Three Warnings to the Church

  1.  

    1. A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (MAT 21:13)

  1. There came a time in the Lord’s public ministry when He knew that the time was right to sum it up, or bring it to consummation.
    1. That consummation was to take place in Jerusalem, the physical and spiritual centre of the Jewish Church.
    2. And so, with this in mind, the Lord and His disciples travelled to Jerusalem to begin a week of teaching and confrontation that would bring an end to the life of His physical body and at the same time bring an end to the Jewish Church as His representative of a church on earth.
    3. Today we will look only at the first three things He did, and see the three warnings that He issued to the leaders of that church because those same warnings apply to the spiritual life of every church.
  2. The first warning took the form of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem as a king.
    1. Why is this a warning?
      1. At first He appears to be the kind of saviour that they want – one who will drive the Romans away and let the children of Israel rule over themselves as they did in the glorious days of kings David and Solomon.
      2. That He rode into Jerusalem on a colt was a sign to them that He was coming as a king.
        1. That they put palm branches and garments in the way was a sign to Him that they accepted Him as their Messiah.
          • They cheered because they believed their salvation was at hand – that Jesus was use His amazing powers to confront Herod and drive him from Jerusalem.
    2. What He was really doing was preparing them for teachings about His spiritual kingdom.
      1. Instead of going to the palace to confront Herod, He went instead to the Temple.
        1. Can anyone, looking back on these events from our perspective of history and doctrine, miss the message in this?
        2. The temple was His home, His palace, His throne room.
  3. The second warning came when He entered the Temple:
    1. (Mat 21:12-22) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. {13} And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
      1. This was a judgement on the spiritual quality of the Jewish Church at that time.
        1. The Temple, which should have been the dwelling place of God with them was instead filled with natural things. Instead of being a place of communion with God, a house of prayer and worship, it had become a marketplace, a street bazaar.
    2. Then, having driven the moneychangers out of the temple, He taught them what should have been happening in the temple:
      1. {14} Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. {15} But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant {16} and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”
    3. Why were they indignant? Because by healing the sick and giving comfort, He was showing them what they should have been doing, but were not. So it made them feel guilty.
  4. The third warning in this series came then next morning as Jesus and the disciples return to Jerusalem after spending the night in nearby Bethany:
    1. {17} Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there. {18} Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. {19} And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. {20} And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” {21} So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. {22} “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
      1. Let’s not be distracted by the apparent teaching that if our faith is strong enough we can pray for anything – to heal disease, to win the lottery – and have that prayer answered.
        1. And the apparent corollary to that idea, that if you don’t get what you want, it’s not God’s fault, but just proof that your faith isn’t strong enough yet, that you need to pray harder.
    2. The fig tree is another way to picture the state of the church, here the Jewish Church at the time of the Lord.
      1. When the church (either a church organization, or the church as it exists in each individual) is healthy, it produces good fruit.
        1. The leaves receive the sunlight, turning it into energy which is stored in the fruit.
        2. In the same way, rational truths in our minds receive the Lord’s inflowing life and enable us to do what is good for others.
        3. A healthy church has a true doctrine that leads its members to do many things that are good.
      2. By cursing the fig tree, the Lord was teaching that the Jewish church had the doctrine (leaves) but did not produce good (fruit), so it was going to be replaced by another church that would produce goods.
  5. All three are pictures of the state of the Jewish church at that time and explain why He came when He did to consummate the church and establish a new church. All three are also pictures of the state of each of our minds when we allow the things of self and the world to take dominance over spiritual things.
    1. The Triumphant Entry teaches us that:
      1. There must first be the knowledge and acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is God
    2. The Cleansing of the Temple teaches us that:
      1. False ideas must be replaced by the truth from the Word.
      2. One of the great challenges that face us in our modern culture is the idea that we just need to be “nice” to each other.
        1. In order to be truly nice, in order to have heavenly good given to us by the Lord, we first have to stop doing the evil things we are inclined by our nature to do.
        2. How do we do that? By learning what good and evil are from the Word, then conscientiously avoiding those things we know to be evil.
    3. The Cursing of the Fig Tree teaches us that:
      1. Then, as evils are shunned as sins against God, and the effort is made to do what is good for others, genuine good is implanted by the Lord, and we can become like trees that produce good fruit.
      2. When we have spent a life working on these things, and through practice and perseverance we begin to make some headway, we will be preparing ourselves for a life of eternal usefulness and happiness in some society of heaven. It is there, in heaven, that the Lord’s promise to His disciples (and us) will be fulfilled.
        1. An angel of heaven has the power to move mountains, has the power to drive away all the devils of hell. An angel of heaven has the power and freedom to do anything they want, because they want nothing but what is good and will serve the Lord and the neighbour. What greater power can there be than to be free to do anything at all that you want?

