tricked, nevertheless gave the order for John to be murdered, and his head cruelly displayed according to Salome’s demand. It appears from the letter that that the only one who enjoyed the sight was Herodias.

In the internal sense, this story is telling us many things about the relationship between the rational degree of the mind, the corrupt native will, and the delights that come from doing evils, and specifically how in temptation the rational can be overcome and the mind closed to teachings of the Word.

First, let us look at the main characters and what they represent: John the Baptist is a prophet, and everywhere in the Word prophets represent the Word of the Lord because they spoke to men for the Lord. John particularly stands for those parts of the Word which speak to our conscience, which set forth the standards that we must judge ourselves against, that cause us to stop for a moment to look inward and reflect on the true nature of our lives.

Herod and Herodias together represent our mind. Herod, as the husband, stands for the intellectual part, the understanding. Herodias, as the wife, represents the will, but we must note that this marriage is adulterous, not a true marriage of good and truth, so we can see that Herodias represents the corrupt, evil will, the old will which must be shunned.

That John called Herod and Herodias to repentance represents what happens when we read the Word, and realize that what we read there applies to an active state of evil in our own lives, that our understanding needs to be separated from our old will.

At first, Herod, the rational, remains as it were aloof, weighing, reasoning, thinking about what the proper response to these new ideas might be. But Herodias, the will, begins to work in unspoken ways to turn the understanding away from the Word, or to at least silence it. When we read that Herod put John into prison, the Word is telling us in the internal sense that the old will can convince the rational mind to ignore truth from the Word.

So far, this story has taught us that there is a balance between the old will and the understanding. Herod is willing to put John in prison because he can see many reasons why it will do him no harm, and he is also interested in having some peace from the preachings of the troublesome prophet. There has been no real harm done to anyone, but the evil will does not rest.

It may seem to us that we have our lives under good control, that things are going pretty well even without spending too much time paying attention to such matters as self-examination, repentance, and reformation. Indeed, the hells want us to believe that everything is fine, so that they can set us up, and when we are weak and susceptible, our bellies full of self-regard and drunk with self-intelligence, bring us under their power.

We learn about this hellish trap from the events depicted in the feast. At the time of the feast, Herod seems unconcerned about John. Herod is interested only in having the good time that he planned for himself without regard for anyone else. In the same way, we can convince ourselves that everything is going just as it should, that we are in complete control of our lives.

The rational mind will look hard to find evidence to support this view, for if it were to admit another view, then it would have to work to change itself, which is a lot of unpleasant and painful work. In this state, the conscience has been quieted, and the external restraints seem to have been removed. This is the state where we rationalize our behavior by telling ourselves that we have been working very hard recently and we deserve a little break, we deserve to loosen up a bit. So perhaps we allow ourselves to eat more than usual, or eat forbidden foods. Perhaps we stay up too late, or buy ourselves something expensive and unnecessary.

There are all manner of things that we often daydream about, thinking how we might have some of these things if we were released from our current obligations. They are things that we would very much like to do, but know that we shouldn’t, and are restrained from doing them by our fear of the loss of our reputation, honor and gain. The danger comes when we allow ourselves to sample such a forbidden delight. Salome dances, Herod is filled with lascivious delight, and the trap is sprung.

When an evil is done by accident, it does not abide. When an evil is done by accident from a good intention, again, it does not remain with the person. But when an evil is known to be an evil, and it is done for the sake of the pleasure that is derived, then it does remain and serves as the means for an influx from hell into the mind. Salome, as the daughter of Herodias, represents the affections and delights that come from doing evil (See AC 6203, 6204).

The danger should be obvious. When an evil desire in the will is coupled with the delights that come from actually committing the act, the effect on the rational mind is overpowering, opening a path of influx from the hells designed to hold a man in that evil, and to move out into ever increasing areas of expression – which lead to new hellish delights, which lead to new hells being opened up, and so on and so forth.

