THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD

THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinDecember 28, 1995

 

And I saw heaven opened; and behold a white horse; and He that sitteth upon him is called faithful and true; and in justice He doth judge and make war. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and upon His head were many diadems; having a name written, which no one knew but Himself; And He was clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and His name is called, The Word of God. (Rev. 19:11-13)

The Lord has given a wonderful gift to the New Church. He has revealed that He has made His Second Coming to the human race, through the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. However, this gift is not just for us in the organized New Church, but it is potentially for all mankind. The Lord did not make this revelation for a select few, but rather for the benefit and help of everyone in His Creation. Unfortunately, the vast majority in the world today are not aware that the Lord has come again; even those in the Christian Church are still looking for a physical return of the Lord. However, the Lord has fulfilled the promise He made to His disciples that when He left them, He would come again as the Spirit of Truth and teach them higher truths which they could not understand before. (Jn 16:12) Still, this coming was not accomplished in a material body, but in a new revelation as to who the Lord is. He did not come as a babe as in the First Advent. Instead, He came as a “Rider on a white horse, Faithful and True, judging, with eyes of fire, diadems on His head, and clothed with a robe dipped in blood, His name being called, the Word of God.” (Rev. 19:11-13)

Before we can understand this description of the Lord’s Second Coming, we first must have some knowledge of correspondences. These words can not be taken literally, for there is a hidden meaning contained within, which when discovered will bring new insights into our doctrine of the Lord and how He operates in us. John wrote that he saw the Rider on the white horse after “the heavens were opened”. This signifies that the spiritual sense is revealed, and with that revelation comes an interior understanding of the Word. In heave, the Divinity of the Lord and the progressive states of regeneration are clearly made manifest. and as these things are plainly shown in heavenly light, they are also openly taught in the spiritual sense of the Word. When we understand what is being taught in the spiritual sense, then we are drawing doctrine from genuine truths as they stand forth in the holiness of the Word. The Writings are very clear that genuine truths are in agreement with what is in the internal sense. Therefore, when we are aware of this sense, we are taught genuine truths about the Lord and how He operates in us. this is the Second Coming of the Lord. This revelation of the spiritual sense allows us to have a deeper understanding of what the Lord teaches us in His Word. Just as John could not see the Rider on the white horse until the heavens were opened, neither can we see the Lord in genuine truth unless we see spiritual truths contained in the letter.

Having a clear understanding of the Lord is signified by the “white horse”. The white horse represents the interior understanding of what the Word teaches which comes through the knowledge of the spiritual sense. A horse signifies the understanding of truth in the Word. The horse is known as one of the smartest animals in creation. The color white signifies what is interior. Usually, when we think of something that is white, we think of it as being pure, and innocent. This is why we picture little lambs and angels being in white. So too, when we see the Lord with an interior understanding, we see Him as a God of infinite love and wisdom, a God Who is purity and innocence Itself, and a god Who never punishes anyone, but instead desires everyone’s salvation and raises each one to the highest state that he or she, in freedom, is willing to enter. Therefore, when we see the Rider on the white horse, we then see the Lord as a God of infinite love and wisdom; only by a knowledge of the internal sense can we have a genuine knowledge and doctrine of Who the Lord really is and the truths of His operation. The Lord appears plainly or openly in the spiritual sense of the Word. (AR 820)

Now, the picture we have of the Lord in the internal sense may at times appear to be far different than what we see in the letter of the Old and New Testaments. In the letter of the Old Testament, we sometimes see the Lord as a God of anger and jealousy, constantly ready to punish man when he fails. (Ex. 20:5, Duet. 4:24) In the letter of the New Testament, we see sometimes the Lord as a God of judgment, ready to give man what he deserves. (Mt 7:23) Even in the Book of Revelation, we see the Lord sitting on a great white throne condemning those before Him to hell. (Rev. 20:11-15) But know, by means of the Writings, we can look beyond these appearances in the letter and see the true nature of God. We no longer have to worship a god of wrath and judgment, now we can worship a loving God, Who infinitely desires to give to us the delights of heaven. And we also see that the Lord is one god in Whom is a trinity. Thus, we can know that the Lord is on Person, Who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscience. This is the exciting picture of the Lord that is presented to us in the spiritual sense of the Word.

It is when we may see the Person and the nature of the Lord revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word that He is called “Faithful and True”. We can see the “faithfulness” of the Lord, or this Divine Goodness, in that He always provides that there is a church on the earth whereby His operation can inflow to all mankind. Therefore, His faithfulness is of His Divine love toward the human race. It is because the Lord infinitely loves man and longs for his salvation that the Lord insures that there is a church where the Word is present, whereby the Lord is known. the Lord faithfully kept His promise when He told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. 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.” (Jn 14:2&3) The Lord is faithful in keeping man in freedom and making sure he will always have the truths of the Word available to him, whereby he can enter into salvation.

This is why He is also called “True”. For the Lord in His Second Advent comes to man as Divine truth. (AR 821) In the Heavenly Doctrines especially, we can see the Lord coming as Divine truth in His Word. It is through the Word that we can become aware of His faithfulness in His infinite love for man and how He has always made sure that the way of salvation will be opened to him. We can have a deeper understanding of how His Divine good operates through His divine truth, when we see the Lord in the internal sense of the Word. We then can recognize how His faithfulness operates through truth.

John further described the Rider on the white horse with “eyes as a flaming fire”. This signifies the beautiful conjunction of the Lord’s love and wisdom in the salvation of man. The Lord’s divine love wills to save all, and predestines all to heaven. However, it can only operate by Divine wisdom. divine love cannot act beyond the laws of Divine wisdom because they act in unison. The Writings state that if there was “more of Divine Wisdom than of Divine Love, or more of Divine Love than of Divine Wisdom, man could not be saved.” (DLW 37) There is a perfect union between the two whereby the Lord strives to save everyone and make them genuinely happy. But He cannot exceed the laws of His Divine Wisdom which protects man’s internal freedom and his “as of self”.

These laws which the Lord cannot exceed are the Divine truths which were represented by the diadems around the Rider’s head in John’s vision. Once again, these Divine truths are revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word. It is in the spiritual sense that we discover what the laws are which the Lord cannot exceed. These laws are that man act in freedom according to reason, that he be created with receptacles whereby he can respond to the influx of the Lord’s life, and a reciprocal conjunction is produced when this influx is accepted. These truths are contained and yet hidden within the sense of the letter of the Word. But when the light of heaven shines in and through these diadems, they become translucent in which spiritual truths can be seen. (AR 823) The more we discover these spiritual truths in the letter of the Word, the more we can have an understanding of the Lord’s operation toward our salvation. And the more we can understand this, the more powerful will be the reciprocal conjunction between the Lord and ourselves.

