A Sermon by Rev. Terry Schnarr
August 11, 1997 (Cataloged)
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb … And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1,2).
“`The leaves of the tree [which] are for the healing of the nations’ are the rational truths [from the Lord with a person], by which those people who are in evils and thence in falsities are led to think soundly, and to live becomingly … [Furthermore], those people who are in evils and thence in falsities cannot be healed by the Word, because they do not read it. But if they have sound judgment they can be healed by rational truths … Rational truths are those which more closely [proximately] receive spiritual truths, for the rational of a person is the first receptacle of spiritual truths” (AR 936).
What is evangelization? “Evangelization is annunciation concerning the Lord, His Advent, and concerning the things which are from Him, which belong to salvation and eternal life” (AC 9925:2). “By `declaring’ [evangelizing] is signified to announce the Lord’s advent and His kingdom” (AR 478).
The first two verses of chapter 22 of the book of Revelation describe the intelligence of the people of the Lord’s New Church, intelligence which is from Divine truths. We are invited by the Lord to enter into this intelligence, to see with the eyes of our understanding the river of water of life. “The Apocalypse [book of Revelation] is now opened and explained as to its spiritual sense. Now, Divine truths in abundance are revealed by the Lord, for those people who will be in His New Church, which is the New Jerusalem” (AR 932).
We are commanded to share this intelligence with other people: “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations” (Isaiah 2:3,4).
Jesus said, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19,20). “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19), which we are taught in the Apocalypse Explained means “to gather people into the church” (AE 513:15).
Concerning “the annunciation of the Lord’s Advent, and of the New Church about to come down out of heaven from Him,” we read in the Apocalypse Revealed, “It is to be announced to all who from religion are in goods, and from doctrine in truths” (AR 626).
Furthermore, we read, “The principal reason [why the Lord was born on this earth] was for the sake of the Word, in that it could be written on our earth, and when written could then be published throughout the whole earth” (AC 9351). “[The art of writing and publishing] has been provided by the Lord for the sake of the Word. That the Word could afterward be published throughout this whole earth is because here there is an intercourse of all nations, both by overland travel and by navigation to all places on the globe. Therefore the Word once written could be carried from one nation to another, and could be everywhere taught” (AC 9353-6).
The prophesies of the New Jerusalem in the Word tell us what to expect: “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habb. 2:14). “Behold, with the clouds of the heavens one like the Son of man came and even to the Ancient of Days; and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and the kingdom; and all peoples, nations, and languages shall worship Him; His dominion is the dominion of an age, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not perish” (Daniel 7:13,14).
People who are in the New Church, meant by the Holy City New Jerusalem, are in the river of water of life, that is, they are in the stream of Providence, the stream of love and wisdom proceeding from the Lord, which is the Holy Spirit. In the words of the Apocalypse Revealed, “In the inmosts of the truths of doctrine and thence of life in the New Church is the Lord in His Divine love. From Him all the goods flow forth, which people do apparently as of themselves” (AR 933,934).
How this influx affects them is described in the Arcana Coelestia: “The influx which is from the Lord is the good of heavenly love, thus of love toward the neighbor. The Lord is present in this love, for He loves the universal human race, and desires to eternally save every member of it” (AC 6495). Moreover, “whatever inflows from the Lord is an end which regards the salvation of the human race” (AC 4054).
People in the New Jerusalem receive an influx of love toward their neighbors, a love and care for their eternal salvation. When acting from this love, these people experience spiritual growth in their own regeneration in addition to helping their neighbors with their regeneration. When one person extends himself to reach out to help another, they both grow.
“`If you shall draw out your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, your light shall arise in darkness and your thick darkness be as the noonday'” (Isaiah 58:10). This describes charity toward the neighbor, here toward those who are in ignorance but at the same time in a desire to know truths, and in grief on account of the falsities that possess them. It also signifies that with “those people who are in such charity, falsities are dispersed and truths shine and become radiant … Those people have this illustration who from charity or spiritual affection instruct people who are in falsities from ignorance; for such charity is a receptacle of the influx of light or of truth from the Lord” (AE 386:25).
“It is a universal law that influx adjusts itself according to efflux, and if efflux is checked, influx is checked. Through the internal man there is an influx of good and truth from the Lord, and through the external there must be an efflux, namely into the life, that is, in the exercise of charity” (AC 5828:3).
To receive influx from the river of water of life, people need to be in the habit and practice of sharing, communicating good loves and delights, and teaching rational truths from the Word. In a word, there must be efflux through a life of charity from a love for the neighbor. Evangelization is really nothing else than charity, which is a communication of love and wisdom from the Lord, a communication of life.
“To communicate and transfer to another what pertains to oneself, in reference to the Lord, … is to communicate and transfer life such as those have who are in a state of illustration and who see and hear such things as are in heaven” (AE 79).
“When a person feels or perceives in himself that he has good thoughts concerning the neighbor, and desires to perform kind offices for him, not for the sake of any gain or honor for himself, and when he feels that he has pity for anyone who is in trouble, and still more for one who is in error in respect to the doctrine of faith, then he may know that he dwells in the tents of Shem, that is, that he has internal things in him through which the Lord is working” (AC 1102:3).