(Mat 21:21-22) So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. {22} “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Amen.

      1. First Lesson: Mat 21:6-22

{6} So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. {7} They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. {8} And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. {9} Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” {10} And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” {11} So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” {12} Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. {13} And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” {14} Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. {15} But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant {16} and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” {17} Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there. {18} Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. {19} And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. {20} And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” {21} So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. {22} “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

      1. Second Lesson: TCR 753 – 754

753. There have been several churches on this earth, and in the course of time they have all been consummated, and after their consummation new churches have arisen, and so on to the present time. The consummation of the church takes place when there is no Divine truth left except what has been falsified or set aside; and when there is no genuine truth no genuine good is possible, since every quality of good is formed by means of truths; for good is the essence of truth, and truth is the form of good, and without form there can be no quality. Good and truth can no more be separated than will and understanding, or what is the same thing, than love’s affection and the thought therefrom. Consequently when truth is consummated in a church, good is also consummated there; and when this takes place, the church comes to an end, that is, is consummated.

754. The church is consummated by various means, especially by such things as cause falsity to appear to be truth; and when falsity appears to be truth, good that is essentially good, such as is called spiritual good, is no longer possible. The good that is then believed to be good is merely natural good, such as is brought forth by a moral life. The chief cause of the consummation of truth and of good along with it, is the two natural loves that are diametrically opposed to the two spiritual loves, and that are called love of self and love of the world. Love of self when it is predominant is the opposite of love to God, and love of the world when it is predominant is the opposite of love to the neighbour. Love of self is a wishing well to oneself alone, and not to any other except for the sake of self; and the same is true of love of the world; and these loves when they are fostered spread like gangrene through the body, gradually destroying every part of it.

Balaam and Balak

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A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: {17} “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. (NUM 24:16-17)