Along with the white horse, the eyes of fire, and the diadems, John also saw a name written on the Rider which no one knew except the Lord. This signifies that no one knows the quality of the spiritual sense of the Word except for the Lord and to those to whom He reveals these truths. We can have a knowledge of these truths and even understand their significance; however, unless we apply them to our lives, we will not know their quality. Only when these truths are accepted in our will can we really understand the nature of the Lord. Only when we try to put our life in order in accordance with the Word can we see the order, beauty, and the harmony of the Lord’s operation within us and in His creation outside of us. This can only be revealed to us through enlightenment by the Lord; we can not obtain the understanding of spiritual truths from our own power. (AR 824) This is what the Lord meant when He said in Matthew: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Mt 11:25) It is only when we are in a state of innocence (by being willing to be led by the Lord) that the Lord is able to reveal the quality of the spiritual truths contained in His Word.

Along with the magnificent things John saw, he also recognized that the Rider’s garment was dipped in blood. The garment represented the sense of the letter clothing the spiritual sense of the Word. By it being dipped in blood signifies the violence that was done to the letter by the Christian Church. It was with the doctrine of three separate Persons in the Trinity and salvation by faith-alone that violated and critically wounded the true meaning from the sense of the letter. Also, when they falsified and twisted the letter of the Word to advocate their doctrine, they shut off the awareness and perception in the church of what was contained in the spiritual sense. Now this was permitted of the Lord as a protection so that the interior truths could not be profaned. It was really an act of mercy, for the Lord to have spiritual truths hidden. Otherwise, grave spiritual harm would have come to many individuals. Nevertheless, it is only when these evils and falsities are exposed and rooted out, when we see how they have bloodied the garment of the Lord, that the New Church can be implanted, both within us individually and collectively as a church. (TCR 784) Only when the letter of the Word is read in humility and innocence, with a knowledge of correspondences, can it be illuminated by the spiritual and celestial truths of the internal sense.

Today, the Lord has made it possible for us to see the “Rider on the white horse.” for we have the opportunity of clearly seeing the Divinity of the Lord that was not possible before His Second Coming. In the revelation of the Heavenly Doctrines, we can have an understanding of the Lord’s Divine Love. We can see Him as a god of Mercy, Who only desires to give heavenly happiness to everyone. But we can also see the Divine wisdom which protects man’s freedom so a true conjunction between the Lord and man can always be obtained. and as we see the “Rider on the white horse”, or the Lord’s Divinity, we will also see His eyes of flaming fire and the diadems upon His head. We will become aware of the union between the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, and the beautiful harmony that exists from this union. And we can perceive the laws in which the Lord operates so we are constantly kept in a state of freedom, which was represented by the diadems.

Since the Lord made His Second Coming, He has made known His Divinity whereby salvation is restored to mankind. If we seek to apply the Lord’s Word in our lives by performing uses, He will reward us with a deeper perception of the Lord and how He operates. This perception will allow us to delight more in a life of charity whereby we can love the Lord even more. And we can be uplifted in the Lord’s words at the end of Revelation, “I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to His work.” (Rev. 22:12)

THE BABE IN SWADDLING CLOTHES

THE BABE IN SWADDLING CLOTHES

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinCharlotte, NCDecember 24, 1995

 

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. (Lk 2:12)

The announcement of the Lord’s birth to the shepherds is one of the most dramatic happenings surrounding the Christmas story. We can imagine how peaceful it was for the shepherds, when suddenly, angels came proclaiming that the Christ was born in Bethlehem. Naturally, when the angels first came to them, they were astonished. But after they were told about the Lord’s birth, they cast their fears aside and were eager to see this special Baby for themselves. When they saw the Babe with His mother, they knew this was the Christ, because He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angel said that the swaddling clothes would be a sign that this was the Christ. And when the shepherds saw the child in the swaddling clothes, they praised the Lord and spread the news that the Christ was now on the earth.

Swaddling clothes were used by the people during Biblical times for protecting a newborn and keeping the infant warm. The baby was usually wrapped by a single soft cloth that was folded over the body. Then bands of another cloth were wrapped around to keep it snug around the baby. Therefore, when the shepherds saw the Lord, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger, they instantly knew that the Lord had finally come to deliver them. And they rejoiced when they saw Him.

When we read and study the Word with the intent of living according to the Lord’s teachings, we are like the shepherds, searching for the Christ and rejoicing when we find Him. When the shepherds were told that the Christ was on the earth, where He could be found, and how they could recognize Him, they immediately went and searched for the Babe. They wanted to see the Lord for themselves because they already loved Him. If they did not have a love for the Lord, there would have been no incentive for them to go to Bethlehem and search for Him. The same is also true with us. The Word reveals to us Who the Lord is, where He can be found, and how we can recognize Him. The Word serves the same purpose for us as the angels did for the shepherds. But we must already have the desire to see and be receptive of the Lord in order to affirmatively respond to Him. If this is our attitude and approach as we study and reflect from the Word, we will see the Lord as He really is. We will see Him as a God of love and mercy, Who is the One True source of everything that is good and true and the true giver of peace and happiness. If this is the picture we receive from the Word, we are seeing the Lord in swaddling clothes. (AE 706) We are seeing Him as loving God surrounded by His infinite wisdom. But we must be willing to listen before we can be taught about the Lord.

And when we do recognize the Lord as the one true God, we will rejoice just as the shepherds rejoiced when they saw the baby Lord. And like the shepherds, we will make known our vision of the Lord towards others. Not only will we spread the love and wisdom of the Lord verbally, but especially also by the conduct of our lives. People around us will be able to see evidence of our personal reception of the Lord in our lives. They will see a vivid demonstration of the contentment and joy of the eternal life that the Lord is providing. And when others see the Lord in the manner we live our lives, we are spreading the news about our individual birth of the Lord just as the shepherds spread the news about the birth of the Lord upon the earth.

It is interesting that the Lord’s clothing had an important significance all throughout His life upon the earth. Here, at His birth, the swaddling clothes helped testify to the shepherds that this was the Christ, the One Who must be worshiped as the God of heaven and earth. Later, when the Lord was active in His public ministry, He privately took three of His disciples aside, Peter, James, and John, and was transfigured before them. During this time, the Lord’s clothing became “white as the light”. And finally, while the Lord was being crucified, His clothing was being taken by the soldiers. The Lord had two garments than, an inner garment and an outer garment. The soldiers tore His outer garment into four pieces, but the inner garment remained in tact. Therefore, in these major events of the Lord’s life, His clothing had an important part in them.

At, first, we see the Lord in swaddling clothes, like the shepherds. We first regard the Lord as the One Who must be obeyed. But initially we do not know what He would have us do. The shepherds certainly recognized, and confessed that this Babe was the Christ, and they rejoiced in that recognition. However, they did not know many details about the Lord’s teachings or how He wanted them to live. It certainly was positive that they accepted and regarded the Lord as the Christ, and recognized He must be obeyed. However, they could not advance very far because they did not have the Lord’s words available to instruct them. When we see the Lord in the soft swaddling clothes, we are willing to confess that the Lord is God, and He has the authority to instruct us what we should do. This willingness to be led by the Lord is pictured by the shepherds honoring the Babe Who was wrapped in swaddling clothes.