While on the one hand this should give everyone cause for sober reflection the course of their life, on the other hand this same story, in its opposite sense, gives us a glimpse of the tremendous power of the Lord to save us, for the same spiritual laws apply to influx from the heavens! Not only are the hells lurking about, waiting for us to commit some evil so that they can flow in with evil delights, but the heavens are also constantly with us, looking for every opportunity to flow in with heavenly delights.

All that is required is that we shun evil as sin against God and the heavens will flow in with the delight of the good which is opposite to the shunned evil. When we decide against something we know to be wrong, and instead choose to do what we know to be good from the Word, we have committed a good from intent, and a pathway for influx is opened up into the heaven that corresponds to that good. The sphere of delight in that heaven flows in, and that delight encourages us to go on shunning evils and doing good in ever increasing varieties of expression.

There are two things that need to be remembered from this text: First that everyone one of us is free to choose what we will be. If we are evil, it is because we choose to do evil and enjoy its delights. If we are good, it is because we learned what was true from the Word and conscientiously sought to do it. We are what we decide to be, and it is the use of the heavens and the hells to flow in with the kind of life and delights that we ourselves choose by our actions in this world.

Secondly, we need to beware the power of the hells to seduce us by little things. The understanding is able to keep the old will in check, for that is what spiritual freedom is, but when the understanding gives in, when it begins to think that something is justified or allowable under certain conditions that it knows is forbidden, and consents to it, then it becomes most difficult to remove, it becomes a foothold for the hells. And when the hells take hold, the first thing to be killed is the voice of the Lord within – John the Baptist – which makes further repentance all the more difficult.

Herod could have denied Salome’s request, but he did not. If he had, he would have experienced a much more satisfying delight than the delights he had while watching Salome dance. He would have had the delight that comes from doing the right thing for the right reason, a heavenly joy.

The old will and the understanding are in continual tension and conflict, each trying in its own unique way to control the course of our lives. They are evenly matched, so the result of their battle can only be decided by the intervention of an outside force – freedom of choice in spiritual things. We must decide for ourselves whether to kill John the Baptist to stop the annoying voice of conscience so that we can continue as we are, or listen to him and follow him to repentance, reformation, regeneration, and heaven. The choice is ours alone, and the nature and quality of our eternal life hangs in the balance. Amen.

First Lesson: MAR 6:14-29

Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” {15} Others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.” {16} But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!” {17} For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. {18} For John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” {19} Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; {20} for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. {21} Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. {22} And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” {23} He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” {24} So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” {25} Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” {26} And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. {27} Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, {28} brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. {29} When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 6206

…It should be recognized that all evil flows in from hell and all good from the Lord by way of heaven. The reason however why evil becomes a person’s own is that he believes and convinces himself that he thinks and practices it all by himself. In this way he makes it his own. But if he believed what is really so, it would not be evil but good from the Lord that became his own. For if he believed what is really so he would think, the instant evil flowed in, that it came from the evil spirits present with him; and since that was what he thought the angels could ward that evil off and repel it. For influx from angels takes place into what a person knows and believes, not what he does not know or believe; there is nowhere else for it to become firmly established than in something the person knows or believes.

[2] When a person in that way makes some evil his own he acquires the sphere that is a product of that evil. This sphere is what the spirits from hell who have a sphere of like evil around them associate themselves with, for like is linked to like. The spiritual sphere existing with man or spirit is an emanation from the life which belongs to his loves, from which his character is recognized from afar. Their spheres are what determine the ways in which all are joined to one another in the next life, and the ways in which communities are joined too. They also determine the separations that take place, for contrary spheres conflict with and repel one another. Consequently the spheres produced by the loves of what is evil are all in hell, while the spheres produced by the loves of what is good are all in heaven, that is, those dwelling in such spheres are there. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

The “Risk Free” Society

The “Risk Free” Society

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

As civilization has advanced, as our knowledge of the world and how it works has been increased, the dangers of day to day life have decreased. In fact, the momentum towards reducing the dangers of daily life has pushed us so far that we are beginning to work towards a “risk free” society. We insure our personal property so that if something is ruined or lost it can be replaced. We insure our lives, so that even after a person dies he can continue to support his family. In recent years people have been able to insure such unusual things as a pianist’s fingers or a dancer’s legs. If we are careful to choose the right company and pay our premiums on time, we can insulate ourselves from almost any kind of natural disaster or loss.