The Word describes the attitude we need to cultivate along with our love to share the gospel with others: “The stranger that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Lev. 19:34). “[The Lord your God] executes the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loves the stranger, in giving food and clothing. Love you therefore the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18,19).
Some of us, having grown up in the New Church, have never experienced being a stranger in the land of Egypt. Perhaps you can imagine what it would be like not to know the doctrines of the New Church. Wouldn’t you hope that if someone knew those doctrines, he (or she) would try to share them with you? Wouldn’t you hope he would follow the golden rule, doing to others what you would have them do to you?
We need to have an accepting attitude, recognizing that it takes time for people to come to an understanding of doctrine and a life of charity. In the ancient churches, instructing one another in the truths of faith was among their works of charity; “nor were they indignant if one did not accede to the opinion of another, knowing that everyone receives truth in proportion as he is in good” (AC 6628).
An attitude to be avoided in evangelization is doing it for the sake of reward, either personally, financially, or organizationally. We are warned about seeking reward in evangelization in the following passages: “As soon as the thought occurs that a person wills to communicate what he has for the sake of obtaining that influx of blessedness, the influx is dissipated; and still more so if there presents itself any thought about a reward from him to whom he communicates his good” (AC 6478). “Those who do good for the sake of reward do indeed perform uses, and are of service, but are among those in the Lord’s kingdom who are in the lowest place, for they do not dispense the good which is communicated to them, except toward those who can recompense them, and pass by the rest, who need aid the most; or if they do good to these, it is from the end of reward by the Lord … They thus recede from humiliation, and, in the same proportion, from a state of reception of happiness” (AC 6389).
“They who do goods merely from the end of reward cannot possibly know that in doing goods without reward, the happiness is so great that it is heavenly happiness” (AC 6391:2).
A selfish attitude must be shunned. “The love of self reigns with a person, that is, he is in the love of self, when in what he thinks and does he does not regard his neighbor, thus not the public, still less the Lord, but only himself and those who belong to him; consequently when he does all things for the sake of himself and those who belong to him; and if for the sake of the public and his neighbor, it is merely for the sake of appearance … just as when anyone does anything for the sake of his wife, his children, grandchildren, sons-in-law, or daughters-in-law, he does it for the sake of himself because they are his. In like manner one who does anything for the sake of relatives and of friends who favor his love and thereby conjoin themselves with him; for by such conjunction they make one with him, that is, regard themselves in him, and him in themselves … So far as a person is in the love of self, so far he removes himself from heaven, for in heaven there is the love of the neighbor” (AC 7367-69).
We do evangelization for the sake of our neighbors, and by so doing we prepare ourselves for the heavenly life; for “angelic life consists in use, and in the goods of charity; for the angels know no greater happiness than in teaching and instructing the spirits who arrive from the world” (AC 454).
“One can see how great the delight of heaven must be from the fact that it is the delight of everyone in heaven to share his delights and blessing with others” (HH 399). A giving attitude should prevail in evangelization uses according to the words of the Lord, “Freely have you received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8).
What priority should be placed on the uses of evangelization? On the list of priorities given in the Heavenly Doctrines and read as a lesson this morning (TCR 406-416), where the degrees of the neighbor are given their spiritual value, the love of the Lord’s kingdom rates as the highest priority, because “the Lord’s kingdom on earth consists of all those who are in good, who though scattered over the whole earth, are still one, and as members constitute one body … Such is the … Lord’s church on earth” (AC 2853).
The Lord says: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:21-24). The Lord dwells in and works through those people who obey His commandments.
He commands us to evangelize, and asks us to follow Him. What was His example? He “went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23, 9:35). Let us make a commitment to follow the Lord. Let us make a commitment to teach rational truths, preach the gospel, and heal spiritual diseases.
Jesus said to the disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).
Lessons: Mark 6, TCR (selections)
True Christian Religion
Every person individually is the neighbor who is to be loved, but according to the quality of his good (TCR 406).
The collective man, that is, a community smaller or greater, and the composite man formed of communities, that is, one’s country, is the neighbor that is to be loved … Love toward a community is a fuller love to the neighbor than love toward a separate or individual person (TCR 412).
The church is the neighbor who is to be loved in a still higher degree, and the Lord’s kingdom in the highest degree … The church is to be loved as the neighbor in a higher degree because it teaches the means which lead to eternal life and introduces a person into it, leading to it by the truths of doctrine and introducing into it by goods of life … (TCR 415).
The Lord’s kingdom is the neighbor that is to be loved in the highest degree because the Lord’s kingdom means the church throughout the world … He who loves the Lord’s kingdom loves all in the whole world who acknowledge the Lord and have faith in Him and charity toward the neighbor … Those who love the Lord’s kingdom love the Lord above all things, and are consequently in love to God more than others, because the church in the heavens and on earth is the body of the Lord, for those who are in it are in the Lord and the Lord in them (TCR 416).