However, for our lives to really change, we not only need the willingness to be led by the Lord, we also need truth. We need to be instructed and taught how we are to love, think, and act. Just having intentions to do good does not by itself put our lives in agreement with Divine order. We need to know truths from the Lord so we know what good is and how we can attain it. When we learn truths from the Lord’s Word with the intent to apply them to life, the Lord will be transfigured before us, and His clothing will become as white as the light. When we can see the Lord’s guidance in His Word, that is like the Lord being present with Moses and Elijah, who represented the entire Word. When the will of the Lord is seen in His Word, the truths in the Word become shinning white. They clearly stand out and give light. The brighter the light becomes, the more we recognize the very Divinity of the Lord, and how we can be conjoined with Him. Also, the more we can see the loves, thoughts, and acts we are to remove and avoid. We don’t see the obstacles to eternal life while we are in darkness. That is why we need to be instructed in the truths of the Lord’s Word. Truth makes our evil loves and habits visible so we are aware of them and can take action to have them removed. The clearer we see what we are to shun in our lives and how we are to live, the brighter the clothing of the Lord becomes in our understanding of truth.

While we are being instructed from the Word in truths, we are changed from being like the shepherds to being like the disciples. We know more about how we should live, whereby we can become more effective in a life that is genuinely good. The shepherds, when they saw the baby Lord in swaddling clothes could very well have had the same desire to live a good and useful life as the disciples had. But the disciples had more truths from the Lord than the shepherds. This allowed them to be more effective in manifesting the Lord’s life in their lives, and also to be more effective in spreading the news about the Lord’s presence to others. Therefore, because the disciples were instructed more about life than the shepherds, they were able to see the Lord’s clothing become as white as the light.

However, if we chose to reject the Lord’s leading for our lives, we are than like the soldiers at the Lord’s crucifixion. We seek to put Him to death, by preventing Him from having any influence in our lives. Instead of rejoicing at His presence, we despise the Lord, mock, and seek to destroy Him. While the Lord hung on the cross, the soldiers took the His clothing for themselves. In this instance, we read of the Lord having two pieces of clothing, a tunic or inner garment and an outer garment. They tore the outer garment into four parts, but the inner garment they left in tact and cast lots for it.

We do the same by rejecting the Lord in our lives. The Lord’s clothing represents Divine truth. The outer garment signifies external truth, while the inner garment signifies spiritual or internal truth. When the outer garment was torn apart, that pictured the tearing apart of the truth that appears externally in the Word. It is taking what we read from the Word and twisting its message around so it says what we want it to say. When we make the Word confirm our prejudices and selfish desires, that is like the soldiers, taking the Lord’s outer garment and tearing it apart whereby it is no longer useful.

Nevertheless, the inner garment was not harmed. No matter how much we may pervert the letter of the Word, we will never be able to destroy the spiritual truths which are within it. It will always be present, giving light about the Lord and a true life of charity. The Word will always be Divine, and the Lord will always be able to give instruction through It. We can never make the Word obsolete. This is because its internal sense will always treat of the Lord Himself, as He genuinely is, and this makes the Word invincible. We can make the Word non-effective for ourselves, but we can never destroy its usefulness for those who are a part of the Lord’s Church on the earth.

However, if we are true disciples of the Lord, we can see the Lord as the shepherds saw Him. The simple yet profound recognition that the Lord is truth itself and has the true teachings about life is the swaddling clothes we can see surround Him. To truly recognize the Lord as the One Who speaks and teaches truth, there must also be the willingness to receive Him. If there is not the desire to learn from the Lord, how we are to live, than there is no room for the Lord in us just as there was no room for Him in the inn. But if we are willing to learn, than from shepherds we also become His disciples whereby the swaddling clothing becomes brighter and more beautiful to look upon. As the Lord’s Divinity becomes clearer to us, the more we will rejoice in the life and the happiness it produces for ourselves and for others. And we will return to our everyday responsibilities with a new and more joyful outlook about our lives. Just as the shepherds returned to their sheep more joyful, so will we return to our occupations and responsibilities with a more optimistic and peaceful attitude. And we will be like the shepherds, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Lk. 2:20) AMEN.

ZACHARIAS

ZACHARIAS

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M. ChapinCharlotte, North CarolinaDecember 3, 1995

 

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (LK 1:76-79)

The birth of John the Baptist is a very significant part of the Christmas story. In fact, the Gospel of Luke gives just as much attention to the birth of John the Baptist as it does to the birth of the Lord. It is even interwoven in the treatment of the birth of Christ. Years later, when both were active in their ministries, we can see that before the Lord could minister among the people, John the Baptist had to preach first. John the Baptist being born before the Lord illustrates that the Lord could not teach before John preached his message of repentance. Hence, the great importance of the birth of John the Baptist and of his ministry.

One of the main characters in the birth of John the Baptist is Zacharias, his father. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were devout in following the Old Testament Law. In fact, Zacharias was a priest. However, they were old and childless. They were now resigned to the fact that they would never have children.

Many times in our lives, we face seemingly impossible situations. This is especially true when we are combating our faults, or there are past heartaches that have caused us great pain. At times, there may be the great appearance that we will always be oppressed with the emotional scars from the memories of the past or failures in overcoming our bad habits. Like Zacharias, we may resign ourselves that we will never be able to get what we desire. Zacharias faithfully worshiped the Lord, but so long as he believed that there were things the Lord could not deliver, his worship was not full or complete. Likewise, if there are aspects in our lives that we conclude that even the Lord Himself can not heal or overcome, our worship will be lacking. We would do well to reflect upon Zacharias, when we are confronted with situations that gives a strong appearance of impossibility.

An angel came to Zacharias and told him the wonderful news that he and his wife would have their lifelong dream come true. They would have a son who would accomplish wonderful things, and be instrumental in the Lord’s ministry. Because Zacharias had the resignation that he would remain childless, he could not respond with joy nor accept this wonderful news. Instead, he reacted with doubt and skepticism. Such is the tragedy of having an attitude of doubt and hopelessness. If such is the case, when our deliverance comes, we are blind to see it or accept it.

The situation of Zacharias and Elizabeth is strikingly similar to Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament. They too were childless in their old age, when they had Isaac. Zacharias, being a priest, was quite familiar with this story. He should have known that what happened to Abraham could happen to him also. Yet, Zacharias felt that while healing may come to others, his needs would not and could not be filled. Likewise, we may know passages in the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings for the New Church which speaks of the Lord’s infinite power and that all things are possible for Him. Yet, when it comes to our own particular problems and dilemmas, we have the resignation that we are hopelessly lost. We must develop the heart felt belief that there is no problem the Lord can not deal with, especially our personal problems and afflictions.