Governments now concern themselves with such things as the content of food products, the use of cosmetics, the conditions of the work place, and tightly regulate every aspect of daily life for the sake of protecting us from hidden dangers. On the one hand, so many substances have been named as carcinogens that such announcements are difficult to take seriously any more. On the other hand, some truly dangerous substances, like asbestos, have been identified and steps taken to remove them from our environment, and diseases such as smallpox have been entirely destroyed. Government programs have been developed to help farmer by developing and distributing pesticides and fertilizers, and by building great systems of dams and waterways in an attempt to control floods and irrigate deserts.

In every case, whether successful or not, whether the side effects were worth the cost, the apparent intent has been to reduce risk to the general populace, to insulate us from the effects of things and ideas that are in the natural world–be they insects, drought, flood, storm, or our choice of food or even our selection of reading material. It is clear that the people of our day are trying very hard to eliminate risks and dangers from modern life. Well and good. We are trying to make life less dangerous, more pleasant. We are living longer and better than any people before in the history of mankind. What, if anything, is wrong with that?

This kind of attitude towards life puts our eternal soul at risk. It is only natural for such a trend to continue into more and more diverse areas of life until we find ourselves exchanging a reduced risk of injury for reduced personal freedoms. We need to remember that it is a spiritual principle that the freedom to make only the “approved” choice is not freedom at all. We must be free to take risks and make terrible mistakes in order to be truly free.

The problem is that as natural risks are removed, as we are able to live relatively without care, our spiritual attitudes tend to follow our natural attitudes. When we can take a wonder drug to cure our pneumonia, we expect to find equally fast and powerful tools with which to fight our evils and if our efforts do not meet with immediate results, we give up using that tool and look for a new product, a new spiritual tool that will give the quick results that we desire.

The root cause of this attitude is the doctrine of Faith Alone and its related doctrine of Works Alone. Both the doctrine of Faith Alone and the doctrine of Works Alone have within them similar assumptions: That admission to paradise (or heaven) is a matter of grace because no human could possibly deserve it, having been born in sin; That grace is obtained from God through a single, specific act, either faith that Jesus Christ died for the remission of sins, or receiving forgiveness for sins from the church and taking part in the communion.

Neither the Faith Alone or Works Alone position requires any amendment of life! However, as we all know, reasonable members of all churches believe that it is not enough to only have faith, and that they must show the signs of their faith by living a good life, or that they must be true to their confession and actually go and commit that sin no more. Even though it is not necessarily the doctrinal teaching of their own church, the Lord has provided that every man who seeks to follow Him will, from conscience, seek to live in obedience to his laws, and interpret the doctrines of his own church in such a way as to permit this.

And yet we must be aware that the doctrine of Faith Alone is extremely appealing when we consider the choices. According to the doctrine of Faith Alone, if we seek to live in paradise with God we can achieve it through no more than a simple statement of faith. According to the doctrine of Works Alone we can earn paradise simply by being forgiven of sins by a priest and taking communion. Our third choice is to read the Word, examine our lives in comparison to what the Lord there teaches, repent of our sins, fight the combats of temptation as-if-from-ourselves, and begin a new life–and this over and over again throughout life in the world.

When you are surrounded by a culture where everything is done quickly, where waiting itself is a sin, where credit is available so you need never save for something you want, where everything is focused on instant gratification, which choice are you going to make? By analogy, it seems that many people are looking for a kind of spiritual “magic armor,” and by this I mean some kind of formula or church doctrine that will allow them to continue to live their lives pretty much as they want, and still allow them to commit some sins, to be able to have a “spiritual accident” without getting hurt. A recent study showed that as cars are made safer and safer through ABS brakes and air bags, people are driving faster and less carefully, so the accident and injury rate remain the same.