  1. Sometime around 1300 BC in the land of Moab (the desert land to the east of the Dead Sea) a typical city would have a defensive wall, contain a few hundred mud-brick houses, and have a population of less than a thousand people. The man who was the leader of that city would be called a king. If a number of such cities formed some kind of mutual defense alliance, the kings of the cities would select one king to be the king of the region.
    1. Balak, the king of Moab, was such a king. We don’t know for certain how many cities he ruled, but the region is rugged and doesn’t support life easily. A reasonable guess is that he might have been able to field an army of a couple of thousand men, most of whom were simple peasants with farm implements as weapons.
    2. We also don’t know exactly how many children of Israel there were in 1300 BC, but we can be pretty sure that the trained soldiers led by Moses and Joshua outnumbered the army of Moab by at least a hundred to one.
      1. And perhaps even worse, from the point of view of the king of Moab, a mob of that size crossing over his land would be as devastating as a plague of locusts – there would be nothing left for his people to eat.
    3. The king of Moab knew that there was no way that he was going to be able to keep this mass of humanity off his land by force, so he decided to try a different course. The king of Moab sent messengers to Pethor in Mesopotamia, hundreds of miles to the northeast, to hire Balaam to come and curse the children of Israel.
    4. Why Balaam? Because he was famous for his abilities as a soothsayer.
      1. Being a “soothsayer” seems to be a bad thing, based on the various passages in the Word that condemn it, but on the surface it is hard to see why. The dictionary definition of a “soothsayer” is someone predicts the future, either by falling into a trance, or by using some kind of device such as casting bones, or examining the entrails of a sacrificial animal.
        1. On the one hand the Word condemns them like witches and people who speak with the dead, and yet on the other hand we know that Jacob’s son Joseph was also a “diviner” or “soothsayer”. He had a special cup that he would fill with wine and by staring into the cup he got some sense of the course of future events. His skill with this was famous, as was the cup itself. This is the cup that was put in Benjamin’s sack, because it would be instantly known to anyone in Egypt as Joseph’s. There is no record in scripture, or reference in the Writings that condemns Joseph for being a “diviner” or “soothsayer.”
        2. Since their are people in the Word, like Joseph, who were permitted to “divine” the future without condemnation, while there are others, like Balaam, who are condemned for the same thing, there must be something more to it than the simple act of trying to foretell the future – especially since one of the primary characteristics of the Word is the amount of prophecy that it contains. It seems likely that the answer lies in the intent behind it.
        3. There are today people who claim to have the power to tell the future by “casting the bones” or reading Tarot cards, or perhaps reading palms. Certainly, not all these people are pure at heart. It does happen from time to time that one of these people will say that the bones have told them that one of their neighbors is the cause of all the recent problems in the community. That individual is driven out and his goods are divided up among those who remain, and the “soothsayer” that saved the community by ridding it of that dangerous element will get a generous part of the reward.
        4. On the other hand, a person like Joseph might have used his cup to allow him to clear his mind of daily concerns so that he could be more open to the Lord’s guidance. In the same way, the High Priest, looking at the lights in the Urim and the Thummim on his breastplate, understood that he was being given instructions from God.
        5. The intent is the key. Those who used devices to help themselves get into a state where they could receive instruction from the Lord were never condemned, while those who used their powers to harm the innocent so that others could profit were condemned.
        6. Balaam is clearly one of the latter because he sought to harm the children of Israel for the sake of the money promised to him by Balak.
  2. Balaam sent the first delegation from the king back to Moab because Jehovah had spoken with him, and told him not to go to Moab because the people were under His special protection.
    1. Moab send more princes and more money to try to tempt Balaam to come. He at first seems obedient, but Jehovah speaks to him again, and permits him to go to Moab provided that he says only those things that Jehovah puts into his mouth.
      1. Again we ask why? It seems that Jehovah has changed His mind. Perhaps what is really happening is that God sees into his heart and knows that he really intends to go anyhow, and so He is going to allow him to act in freedom, but turn it to good.
        1. NUM 22:20 says, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them.”
        2. NUM 22:22 says, “Then God’s anger was aroused because he went.”
        3. It seems, from the letter, that God gives him permission to go, and then immediately becomes angry when he goes!
          1. On a human level, we could see this as the kind of thing that happens to parents when they try to treat their children as adults. We say, “You’re old enough to decide for yourself whether or not to come to church” – expecting one response, and getting angry when the child does not freely choose what we want him to do.
          2. Balaam really wanted to do this, so he was permitted to go ahead, but not until there was some way that some good could come of it. And, because it was wrong, he was punished by the sword after the fact.
    2. Jehovah’s anger was such that He sent the Angel of Jehovah to stand in the way as an adversary to Balaam.
      1. The problem was that Balaam’s mind was so much on the curses that he was going to cast upon the children of Israel that he was unaware that the angel was standing there with a sword in his hand.
        1. In one of the more amusing passages of the Old Testament, we read how three times the angel appears and Balaam doesn’t notice, but the donkey he’s riding on does. When he thoughtlessly begins to beat the animal for saving his life, it gives him a lecture! Balaam, the great wise man from Syria, clearly comes out second best in his contest with the donkey.
      2. The angel of Jehovah threatened him with a sword because the angel of Jehovah with a drawn sword who stood in the path against Balaam meant the truth which stood in the way of the falsity which possessed Balaam. For that reason also he was slain with a sword.1
        1. This last part of the quote refers to the fact that when the children of Israel meet Balaam again some time later, he is among those in the city who are killed by the sword.
      3. That “Balaam” also means those who love to destroy by craft those who are of the church is evident also from what has been shown above; moreover, when he rode upon the ass, he continually thought upon the use of enchantments for destroying the sons of Israel; and when he was not able to do this by curses, he counseled Balak to destroy them by calling them to the sacrifices of his gods, and by their committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab. By the “sons of Israel,” whom he wished to destroy, is signified the church, because the church was instituted among them 2
  3. Balaam’s Oracles
    1. Twice Balaam tried to use sorcery to curse the children of Israel; twice the Lord caused a blessing to come out of his mouth instead. Balaam seems to recognize that it isn’t going the way he planned, and he begins to try to cooperate with Jehovah.
      1. Now when Balaam saw that it pleased Jehovah to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. (NUM 24:1)
    2. We should think of Balaam and Balak (with various princes and assistants) up on top of a hill or small mountain, looking out over a valley filled with a hundred thousand campfires.
      1. The tabernacle is set up in the middle, and all the people are gathered around in order, by tribes.
    3. Since the Israelitish people represented the Lord’s kingdom in heaven and so the heavenly order existing there, the command was also given for them to be singled out according to tribes, according to families, and according to the houses of their fathers. In addition to this they were required to pitch camp around the tent of meeting in conformity with that heavenly order, and also to journey in conformity with it, as stated in Moses, Each one of the children of Israel shall pitch camp beneath his own standard, by the ensigns of his father’s house, at a distance around the tent of meeting. And in the same formations they also set out. Num. 2:2, 34. This was why, when Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, the Spirit of God came upon him and he delivered this utterance…3
    4. {2} And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. {3} Then he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, {4} The utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: {5} “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! {6} Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens by the riverside, Like aloes planted by the LORD, Like cedars beside the waters. {7} He shall pour water from his buckets, And his seed shall be in many waters. “His king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. {8} “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones And pierce them with his arrows. {9} ‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’ “Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you.” (NUM 24:2-9)
  4. So, in conclusion, what have we learned about Balaam?
    1. He represents people who are knowledgeable about the doctrines of the church, but use their knowledge to deceive and mislead.
    2. We have also seen that the device such people use to deceive and mislead is the desire to know the future.
    3. We have also seen that the Lord is able to allow such people to make these choices only when it can be turned to good.
      1. In the attempt to curse and bring the children of Israel to an end, Balaam instead speaks the promise that the Lord Himself will come to earth to save us all. So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; {16} The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: {17} “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. (NUM 24:15-17) Amen.