Zacharias did eventually have a belief that contained more confidence that the Lord could resolve his troubles. He had a stronger faith by going through a period where he was mute. While he could not talk, he had the opportunity to do more reflecting and listening. While he was mute, he could see that his wife would indeed bear a child. For us to develop an effective confidence that the Lord can deliver us, we must go through a period of reflection of how His Word can be applied to our particular situations. We must silence our skepticism. We must be quite and allow the Lord’s ways to become more and more manifest before us.

When John the Baptist was actually born and circumcised, Zacharias was able to speak again. Now, there was no doubt in his mind that he was going to have a son, and he even fully recognized that this son would make a great contribution in preparing the people for the teachings of the Lord. And when Zacharias was able to speak, he immediately praised God and gave a powerful and confident prophecy concerning the purpose of his son’s ministry. When we compare Zacharias after John’s birth to what he was like before, we can see that his ignorance and skepticism was replaced with wisdom. He came from a state of silence to a state of beautifully articulating the promise that would be fulfilled by both John and the Lord. And Zacharias certainly felt great joy not only because at long last he finally received a child, but also because he knew that the ministry of his son would lead directly to the establishment of the Lord’s promised kingdom upon the earth.

We too enter into a state of spiritual wisdom when we seek to become conjoined with the Lord. When the Lord directs our lives, we will see what the priorities in us should be; what we should consider important, and what is of less value. Spiritual wisdom is knowing how to apply spiritual truths to life. When we have the proper perspective of life, we are spiritually wise. And when we have the correct ordering of loves in our lives, we are then said to be blessed by the Lord. This is taught in the Arcana Coelestia:

 

They who (confess and acknowledge the Lord from the heart) cannot but be blessed by the Lord, that is, be gifted with those things which belong to blessing, namely, with celestial, spiritual, natural, worldly, and corporeal good; these, when they follow each other in this order, are the goods in which there is happiness. (AC 1422)

The only way we can be genuinely happy from the Lord is to become spiritually wise. All we have to do to attain such wisdom is to obey the Word. The Word teaches us how we can allow the Lord to properly order our loves so we will focus on those things that will last to eternity. When our priorities are properly ordered, we will have a steadfast confidence that the Lord can overcome our troubles and enable us to accomplish great things for His Church and His Kingdom in the heavens. If our loves are in the right place, we will praise the Lord like Zacharias did when he rejoiced more for the ministry of his son than for his birth.

John’s ministry was to preach repentance. When the people were willing to change their ways, the Lord was able to appear and preach salvation. (TCR 688-691) The same is true for us. The only way we can allow the Lord to make a personal advent into each one of our lives is through repentance. Only when we are willing to change, and allow the Lord to create us into a new person, can the Lord bring salvation to us. Repentance brings about a spiritual confidence in the Lord. And we repent simply by refusing to indulge in the things that we know are against the Lord’s Word. When this happens, we are prepared to receive the Lord’s direction into our lives. Wherever the Lord is received, there is everlasting peace. We will love our neighbor and truly delight in things that benefit him or her. This peace comes when we strive to learn the truths of the Word with the intent to do genuine uses.

If we should go around this room, everyone of us could reveal personal challenges that appear to be impossible to be removed or resolved. It may be a tragedy in the past that still effects us. It may be some disappointment in which some aspects of our lives are not working out as we had originally hoped. Or it may be some character flaw or habit that we know is wrong, but we can not seem to remove it from our lives. We are dealing with it just as much today as we ever did in the past. There does not seem to be signs of improvement or advancement. During this Christmas season, when we are reminded of the Lord’s birth upon the earth, we have the opportunity to call to mind that the Lord can overcome any affliction that we will ever encounter, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual. Our celebration of the Lord’s birth can be most precious, if we sincerely believe that He can overcome any affliction, no matter how prominent. This Advent season can increase our confidence in these words of the Lord spoken to his disciples on who can be saved, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (MT 19:26)

LORD’S TRANSFIGURATION

LORD’S TRANSFIGURATION

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinNovember 12, 1995

 

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

P> Many times, as we try to live a life of charity by obeying the Lord’s teachings , it seems as if we are fighting against a powerful current. The life we are trying to lead constantly appears to be at odds with the popular trends and attitudes that are accepted by the majority in the world. At other times, it is difficult to withhold ourselves from pleasures that we know are wrong but many enjoy so freely. It is hard to go up against popular beliefs and practices, even when we know they are wrong.

However, at other times, there are the precious moments when we have a vivid sense of the Lord’s presence within us. The Lord is especially close to us when we do what He teaches. Our lives are productive and fulfilling when we obey the Lord’s Word with sincerity and humility. Then, we are eager to learn more of what the Lord would have us do. We fulfill in our lives what the Psalmist wrote with the words from our first lesson: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” (PS 25:3&4)

We will also have a vivid appreciation that the Lord’s ways can produce the most gratifying joy that we can possibly have. We may have a deep and profound awareness of the Lord’s presence and guidance within us when we find delight and satisfaction in our marriages. It may come as we enjoy our children, and feel a sense of elation in the uses of being a parent. It comes when we find contentment with what we have and do not grieve over the things that we do not have. It also comes when we find delight in the church and recognize its value, and rejoice in what we can do for it. During these precious moments, the Lord’s Divinity is clearly seen whereby we can comprehend the Lord as a God of love. Such a vision of the Lord is pictured by His transfiguration before Peter, James, and John.

When the Lord took these disciples up the mountain, His face suddenly shone like the sun. When we have a sense of the Lord’s love, His face is shinning within us. We have an awareness of His never-ending mercy and of His infinite love towards us. It is a common belief in many faiths today that the Lord is to be a complete mystery, and that we can never understand His ways or His being. True, we as finite beings will never grasp the Lord’s infinite love and wisdom in its entirety. But we are created to understand that the Lord is pure love and has infinite wisdom. The Lord once said, “Come learn of Me, that I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest in Your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (REF) We do not need to worship a wrathful God, ready to judge us, incapable of looking favorable upon us. Instead, we can have the complete assurance that the Lord is a God of unending mercy, forgiving us even before we ask for forgiveness. When we have a personal sensation of the Lord’s Divine love, we are seeing His face shinning like the sun.

Also, His garments were white as the light. When we recognize the sense or the value of the Lord’s teachings, we are seeing the Divine good in the truth that He reveals to us. We have the complete confidence that the Lord knows how to make our lives the most productive and satisfying. Regardless of the trouble we may be in, the Lord knows how to deliver us, because of His infinite wisdom. When we have a sincere awareness that there is no problem that the Lord can not solve, and that His commandments lead to the most wonderful life we can live, His garments becomes as white as the light before us.

Moses and Elijah were then seen speaking with the Lord. Moses and Elijah refer to the Word, which the Lord has revealed to us. In order for us to truly see the Lord as a God of infinite love and wisdom, we must regard the Word as the final authority of what is good and true. It is virtually impossible to recognize the Lord as He truly is, if there is not the complete acknowledgment that the Word is the Lord’s revelation of truth to mankind, and a complete devotion to follow Its precepts. When we are willing to hear the Lord speak to us in His Word, the Lord will make His ways known to us. And this is done when we have as the highest priority in our lives the compliance to the Word.