Does the doctrine of salvation by faith alone actually encourage people to sin by removing the consequences of their sin? The Arcana puts it this way: They who are not being regenerated say absolutely that faith is in the first place, because in this way they can live as they desire, and still say that they have hope of salvation (AC 6269:2)

What does the Word teach about the risk, the cost of the life that leads to spiritual happiness? The Word treats of this in several different ways. Through the Lord’s own example by His life in the world. He challenged the scribes and Pharisees in the synagogues and temples, the basis of their strength. He traveled with and stayed with publicans and sinners because those were the people who needed Him the most. He took on a human body in order to fight the hells on their own terms by allowing them to attack Him. He suffered grievous temptations at the hands of the hells, all for the sake of our eternal welfare. The Lord taught us concerning the cost of following Him in Luke: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (LUK 9:23, 24).

The life that we must lose is our selfish life, the life of the old will, the life that lives in the delights of hereditary evils, selfishness, and falsity. This is what must die so that the life of the new will given by the Lord can take its place and live, the new will which is the foundation of angelic life. If we seek our own ends, we will lose spiritual life in heaven. If instead, we look outward toward the Lord and the neighbor, we are giving up our selfish life for the sake of the Lord, and so we will be saved. This is difficult, for we love all the things that are ours, and do not wish to give any of them up. This is our burden, this is the cross which He asks us to bear daily.

Temptations are the most common form of risk for us, while at the same time they are the best way for us to express our spiritual freedom. A temptation is not actually a temptation unless there is doubt concerning the end — unless your spiritual life is at risk. In order for you to really fight as from yourself it is absolutely necessary that you genuinely believe and feel that you can fail unless you fight with all your strength and ask the Lord for help. This is the ultimate expression of free will in spiritual things, where you decide for yourself what you are going to be, how you are going to live, what you are going to believe and you risk being wrong in your beliefs, failing in your temptation.

But unless there was that risk of failure, the temptation would not be real, it would be nothing but a meaningless act required by a capricious God. We cannot be free to choose to do good and go to heaven without also being free to choose evil and hell, to be free to fail. A risk-free life is insipid and dead, a refusal to live as God intended, as a spiritually free individual experiencing repeated victories, choosing his own spiritual character.

The New Church has a lot going for it.

Our doctrinal position is rational and consistent with scripture and the 10 Commandments. We have knowledges about the spiritual world that make it a real and desirable place. Our teachings about marriage are beautiful and uplifting. On the other hand, it is a hard church to belong to because it requires a lot of reading of what can be difficult material, does not tell anyone how to live their life but requires that every one apply the doctrines from the Word for themselves, according to his own understanding and conscience. The New Church requires that each one go through the steps of self-examination, repentance, and reformation in order that they may be regenerated by the Lord. The New Church requires that we work for our place in heaven, and offers no guarantees.

The subtle danger of the doctrine of Faith Alone is that it encourages us to continue in our old, evil ways even while we are convinced that we have been made new by grace. The irony is that the idea of the “risk free” society is in fact the greatest risk that we face to our spiritual life, for it makes us think that we do not need the Lord’s help. Why should we seek repentance when we don’t need it? How can we be helped by the Lord if we don’t think we need it and won’t ask for it?

If there was no possibility of failure, no risk, there could be no freedom to choose heaven, for whenever there is true freedom of choice, there must also be the freedom to make the wrong choice. Think of David, a young man, facing Goliath, the Philistine Giant, armed with nothing other than a shepherd’s sling and 5 smooth stones. Think of the risk he took. And yet we know that it was no risk at all, because the Lord was fighting for (and with) him. Nothing of value is gained without risk, without some cost, especially things that are really valuable, spiritual life itself. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it (LUK 9:23-24).

Lessons: I Samuel 17 (port.), Luke 14:25-33, AC 8164-8165

Arcana Caelestia 8164. There are spiritual temptations, and there are natural temptations. Spiritual temptations belong to the internal man, but natural ones to the external man. Spiritual temptations sometimes arise without natural temptations, sometimes with them. Natural temptations exist when a man suffers as to the body, as to honors, as to wealth, in a word, as to the natural life, as is the case in diseases, misfortunes, persecutions, punishments, and the like. The anxieties which then arise, are what are meant by “natural temptations.” But these temptations effect nothing whatever toward man’s spiritual life, neither can they be called temptations, but griefs; for they arise from the wounding of the natural life, which is that of the love of self and of the world.