 

1st Lesson: NUM 22:1-21

Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. {2} Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. {3} And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel. {4} So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. {5} Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! {6} “Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” {7} So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak. {8} And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. {9} Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” {10} So Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, {11} ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.'” {12} And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” {13} So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to give me permission to go with you.” {14} And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.” {15} Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they. {16} And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; {17} ‘for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.'” {18} Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. {19} “Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.” {20} And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you; that you shall do.” {21} So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Amen.

2nd Lesson: AC 1343; AE 140

…Balaam, who came from Syria where Eber had lived, that is, where the Hebrew nation had originated, before Jacob’s descendants entered the land of Canaan, not only offered sacrifices but also called his God Jehovah.

…Balaam was a soothsayer from Pethor of Mesopotamia, and was therefore called by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelitish people; but this Jehovah prevented, and granted him to speak prophetically, yet he afterwards counseled with Balak how to destroy that people by craft, by leading them away from the worship of Jehovah to the worship of Baal-peor. Here, therefore, by “Balaam” those are meant who have been illuminated in respect to the understanding, and who teach truths, and yet love to destroy by craft those who are of the church. Amen.

 

1 AC 2799:20

2 AE 140:3

3 AC 3703:18

Moses and Aaron

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exo 32:1)

  1. Children of Israel in the wilderness travel to Mt. Sinai where Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Jehovah.
    1. Moses comes down the mountain to instruct the people while there are ominous thunderings and lightnings on the mountain behind him.
      1. The Ten Commandments are accompanied with lengthy illustration and applications, also from the mouth of the Lord.
    2. Moses is then called back up the mountain to hear more rules, specifically the instructions for constructing the Tabernacle. Accompanied by Joshua (who waits somewhere below), he is gone a long time, and the people become impatient.
      1. The people approach Aaron and ask him to makes gods for them to take the places of Moses and Jehovah, who have apparently abandoned them.
      2. Aaron collected the jewelry from them (the same jewelry that they had “borrowed” from the Egyptians?) and molded and engraved a statue of a calf.
        1. The people then identified the calf as the god that brought them out of Egypt!
        2. When Aaron sees how the people respond to the calf, he built an altar before it and proclaimed the next day as a feast to Jehovah – present with them as the golden calf.
          1. Apparently a mixing together of the things they had admired in Egypt with this new God Jehovah, first introduced to them by Moses when he returned to Egypt after his time in Midian.
          2. It seems that it was Aaron’s judgment that these new externals were appropriate forms for worshipping Jehovah.
    3. Warned by Jehovah that the people are out of order, Moses rushes down the mountain. Joshua, who has been patiently waiting for him on a lower part of the mountain, meets him, expressing concern that there has been shouting from the camp, but it doesn’t sound like a battle.
      1. When Moses actually sees the people worshipping the calf, he throws the tables down, breaking them.
        1. An important visual symbol: The people were breaking the first commandment, and in so doing, they were breaking them all.…
      2. He destroys the calf by grinding it into a powder, putting it in the water, and requiring the congregation to drink it.
      3. When Aaron is challenged on his part in this, he tries to make sound like he was powerless, the people made him do it, and the calf miraculously formed itself from the molten gold as it cooled.
    4. Aaron, by himself, had been unable to restrain the passions of the people, and the people had brought shame upon themselves as a result.
  2. Egypt and the Ancient Church
    1. the Egyptians, more than all others who constituted the representative Church after the time of the Flood, possessed a knowledge of the religious observances of the Church (AC 7779:4)
    2. They … began to think, as one finds at the present day, that the Church consisted entirely in knowing the kinds of things that have to do with the Church, and no longer in a charitable life. Thus they turned the whole order of the Church upside down; and once this had been turned upside down truths which are called the truths of faith were inevitably falsified. (AC 7779:4)
  3. Let the calf-worship among Egyptians serve to illustrate this.