Peter then said, that it was good to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for the Lord. In Luke’s account of this incident, it said that Peter did not know what he was saying. Peter’s concept was that the Lord was equal to Moses and Elijah. The trouble with what Peter suggested was that he wanted three tabernacles, he should have only wanted one. For us to have a personal perception of the Lord’s presence, we must not have anything or anybody equal with Him. When we regard other things as of equal importance as applying the Lord’s Word to our lives, we are prevented from seeing the Lord’s true nature.

We see this in the story of the young lawyer who asked the Lord what he must do to be saved. He was a religious man who devoted His life to obey the law of Moses. When the Lord eventually told Him to sell his riches and follow Him, the young lawyer could not do it. As a result, he could not experience the realizations that the Lord is God and His love can create life.

After Peter made his suggestion, a voice came and a bright cloud overshadowed the three disciples. The voice said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The cloud represents what we read from the Word. When we read the Word with a heartfelt acknowledgment that the Lord is God and with a devotion to apply His teachings to our lives, a voice will be speaking to us, telling us and confirming to us that the Lord is the one true God of heaven and earth.

The disciples were afraid when they heard the voice and were surrounded by the cloud. When we have a sense of the Lord’s Divinity presented in His Word, we may very well be in a state of fear. As we see the Lord’s Divinity shinning before us, it will expose our shortcomings and impurities that are within us. Just as Peter, James, and John were afraid of the surrounding events, we are afraid of the Lord’s surrounding presence. We may feel a strong sense of unworthiness to be in the presence of the Lord, that we can not abide in His company.

However, thankfully, we are told that the Lord came to His disciples and touched them. When the Lord touches us, we are assured that the Lord sees us differently than we see ourselves. We sense His forgiveness. We have a recognition that He always regards us for the good that we can potentially accomplish, not for what we may have done in the past, nor even what we may be like in the present. We too can look at ourselves for what we can accomplish, and see the good and the value we can make when the disorders in our lives are laid to rest.

The Lord then gave His disciples a rather surprising command. He told them not to tell the vision to anyone. If we think about it, if the disciples would have told others what they saw immediately after they came down from the mountain, there would have been a great deal of pride in their report. The motivation for what they saw would have been regarding themselves as special for being selected in seeing this wondrous event. They were to take the time to ensure that when they did reveal what they experienced, it was for the sake of others, not their own reputation. We are to take the extra step not to reveal the deeper insights that we may come to know for our own self honor and glory. We must make sure that when we relate our deeper understanding of the Lord and the life we are to live, that we do so for the benefit it can provide for others, not merely to put ourselves on a higher pedestal.

Also, the disciples were not to tell the vision because the people were not ready to hear about it. They were not able to grasp that the Lord could be Jehovah God Himself. It was not until after the Lord’s resurrection that they were able to hear this message. Likewise, we must strive to tell others deeper perspectives of truth only when they are ready for it. We must make the attempt to provide others with the instruction that they are equipped to handle. At times, we may have an enlightened understanding of truth that could very much excite us. However, we must seek to tell it only when it will help our neighbor, not strictly for our own benefit.

As we put forth the effort to allow the Lord to direct our lives, we will experience times of elevation when we are upon a high mountain. We feel as if we are above the problems and the disorders that exist around us. It is during these times of elevation that we can have a deeper awareness of the Lord’s true nature: as a loving God Who can do great things in us when we receive Him. It is during these times that we may wish not to come down the mountain. However, as our text points out, we are not to be separated from the world. We are to be a part of the world as we strive to live a life that is based upon the principles in the Lord’s Word. We are to live a heavenly life while we are in the world. These moments of enlightenment can inspire and encourage us to remain in this effort. As we put away the disorders from our lives, we will have greater visions of the Lord as a merciful God Who loves us with His entire Being. And it is then, we have a deep confidence in these words from the Psalms: “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.”

JOSEPH’S COAT OF MANY COLORS

JOSEPH’S COAT OF MANY COLORS

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M. ChapinOctober 8, 1995

 

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. (Gen. 37:3&4)

 

When we make the effort to live a good life, we will face persecutions. Other people may openly ridicule us or be offended, when we try to do what is right. They may misinterpret our motives. They may also be upset that their way of living is not as convenient for them, because of our efforts to be honest and charitable. Our life of charity will expose, to a certain extent, the true nature of their wickedness. This will result in having resentment and bitterness towards us. And they will constantly be reminded that their way of life will end in a total waste. And this continual reminder will diminish their enjoyments. Our efforts to become a true disciple of the Lord may very well cost friendships and create bitter enemies towards us.

However, in reality, the majority of our persecutions actually will come within ourselves. We are told in the Writings for the New Church, that when we choose consistently to do what is good, evil spirits will burn with an intense hatred towards us. They will resent us, because they can not control us. Every time we choose to do something wrong or disorderly, we provide the bases for the evil spirits to indulge in their affections. Conversely, when we choose what is good, the pleasures of their lusts is dampened.

Specifically, they attack us by stirring up or arousing our selfish tendencies and attitudes. We all have dispositions, from our heredity, where we only regard ourselves and use others for our own benefit. Therefore, when evil spirits fight to remain in control of our lives, they come within the selfish desires that reject the paths that lead to heaven. Therefore, we are fighting evil spirits when we fight against our bad habits and loves. Fortunately, the life of Joseph can teach us how we can endure the persecutions that the evil will wage against us, and how we can have the eventual victory in the end.

First, Joseph brought to Jacob, his father, a critical report against his brothers. When we consistently seek to learn and apply what is true, we will recognize both the evil that surrounds us and that which is within us. We are plainly told, in the Heavenly Doctrines, that we can only recognize what is evil by knowing and accepting what is true. If we do not apply what is true to our lives, we will not be able to identify what is evil and false. So long as we justify a selfish life, we are unable to make sound judgements as to what is genuinely proper. One of the consequences of falsities is they make the truth cloudy. They prevent the truth from being seen in a clear light. So long as the truth is vague, our ability to distinguish good and evil is not as sharp. This is why when truth is plainly seen, evil reacts with hatred. It can not conceal itself as much as it once did.

Joseph represents the ability to recognize evil. And because his brothers were no longer able to enjoy their irresponsible conduct, they were bitter towards Joseph when he told Jacob of their improper actions. When we are confronted with the truth, it will expose our selfish tendencies. These tendencies react with aggression to remove the truth so we can continue to live a life of sensual pleasures.

We are told that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. The special relationship between Jacob and Joseph represents the conjunction between our spiritual desire to do good and our natural desire to do good. Most people want to live a decent moral life. However many want to live a proper life to avoid punishment, or to be regarded as an honest and upstanding person, so they may receive benefits and praise. Many have a desire to live a moral life strictly for the sake of self. There is very little consideration towards how one’s actions will effect others.