[2] But spiritual temptations belong to the internal man, and assault his spiritual life. In this case the anxieties are not on account of any loss of natural life, but on account of the loss of faith and charity, and consequently of salvation. These temptations are frequently induced by means of natural temptations, for if when a man is in these–that is, in disease, grief, the loss of wealth or honor, and the like–he begins to think about the Lord’s aid, His providence, the state of the evil in that they glory and exult when the good suffer and undergo various griefs and various losses, then spiritual temptation is conjoined with natural temptation.

Arcana Caelestia 8165. Moreover those who are in despair, which is the last of temptation, think such things, and then they are as it were on the slope, or are as it were sinking down toward hell. But at this time such thought does no harm whatever, nor do the angels pay any attention to it, for every man’s power is limited, and when the temptation arrives at the furthest limit of his power, the man cannot sustain anything more, but sinks down. But then, when he is on the downhill course, he is raised by the Lord and thus liberated from despair; and is then for the most part brought into a clear state of hope and of the consequent consolation, and also into good fortune.

The Church Universal and Specific

 

The Church Universal and Specific

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


There are many things that appear to us to be true, but yet are not true. For example, it appears to us that the sun rises, yet we know that it is actually an appearance caused by the rotation of the earth. It appears, when we read the Old Testament, that Jehovah was frequently angry with the children of Israel, and punished them harshly, yet we know that He did not act from anger, but from zeal, the zeal of a loving, Heavenly Father for His disobedient children. It sometimes appears to us that the church is our own, and that we should govern it, when the truth is that the church is from the Lord, and He alone must govern the church by means of the Word.

Because the external forms of the church are man-made, even though drawn from the Word, unless we turn our minds to the subject from time to time, we can begin to believe the appearance that the church is ours, forgetting that the church is the Lord s alone. It is for that reason that we turn our attention to what the Word teaches about the church, its origin, its form, and its purpose.

The church is like a person, in that the church, too, has as-if-from-self life. By this is meant that the church and the person of the church are similar because they both appear to live of themselves, yet they both receive their life from the Lord. The Lord s universal church is made up of all the people in the world who try to live according to what they believe to be true.

Although the life of the church is from the Lord, its earthly manifestation is according to the enlightenment and understanding of the people who make up the church at any given time. In other words, it is the responsibility of each of us who wish to be a part of the church to work as hard as we can to see that the forms and actions of the church on earth actually reflect the truths that the Lord teaches in His Word. The only way to approach this, let alone assure it, is to constantly refer back to what the Word itself teaches.

The Lord s church is universal, and includes all those in every nation of the world, and in the spiritual world, who seek to do the Lord s will. (See Heaven and Hell 328) This doctrine of the New Church is unusual. Unlike most other churches The New Church does not state or imply that membership in this particular organization has anything to do with anyone s eternal salvation. The doctrines of the New Church clearly teach that nationality, race, and membership in a particular church organization have little bearing on anyone s eternal life. All people who do what they believe to be right in the eyes of their God, no matter how they conceive of him, will be saved! How else could a loving, heavenly Father respond to a person s efforts?

Many have wondered about the spiritual lives of those people who have never had the benefit of hearing the Word preached because they were physically isolated from it. Some churches have taken the view that all those who are not members of their particular denomination will go to hell, and so those churches have taken on extremely active programs of evangelization so that the “heathen” or “gentiles” can be baptized and thus be “saved” whether or not they wish to be. History tells us that such irrational doctrines have been taken to such extremes that aboriginal peoples have been baptized by force and then executed in the mistaken belief that this was being done for the sake of their spiritual lives.