    1. They knew what a calf represented, namely the good of charity. As long as they knew this and had this in mind, then when they saw calves, or when they prepared calves at charitable feasts, such as the ancients held, or later on when calves were used in sacrifices, they thought in a way that was sane and at the same time in company with the angels in heaven since a calf is for them the good of charity. But when they began to make calves of gold, place them in their temples, and worship them, they thought in an insane manner and at the same time in company with the hells. In that way they turned a true representative into a false one. (AC 7779:5)
    2. The reason why the children of Israel made the golden calf for themselves and worshipped it in place of Jehovah, was that Egyptian idolatry persisted in their heart even though they professed belief in Jehovah with their lips. (AC 9391:7)
      1. This illustrates the importance of having Moses and Aaron together; of having the internal present in the external forms. The people were associated with Jehovah and very grateful to Him on an external level, but they had not yet come to any kind of internal worship – so when the internal tried to express itself Jehovah became, to them, a golden calf. The external form was twisted so that it could carry something of the true internal.
        1. This revealed that their true internal was still stuck in the ways of the past, in Egypt.
        2. This also explains why, in the letter, they kept telling Moses that they wanted to go back.
        3. This show what can happen to our external forms, even when they are orderly, if the internal life is not in accord with them.
    3. If we are wondering why the external worship that they selected had to do with a golden calf, rather than one of the many other symbols that were available to them from the Egyptian culture, the Heavenly Doctrines provide the following insight:
      1. Visible images symbolizing this good and that truth which the natural man possesses took the form in that land of calves and heifers made of gold. (AC 9391:7)
      2. Calves’ are accordingly that kind of good which is not in itself good, only delight such as exists with the natural man separated from the spiritual man. This delight, which is in itself idolatrous, is what the children of Jacob indulged in, as they were allowed to reveal and prove in their adoration of the calf. (AC 9391:10)
    4. When Moses and Aaron are together, worship/life are genuine because the spiritual is within the natural. The idolatrous dancing is an illustration of a merely external worship/life – amusing for the moment, but leads to unhappiness and punishment.
  4. Moses and Aaron.
    1. For by Moses is represented the Lord as to the Divine truth which proceeds immediately from the Lord; … By Aaron, the Divine truth which proceeds mediately from the Lord, and which is the doctrine of good and truth. … The truth which Aaron represents is truth which can be both heard and perceived by man; hence Aaron is called the “mouth,” (AC 6998)
    2. Moses = the Lord as to law, Aaron = the Lord as to doctrine. (AC 7104:)
    3. Moses = the interior of the Spiritual Church, Aaron = the exterior. (AC 7231e)
    4. Moses = inward law, truth accommodated to angels; Aaron = outward law, truth accommodated to men in the world. (AC 7381:2)
    5. Moses = truth Divine proceeding immediately from the Lord; Aaron = truth Divine proceeding mediately. (AC 8404)
    6. Aaron = the external of the Word, of the church, and of worship, separate from the internal. (AC 10397)
  5. Using the letter without the spirit to justify actions that arise out of the proprium.
    1. Moses = inward law, truth accommodated to angels; Aaron = outward law, truth accommodated to men in the world. AC 7381:2
    2. When we look only for what is practical, what seems to work in the short term, we get Aaron’s solution.
    3. We have to keep the team together – look for things that work, things that are practical in the world of work, but at the same time are expressions of higher laws and eternal goals.
      1. The way for us to avoid the problems of the children of Israel is to examine our motives to see whether Moses or Aaron is leading our thought.
        1. If one thinks of the thing they want to do first, and then seeks to justify doing it from the Word, the possibility exists that the internal and the external will not match, leading to spiritual confusion and conflict.
        2. If one thinks about the principles and reasons for doing something first, and then looks for ways to bring those into being, then Moses and Aaron are acting together, even though there may be an infinite number of ways of expressing that principle or eternal goal.
    4. To live only for the externals, to live for sensual delights, to look to the things of the world for guidance in all aspects of your life, to disregard the teaching of the Word because they seem remote and difficult to read, are all ways that we, today, can get caught up in the same things that led the children of Israel to worship the golden calf.
    5. On the other hand, to be patient while waiting at the foot of the mountain, to look to the Lord for guidance in your life, to think about the eternal consequences to yourself and those around you, are the ways that we can embody the ideal form of worship.
      1. Moses and Aaron together, leading the congregation of Israel on their way to the promised land of Milk and Honey.