We must be reminded that there is nothing wrong in wanting to avoid punishment or striving to have a solid reputation. But if we are to spiritually grow, such desires must become more chaste. This is done when spiritual principles motivate our life of morality. Our regard for our personal reception of the Lord and our effect upon others will have the predominant influence over the way we live. This spirituality that is within our morality is pictured by the close bond between Jacob and Joseph.

Because Joseph was so special to Jacob, he made for Joseph a coat, or tunic, of many colors. This beautiful coat distinguished Joseph from the rest of his brothers. Therefore, this coat was a constant symbol that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite. Therefore, this coat was the instigator of Joseph’s persecution. Because of the coat, the brothers hated Joseph and held him in contempt.

This special coat pictures spiritual truth becoming manifest by the conduct of our lives. We are displaying the Lord’s truth in diverse ways. The various colors picture the endless variety of ways we show the Lord’s love towards others. We know how to be supportive, how to teach, when and how we should offer meaningful help, and even how we can charitably rebuke or chastise another that is appropriate and leads to a greater good.

Joseph then had his dreams. He dreamt that the brother’s sheaves bowed down to his sheaves, and the brother’s stars, along with the sun and moon, bowed down to his star. These dreams illustrated our ability to recognize ourselves being in control over selfish and destructive affections. We can imagine our selves having power over our tendencies to love ourselves alone and use others for our own advantage. For example, if we have a problem in controlling our temper, we can picture ourselves being able to keep our temper under control and not lashing out at others. An alcoholic can picture himself or herself rising above the bondage of drinking and living a life free from alcohol. If we enjoy indulging in thoughts and desires that are lewd, we can imagine ourselves free from such influences. We can visualize ourselves enjoying things that are pure and wholesome. When we live according to what we know to be true, we have the ability to view ourselves as being free from the thoughts, affections, and delights that we are fighting against in the present.

Of course the brothers were even more upset with Joseph when he told them of his dreams. When disorderly affections that are within us notice that we have an image of ourselves that rules over sensual desires, they will burn with an intense hatred towards that vision. They will take our coat from us. They will take away our clear understanding of how we are to personally worship the Lord and serve our neighbor, and put us in a state of confusion and despair. They will do this by mingling our understanding of truth with the falsities that justifies a sensual life, which is represented by the coat being dipped in blood.

Yet, the brothers did not destroy the coat. When we read about Joseph’s coat, we are reminded of the Lord’s garments during His crucifixion. While He was crucified, the soldiers took his outer garment and ripped it apart, but the inner garment was left intact, and they cast lots for it. Likewise, Joseph’s coat was not split apart. Our understanding of truth can be attacked and acts of violence can even be done to it, but our spiritual enemies can never destroy it. And when we remain committed to truth, even during times of confusion and doubt, we will be stronger and more enlightened in the end.

How did Joseph overcome his persecutions and temptations? He remained faithful in complying with what is right, and he endured all the afflictions that were dealt towards him. He never wavered in doing the best he could despite his situations. And by remaining faithful towards what is good, he distinguished himself as a person who could be trusted and able to perform services. He did not focus upon his slavery, false accusations, nor his imprisonment. He focused upon what he could do, and this attitude eventually rose him to a position of great power.

We must endure times of spiritual bondage, false accusations, and imprisonments before our spiritual dreams becomes a reality. It is by going through these difficult states of life that our selfish tendencies are removed from us. And we are assured that eventually we will reach a state where we will rule over our selfish allurements.

We must face some form of persecutions if we are to grow spiritually. Yet, the Lord does not allow anything to happen that is not capable of benefiting us spiritually, and this includes the temptations and the persecutions that we are required to go through. Only by enduring these attacks can we become a strong and effective disciple of the Lord. Only by fighting against our corrupt desires and pleasures can they be removed from us. We will feel the loneliness of Joseph in the deep and dark pit. We will feel his bondage and the oppression of his slavery. And we will sense his disillusionment when there is the appearance of being imprisoned for making the effort to do what is right. Yet, these troubling times will actually be opportunities to grow in the appreciation, commitment, and understanding of a life of devotion to the Lord’s teachings. As we endure these difficult times, we are allowing the Lord to prepare us to make a meaningful contribution towards the kingdom He is continually establishing in heaven and upon the earth. When we think about it, each one of Joseph’s difficulties were steps towards becoming an absolute ruler. Without any of these incidents, he never would have been placed in the position of authority. When we sense times of loneliness and bondage towards our depraved loves, we should remember the life of Joseph. If we remain faithful to what we know is true, we will eventually rule over our base desires and enter into the peace that the Lord provides. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Mt. 5:10)

VICTORY IN TEMPTATIONS

VICTORY IN TEMPTATIONS

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M. ChapinSeptember 17, 1995Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Mt 4:1)

Everyone, who makes the effort to live a life of charity, will experience struggles. Such a life does not come automatically to us. A life that puts other people’s interests above our own is completely opposite to what we are inclined to do. Many times, while we are in the process of turning from our natural inclinations to a life of devotion to the Lord, intense conflicts are fought within us. At times it requires a great deal of energy and determination to remain faithful to what the Word teaches us. Sometimes the attraction to what is evil is very strong and powerful. Other times, compliance with the Word may appear to produce ill effects and not resolve our troubles. And there may be incidents where we may be in so much confusion and doubt, that what the Word teaches us does not seem to address our individual problems. It is during these times that compliance with the Word becomes most difficult and troubling.

The Lord Himself was very familiar with these struggles while He was on the earth. In fact, no one will ever experience the degree of temptations that the Lord had to deal with. They were much more intense than we could ever imagine. From our lesson in the Psalms, we can get a idea of the anguish the Lord was in, when we read: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?” (Ps. 22:1).

Even though our struggles are not as intense as the Lord’s, yet there are definite parallels with what the Lord suffered and what we must endure and overcome, if we are to be a true disciple of the Lord. Also, we are to use the same principles as the Lord did, when He conquered the evil spirits, who attacked Him.

In the Psalms, we read of the despair that the Lord was in while He was in temptations. However, in the Gospels, we are taught the basics of how the Lord was able to have victory over each temptation that He was afflicted with. This is brought out in our lesson from Luke which treats of the Lord’s temptations in the wilderness. As we reflect upon the Lord’s temptations, they can give us guidelines in what we are to watch out for and how we can have the victory in the end.

The Lord’s temptations came after He was baptized. The Lord’s baptism ushered in the period of His public ministry. Prior to this time, the Lord was not publicly known. He was quietly being prepared for His mission upon the earth. After His baptism, He was now ready to publicly teach and display the love and wisdom that comes from God.

The Lord’s baptism can picture our commitment of living a life that seeks to be led by the Lord’s love. We are making the effort to apply the teachings of the Word in our lives. When we put forth this effort, we strive to make known the Lord’s commandments to others by the manner in which we live. When we make such an effort, the Lord becomes visible in us, just as He was more visible after His baptism.