But the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem tell us that gentiles who are remote from the Word through no fault of their own are still able to use their rational faculty to deduce many important truths by simply observing the world around them, and being receptive to the perception that is given to every one from the Lord. Such people can deduce that there is one God, that He is the Creator of the universe; that He continually guards His creation and is the preserver of all things; that all things that are good and true are from Him and not from ourselves; and finally that if a person tries to guide his life according to these truths that he will be blessed. (See Arcana Coelestia 3263)

Please note that nothing has been said about Baptism, the Holy Supper, Conjugial Love, or the Doctrine of the Spiritual World. The simple understanding that there is a Creator God, who continues to give blessings to those people who work with Him is sufficient to bring a person into eternal blessedness and salvation provided he lives according to this simple faith. These people are in the church universal.

But there are many other people in the world who are in the Lord s universal church who happen to think that they belong to a particular denomination. Many of us have had the experience of talking to someone who belonged to another church organization, and finding that the person agreed with many of the ideas that we associate with the New Church because they made sense to him, or fit into what he already believed. But how many times has it happened that an acquaintance has listened to your careful doctrinal presentation and said, “Oh, that s just what our church teaches!” And nine times out of ten, we will be horrified at such an idea and bombard our poor friend with many passages from the Writings to prove that our beliefs are quite different from his.

But if we will stop and think about it for a moment, we will see that when our friend says, “that is what my church teaches” it is his way of saying, “I agree with you.” Or sometimes a friend will come back and say that “Your Swedenborg borrowed a lot from”& Luther, or Calvin, or the Catholics, or whomever. At such times we must not take offense and explain at great length that “Swedenborg received these teachings from the Lord alone, and certainly not from someone like that heretic who started your church!” We need to understand that what that person is really saying is something along the lines of, “I belong to this particular church, and I agree with many of the ideas I ve been hearing from Swedenborg, so they must have come from my church.” Such people as in these two examples, no matter what earthly organization they have allegiance to, are actually members of the Lord s spiritual church, if they live according to the truths they have discovered through their own rational light.

We must remember that people outside of the New Church are also gifted with remains. They love their customs, pastor, church building, and grounds just as much as we do and so may choose to remain in their church in spite of the fact that they don t really understand or agree with the doctrine it teaches. They stay with their church for the same reason we stay in ours because that is where they feel comfortable and at home.

There are many many passages in the Heavenly Doctrines that speak harshly of the Jewish Church, and many others that speak of the Christian Churches as being “dead.” How can we resolve this apparent contradiction, the fact that it appears that on the one hand the Writings are extremely open and accepting towards people of other churches, and on the other hand the Writings call their religion “dead” .This is easily resolved. On the one hand the doctrines are referring to people, and it is clear that the Lord wants everyone to be with Him in Heaven, if that is what they themselves want. On the other hand, the Writings condemn the doctrine of the other churches. It is the doctrine that is dead, not the individual people who are members of that church.

The New Church tends to be a doctrinal church, perhaps much more so than most. As a group, we tend to have a greater concern about matters of doctrine, and because our church has faced three major fights and divisions based on interpretation of the doctrine in the past 100 years, we tend to be pretty careful about holding to our church s doctrinal position. This is not the case with other churches. It is not uncommon to discover in conversation that the members of a given denomination or sect do not fully subscribe to or even know what their church teaches on a particular subject! Nor is it uncommon to find that a doctrine is “on the books,” so to speak, but not taught by its ministers or held in belief by its members. This may be because the Lord is constantly leading all people to His church by helping them “filter” out the falsities of their church s doctrine, so they never even hear them and so are neither confused nor misled by them and may use their God-given rational light to sort through their church s doctrines to find a system that feels right, that makes sense to them. We should search for those things that we all believe in common, knowing that they all spring from a common source, no matter what route they have taken to the individual. We must remember that all those who seek to do the Lord s will are actually members of the same church, the Lord s Church Universal.

If we think of the Church Universal as appearing as a single person in the sight of the Lord, the Church Specific can be seen as the heart and lungs of that being. (See Arcana Coelestia 2853, Heaven and Hell 308) While the Church Universal is made up of all good people, the Church Specific is made up of those who have been fortunate enough to have the Word, and have learned specific truths about the Lord by means of it. The Church Specific has a better, more interior understanding of doctrine, because its members have more information to work from. Because of their better understanding, those in the Church Specific serve as a means of spiritual influx into the Church Universal, and thus into the whole natural world.