And God spoke all these words, saying: {2} “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. {3} “You shall have no other gods before Me. {4} “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; {5} you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, {6} but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exo 20:1-6) Amen.

 

1st Lesson: Exo 32:1-20

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” {2} And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” {3} “So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. {4} And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” {5} So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” {6} Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. {7} And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. {8} “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” {9} And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! {10} “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” {11} Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? {12} “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’ ?Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. {13} “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” {14} So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. {15} And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. {16} Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. {17} And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” {18} But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.” {19} So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. {20} Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. Amen.

2nd Lesson: AC 10397

And the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron. That this signifies that they turned themselves to the externals of the Word, of the church, and of worship, separate from what is internal, is evident from the signification of “gathering themselves together,” as being to turn themselves; and from the representation of Aaron, as here being the external of the Word, of the church, and of worship, separate from the internal. This is here represented by Aaron, because during the absence of Moses, he was the head of that nation, and by Moses, who was absent, is represented the Word (from which the church and worship are derived) in both the internal and the external sense (see the places cited in n. 9372). That such is the representation of Aaron is plain also from each and all things related of Aaron in what follows; namely, that it was he who made the calf and proclaimed a feast and made the people lax, all of which coincides with the external of the Word, of the church, and of worship, separate from the internal. He who separates the internal of the Word, of the church, and of worship from the external, separates from it the holy Divine. For the internal of these is their spirit; but the external is the body of this spirit, and the body without the spirit is dead; and accordingly to worship what is dead is to worship an idol, in this case to worship the golden calf and to proclaim a feast to it, and so to make the people lax. From all this it can be seen what is signified by “Aaron” in this chapter. Amen.