It is interesting that immediately after the Lord’s baptism, He was led into the wilderness to be tempted. It will become inevitable that when we make the effort to live a different life than we are inclined to live, temptations will come. Temptations are unavoidable if we are to make serious changes in our lives. Notice that it specifically states that the Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Each temptation that the Lord fought was designed to have His Humanity more in conjunction with His Divinity.

Likewise, each temptation that we are in is designed to make us into a stronger spiritual person. The Lord does not allow any spiritual battle to happen just for the sake of our suffering. Each conflict is permitted so when we have victory, the Lord is more conjoined with us as the end result. And from this closer relationship, we are better able to be a shinning example of the Lord’s life before others.

As the Lord was in the depth of these spiritual struggles, He was said to be hungry. During this time, the Lord was in confusion, disenchantment, doubt, and despair. We certainly can relate to these sensations when we find it difficult to continue to live the life we are to live from the Word. Yet, our hunger is totally unique from every one else. No one will ever face the same struggles as we will. It is by facing unique battles that we are able to perform a unique use in the Lord’s kingdom.

While the Lord was in this despair, He was tempted to do these three things. Turn the stones into bread, fall from the pinnacle of the temple, and worship the devil upon a high mountain. Each one of these allurements sheds light upon what we are to be on guard against. Despite our unique and personal struggles, they all encompass one of these three temptations that we are to overcome.

The three avenues we are to be on guard against: First, to justify or excuse what is wrong and violates the Lord’s Word. This is represented by changing the stones into bread. Second, to force or impose our own will upon any situation. This is pictured by the Lord throwing Himself from the temple. Third, to no longer have the Word as our highest source of good, but having a greater trust in our own instincts. This is seen in the offer to worship the devil upon a high mountain. When we allow the Word to shed light upon what we are to be alert against, it becomes far easier to maintain allegiance to the Lord’s teachings regarding life.

First, the Lord was tempted to turn stones into bread. This pictures the justifications or excepting the excuses that allow us to indulge in affections and practices that are simply wrong and disorderly. We can turn what is hard and stony into something that appears nourishing and wholesome. It is natural tendency to want to twist the meaning of the Word and have it say what we want it to say. We are all inclined to have the Word confirm our delights that do not benefit our neighbor nor strengthen the Lord’s kingdom. We must have a conviction to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We can not base our lives upon what merely appears to be good to us. Instead, we must have a trust that the Lord will teach us and provide what is genuinely good and productive.

Second, the Lord was tempted to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. If the Lord would have done this, and survived the fall, He probably would have converted many people. But that would have imposed His will outside of Divine order. The Lord must leave people in freedom and not force salvation upon them. Likewise, we may have an overwhelming surge of passion for something that we feel must be attained, and we may be tempted to impose our concept of good upon others. In other words, we want our own way and we are not sensitive to other peoples feelings or ideas. We must trust in Divine order that leaving people in freedom is the only way true acceptance can remain as a possibility. When we have as our utmost determination not to abandon the steps the Lord has established, we are making the same statement the Lord made, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”.

Third, the Lord was tempted to worship the devil upon a high mountain. Here the Lord was tempted to try to bring salvation to mankind outside of Divine order. Mankind seemed so lost that Divine truth was powerless to save them. Therefore, the Lord was tempted to put His external appearance of good over the internal devotion to remain faithful to His true calling. Likewise we may be tempted to follow our instincts of what needs to be done and not have the Word determine what we are to do. We are to respond as the Lord did, Get behind Me Satan, the Lord your God shall only be served. We must resist any practice or method, regardless of how appealing it may seem, that delineates from complying fully with the Word. We worship the Lord when we treat and regard the Word as the highest authority that determines what is good and how we are to live.

After the Lord was tempted, and had victory over them, angels came to minister to Him. This describes the state of peace that comes when the storms of attack are over. As we read in our lessons from the Writings for the New Church, peace is referred to as having as inmost friendship, full confidence, and a desire to do good. This personal perception can be strengthened when we emerge victorious from times of temptation. This peace can also give us a clearer light as to what the Lord would have us do, and a firmer resolve to live a life that truly worships the Lord and gives genuine help towards our neighbor. This state of rest is a personal and intimate awareness of the presence of the Lord being active within us. It is this heavenly peace that the Lord brings to us through angels who comfort and minister to us.

However, the devil departed only for a time, then he returned. Likewise, we must go through difficult states over and over again, if we are to allow the Lord to continually perfect us. It is important to understand that the devil refers to our natural inclinations that we must all fight against. We are really fighting against ourselves. When we are under attack from evil spirits, they are really using the loves that are lodged within us. Our selfish loves and delights are the weapons that are used against us. The only way they can be removed is by making the deliberate choice not to indulge in them when it would be so convenient to do so. When they are so removed, the Lord replaces them with loves and delights that look for the good that all can share and benefit from, not just ourselves. This delight will be far more enjoyable than that which only pleases ourselves. The peace the Lord offers to us is content with what we have and has the full confidence that we are safe in the Lord’s omnipotent hands. It is then we have complete assurance in these words. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)

WAITING ON THE LORD

WAITING ON THE LORD

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 25, 1995

 

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. (PS 130:5)

Patience is one of the most challenging disciplines to develop. When we desire something, we want to enjoy it now. In fact, the more we value an object or an achievement, the more impatient we tend to be if we do not have it. It is not easy to simply wait to obtain or possess the objects or goals that we yearn for.

Not only is it difficult to wait for things we presently do not have, we are especially anxious for our personal trials to end. We can easily identify with the story of the Israelites which we read in our lesson from the Second book of Kings. The Israelites were surrounded by the Syrians in a city in Samaria. A famine soon gripped the Israelites who were within the city walls. Finally, hunger had arisen to such a height that the king heard of a woman who boiled her son and ate him. When the king heard this, he said, “Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (II Kings 6:33) Things appeared hopeless at this point. But Elisha, the prophet, promised that the following day the Syrians would flee away, and the cost of food would return to its normal price.

There are events or disturbing things that enter our lives that can bring about a sense of hopelessness. Like the king of Israel, we may wonder why we should wait for the Lord. We are strongly tempted to take matters into our own hands and do what appears to be right in our own eyes. We are no longer concerned if our approach is consistent with the Lord’s Word.

The expectation for immediate results is especially perpetuated by the instant gratification philosophy within our modern day culture. We are living in an age where we want conclusions without delay. The more we want instant gratification, the more we are frustrated when our physical or spiritual infirmities are not swiftly healed.

The Writings for the New Church is clear that spiritual growth is a long and gradual process. It is not instantaneous. We will have to deal with corrupt affections and delights that will not immediately go away. There will be many adversities that we want resolved, but they seem to linger with us, with no visible signs of their removal or correction. Despite all our attempts, the problem remains just as strong as at the beginning. There may be bad habits or a sicknesses that we can not break free from. It is while we are dealing with these difficulties that we must cope with a sense of hopelessness that we will never be free from our troubles. There may even develop a significant doubt that the attitude that the Lord teaches us will not work for our own set of circumstances.