While having the Word is important, it is the understanding of the Word that is most important, for we are told that the Lord is present with every person when he reads the Word, but that the Lord is conjoined with a person according to his understanding of the Word; for as far as he understands, he has truths in his mind.

The Lord can only be conjoined with a person by means of His own things with the person when there is understanding of doctrine. (See Sacred Scripture 78) The Church Specific, as compared to the Church Universal, is where the Word is rightly understood and such as is the understanding of the Word among those who are in the church, such is the church. (See Sacred Scripture 79) The quality of the church is according to the understanding of the doctrine from the Word within it, and for this reason, the New Church has from the very beginning emphasized independent study of doctrine on the part of the laymen, and doctrinal classes in addition to Sunday services have been a regular part of the church week. And because the study and understanding of the doctrine is so important to the life of the New Church, New Church schools have been established and maintained through considerable effort in order that they might provide the necessary foundation to make it easier for those who have trained in this manner to understand and apply the doctrines in their lives.

But we, too, must be cautious lest this emphasis on doctrinal things divert our attention from our real job, which is a life according to this doctrine. A church is a church from doctrine, but a person s religion is according to what he does from his doctrinal knowledge. (Apocalypse Revealed 923) Doctrine is necessary for understanding the Word, but the life according to doctrine is what makes the church with an individual.

The Church Specific is where the Word is, and the Lord is acknowledged. Does this mean that the New Church, or the General Church of the New Jerusalem, or this Society of the Church can honestly claim to be the “Church Specific” ?It would not be wise to make that claim for the organization itself, but we could safely say that there are individuals who are of the Lord s church and who are also members of this earthly organization. But, we must never forget that at best our church organization, and our doctrinal foundation, cannot be more than a representative of the Lord s church as it is in the heavens, although with the effort of all members to improve their understanding of the doctrine by reading the Word for themselves and taking active part in the doctrinal instruction provided by the church, we can hope that its forms will ever improve.

All people who love the Lord are of His church, no matter where they live, or what church they belong to. So far as the Lord s New Church is established in the hearts and minds of people on earth, so far will the earthly form more closely approximate the heavenly order, and the better it will be able to serve the Lord s uses. The church is from the Lord alone, and He must govern it by means of the Word. This is only possible if there are people who are willing to study the Word regularly, thoroughly, seeking true understanding and enlightenment from the Lord. Then the Lord can truly be effectively present with His church, and it will grow and prosper, and fully serve the use of bringing everyone into eternal conjunction with Him in heaven. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain (PSA 1271). AMEN.

1st Lesson: 1 Sam 135-14

Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. {6} When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. {7} And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. {8} Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. {9} So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. {10} Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. {11} And Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, {12} “then I said, The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD. Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” {13} And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. {14} “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” Amen.

2nd Lesson: Luke 1415-24

Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” {16} Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, {17} “and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, Come, for all things are now ready. {18} “But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused. {19} “And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused. {20} “Still another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. {21} “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. {22} “And the servant said, Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room. {23} “Then the master said to the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. {24} For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper. ” Amen.

3rd Lesson AC 2853.

…The Lord s kingdom on earth consists of all those who are endowed with good, who, though spread throughout the whole world, are nevertheless one, and as members constitute one body. The same is so with the Lord s kingdom in the heavens. There the whole of heaven presents itself as one entire human being, which is for that reason also called the Grand Man. & And what is a marvel and unknown until now, all parts of the human body correspond to communities in heaven.&

[3] It is similar with the Lord s Church on earth. Here the Church is like the heart and lungs, and those outside of the Church resemble parts of the body which are sustained by, and get their life from, the heart and lungs. >From this it is evident that without the Church somewhere on earth the human race cannot continue to exist, even as the body cannot without the heart and lungs in it. It is for this reason that as often as any Church reaches its end, that is, ceases to be a Church because no charity exists any more, the Lord in His Providence always raises up a new one. & This was done by Him to the end that heaven might be joined to the human race by means of the Church.