 

The Academy Position

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Oct. 17, 2004

Introduction

This weekend, many of us are celebrating Charter Day, the anniversary of the date that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave the Academy of the New Church a charter to operate a library and a theological school, and to publish books.

For the past hundred years, individual and societies throughout the world have put a great deal of time, effort, and money into creating and improving the various schools that make up the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA, and the various other “academies” such as the British Academy Summer School and the Midwest Academy. And yet, ironically, the Academy was not at first a school, but rather it was a doctrinal position within the General Convention, the original Swedenborgian church in the United States. The seeds that would later become the Academy of the New Church were planted with discontent over quality of Theological Instruction within the General Convention, questions about the nature of Swedenborg’s inspiration and the related questions about the authority of the Writings.

The ministers and laymen with the General Convention who believed in the Divinity of Swedenborg’s inspiration, the authority of the Writings, and the related doctrinal and governmental issues began to gather around Rev. William H. Benade for support and leadership. The began to refer to their point of view as the “Academy Position.” The history of how this informal gathering of people of like minds became the General Church of the New Jerusalem is quite interesting, but is both too lengthy and too much involved with non-doctrinal issues to go into here. Let’s just say that after going through several earthly dispensations, the Academy movement found its home in the General Church of the New Jerusalem under the leadership of its first executive bishop, W. F. Pendleton, in 1897.

In 1899, at the 3rd General Assembly of the General Church, W.F. Pendleton gave an address where, for the first time, all the principles of the Academy movement were gathered into one document. In 1958 Bishop deCharms said that they still reflected the doctrinal position of the General Church. They are not a dogmatic statement of faith, they are not binding on the conscience of the church, but rather a statement of the doctrinal opinion generally held at the time, but open to modification as the church matures.

The Twelve Principles

The Writings are the Second Coming of the Lord.

The Divine Human appears in the Writings. The Writings are the Divine Human appearing to the New Church

The reason a judgment on the former Christian Church was required was the falsity and ignorance both in the natural world and in the world of spirits. Swedenborg was not only one chosen to record and report these events, but was the instrument that caused the judgment by revealing the truths given to him by the Lord in both the natural world and the world of spirits.

This view sets the Academy apart from all other churches, and justifies its independence, its existence as a separate dispensation rather than as a movement within the Christian Church.

The former Christian Church is consummated and dead, with no hope of resurrection.

There cannot be a genuine church except with those who separate from it and join the New Church.

The New Church is to be distinct from the Old because they are distinct and separate in the world of spirits. The New Church in the heavens and in the world must act as one. The New Church in the world cannot be fully united to the New Church in the heavens until it casts out the falsities of the Old Church, the Old Church spirit, the Old Church life.

The priesthood is the appointed means for establishing the church

It is an appearance for the sake of freedom that priests are appointed and chosen by men. We may speak and act according to the appearance.

Essential truth is that they are appointed by the Lord, and chosen, taught, and prepared by Him for the use of the office.

Therefore, the priesthood is not to be placed under external bonds. In other words, lay councils and priestly councils, and any church official (such as an executive bishop) cannot force a priest to act apart from his conscience and enlightenment received while reading the Word except in the case of disorder or disturbance

Baptism is the door of introduction to the New Church, and conjoins with heaven.

By baptism a man becomes a member of the New Church in both worlds.

Only those who are baptized should be eligible for membership in the church in general.

Holy Supper is the most holy act of worship

And it is a purely representative act (no miracle of conversion into flesh and blood)

Holy Supper wine is to be pure, fermented juice of the grape.

Apparently there was an issue about wine in the late 19th Century. The Academy position is that fermented wine was used in the events reported in Scripture, that history confirms this view, and that such a practice is confirmed by reason and common sense. Also, from time to time a paper is presented in the Council of the Clergy which gives many deep and detailed reasons as to the importance of fermentation because it symbolizes man’s regeneration.

Conjugial love is between those of one mind, one faith, one religion.