The Word does refer to waiting on the Lord many times. The words of our text is one of many places in the Psalms that speaks about waiting for the Lord. We must wait with an assured confidence that eventually the Lord will deliver us from our troubles. Certainly, the Psalm, in which this passage is taken, speaks of being in a great deal of affliction, yet, maintaining the hope that allows us to remain receptive of the Lord’s guidance. The Hebrew word for “wait” implies an expectation. We are to wait upon the Lord, not with an attitude of a gamble that things will be cured, but with the expectation that He will come and deliver us. Just as the Israelites had the assurance from Elisha that their troubles would end, we must have the same confidence in the Lord’s wisdom and love that He will conquer our troubles. The Lord will bring the greatest possible good from any troubling situation. If this is the attitude we have, it will become far easier to maintain our allegiance to the teachings that the Lord set forth in the Word.

In the short Psalm, from which our text was taken, we read of four components that will allow us to remain steadfast in the Lord’s teachings. First, there must be a genuine desire of being united with the Lord, whereby the Lord can hear our supplications. Second, there must be repentance. We must have the acknowledgement that our deliverance is solely of the Lord’s mercy, not from our own power. Third, we must have a desire for the Lord’s guidance. The goals and direction that we have are designed to bring forth a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love and power. And fourth, we must have the expectation that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come.

First, we must genuinely desire that we have a personal bond with the Lord. The most fundamental desire that we should have is to be united with the Lord. This desire becomes the inspiration to remain faithful to the Lord’s teachings in His Word. At times of temptations, our commitment to comply with the Word is attacked and may appear to become weakened. However, there must always be the firm resolve that regardless the troubles we are called upon to face, we will always have the devotion to apply the Word in all aspects of our lives. No matter what we are called upon to face, we will never abandon our desire to obey the Word. When we do have a personal bond with the Lord that is unshakable and unwavering, we will have the joy and the assurance that we can present our supplications before Him. Like the Psalmist, we cry these words when we are in the depths of despair, “Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” We know that the Lord is with us, fully aware of what we are going through, and supplying us our daily bread to effectively endure and eventually overcome the difficulties that we must face.

Second, we must have repentance. This not only speaks of times when we do fail and stray from following the Lord’s teachings, but also speaks of our constant attitude that without the Lord’s active presence, we would indeed be hopelessly lost. We agree with the words of the Psalm, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (PS 130:3&4) This confession is heartfelt and without doubt. When we lay our afflictions before the Lord with a repentant heart, we are sincerely acknowledging that our deliverance is only from Him. If we have an active repentance within us, we will never abandon our effort to apply the Lord’s Word in all areas of our lives.

Third, we are constantly open and receptive of the Lord’s guidance in our lives. This means that the vision we have for what we would like to become and what we would like to have happen, involves a greater visibility of the Lord’s mercy and power. In other words, we want deliverance not just so we are more comfortable, but that our deliverance will bring a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love to everyone. We want release from our afflictions so we are better able to share the life of heaven with others.

And fourth, we have the expectation that the Lord will bring the greatest possible good. There is nothing that ever happens that the Lord, in His providence, can not bring some positive result from it. We must have this unshakable trust that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come, and some good will come from it. These words to Israel can have a personal meaning to us, “O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (PS 130:7&8)

Conversely, we are taught of improper ways of waiting that can bring ill effects upon ourselves and upon others. Sometimes we can wait for the perfect time and opportunity to inflict some harm on someone else. We can be very patient, while we plot and plan revenge upon our enemy. It is not difficult to wait for the opportune moment to exercise our wrath upon our opponent.

Also, we can be disorderly patient with a false belief. For example, there may be a mystery or some aspect in our doctrinal beliefs that we are willing to accept and tolerate. We are willing to maintain the belief, even though it may lead to contradictions and irrational conclusions. The doctrine that the Trinity consists of three separate Persons is one example of such an occurrence. Many sincere and devout Christians are patient with the doctrine of three separate Persons and are willing to hold to the belief and wait until they can understand it after they leave this world. However, we are to pursue a study of doctrine that we can understand and apply to life. If any aspect of our doctrinal beliefs are contradictory or does not make sense, we are to prayerfully make the effort to resolve the issue, through study and reflection. We are meant to know and apply the fundamental beliefs of an angelic life, while we are living in the natural world.

Also, patience can be a disorder when we merely hang our hands down and await influx from the Lord. This is not taking an active part in trying to deal with our challenges. This is one of the dangers of faith-alone. If we have the attitude that the Lord can bring our salvation, regardless of the manner of our lives, it can discourage us from taking an active role in co-operating with the Lord in our spiritual growth. The Writings make clear that it is of order that we make an effort to deal with our problems as best as we can, yet always acknowledge that our victory and accomplishments are from the Lord.

When we properly wait upon the Lord, we will receive heavenly blessings that we can sense, even if our problems remain with us. We wait upon the Lord simply by keeping the Lord’s commandments. This involves trying to deal with our problems that is consistent with the Lord’s Word. If we do this, we will be taught, on a continual bases, more and more truths and their applications in life. We will have a greater depth of awareness of our quality of life. Especially by exercising patience during times of temptations, we will have a greater understanding of ourselves and the use that we are best able to perform. Also, we will be in a continual hope towards the Lord. There will always underlie within us an assurance that the Lord will raise us up from our oppression. When we obey the Lord’s commandments, that ability to obey is from the Lord in us. This will give us the ability not to be swayed from the course we are taking despite the successes that the wicked are enjoying.

When we are able to effectively wait upon the Lord, there will be significant results. We will have a positive impression upon others. Other people will see the strength and contentment as we patiently wait for the Lord’s coming and guidance. This could very well leave a meaningful impression upon them. Also, Our strength will be renewed. At times, the Lord appears to be hiding (though in reality He never does) so that we can be stronger in the end. By becoming stronger, we can increase our understanding of truth and have a deeper resolve to fulfill the Lord’s teachings. Also, anxiety about the future will be lessened. As we read in our lesson from the Arcana Coelestia, when we have a confidence in the Lord’s providence, regardless of what we must deal with, there will be an underlying assurance that there is nothing that is beyond the Lord’s control. This confidence will enable us to endure our challenges and not be anxious about them. And our freedom will be protected. While we wait, we will always have the opportunity to abandon the Lord’s commandments. But when we choose to remain faithful to the Lord’s instructions, we will enter into a greater state of freedom whereby we will think about the Lord and abstain from evil practices and delights. Therefore, let us place our full confidence in the Lord’s providence and mercy. If we do, we will experience joys and the assurance that no matter what disorders we are confronted with, we are safe in the Lord’s loving hands. It is then we can say these words with a personal conviction, “The Lord shall preserve [our] going out and [our] coming in form this time forth and even forevermore.” (PS 121:8)