Conjugial life is the home life. If conjugial love is not in the home, it is not anywhere. The conjugial in the home is the pillar upon which the church rests and by which it is supported; take away this pillar and the edifice is in ruins

The conjugial in the home consists in the husband and wife thinking together in the things of religion, and from this in other things. If they do not so think together they are not together in the spiritual world, and their spirits do not dwell together in the same society, and they are internally in collision and conflict.

Interference with the law of offspring is an abomination.

Marriage is the seminary of the human race

The end of creation is a heaven from the human race, which is fulfilled in marriage.

God provided marriage so that heaven would be provided with angels.

Opposing creation is a sin against God, heaven, and earthly society

The laws in the latter part of CL are given for the preservation of the conjugial.

Specifically numbers 444 to 476 (Fornication and Concubinage)

Again, we must realize that this was an active issue in the church at the time, with quite a few people claiming to be shocked at what they considered to be “obscenities” contained within CL.

There were many who said that the book should be edited, that the forgiveness for moderate fornication and orderly concubinage were “mistakes” and should not be included in the Word.

Since the work was under attack, and since the attack was really a judgment at the question of the Divine authorship of the Writings, the Academy people responded it to it far more strongly that we would expect from our perspective.

The doctrine of the NC is revealed from God out of the inmost heaven.

Again, a response to an attack from others within the New Church community, specifically those who were guilty of “false celestialism,” as when Benade claimed that the Academy was an internal church for those who were regenerated, and that his enlightenment was superior because of its “celestial” source.

Therefore the NC is a celestial church, but accommodated to every state. There is no perception of truth outside of doctrine.

Doubt gives reason for delay; there should be “essential unanimity.”

In heaven, there is government by unanimous consent. This principle is impossible to achieve in this world, but it must be sought and protected where found.

Doubt is an indication of Providence that the time is not yet right. There is need for further though and reflection to make a rational judgment.

Delay is not just to substitute unanimity for majority, but a protection of the internal

Make a habit of thinking together from common affection

A ruling principle of the choirs of heaven.

Laws should reflect present needs and uses; laws other than this are hurtful.

We cannot legislate concerning Divine revelation

Nor can we reason about it.

Nor can we legislate for things contingent or remote.

Therefore, we should limit ourselves those things we can see: present needs and uses.

The future belongs to the Lord alone.

Man’s work lies in that which is immediately before him.

The most fruitful field of Evangelization is with the children of NC parents.

Writings teach that few from the Old Church will receive the New.

200 years of experience confirm these teachings.

Not profitable to hold to the belief that there will be a mass conversion from the former Christian churches

Where NC bodies have neglected their children, few have become adult members (i.e. Convention in the US.)

It is reasonable to hope that children will become adult members if we cooperate.

If the Lord is acknowledged in His Second Coming

If the distinctiveness of the Church is seen and protected

If the laws of order in marriage are preserved and followed

If the sphere of the church is in the home

If there are New Church day schools

In order to conduct this work, there must be New Church Schools

The Academy decided to occupy this new field of Evangelization hoping that it would provide the main source of new adult members.

This is the most fruitful field in which to seek new members

It is the field that is nearest: in our very homes

The Academy will provide for growth in quality as well as numbers

The resolve of the Academy was to provide for the future of the church in both the quality of understanding of the doctrines, and the numbers to support and perform the uses of the Lord’s Church on earth.

In essence, the Academy position is receiving the Writings as the Word

Sincere application of the teachings according to the light of the time. I think it can be seen that these twelve principles cover all aspects of the church.

The nature of the Lord and the Word

The connection between Regeneration and Conjugial Love in marriage

Principles to govern how larger groups interact and govern themselves

Real world applications and the creation of New Church Schools

These principles do not prescribe how one must believe to be a member of the General Church today, but rather describe what the generally held view was in our historic past.

Some of these principles we would willingly embrace today. Others we would find difficult to embrace wholeheartedly. But certainly, on the anniversary of the external embodiment of the Academy movement, it would be useful for all of us to reflect on our doctrinal heritage, and turn to the Word for ourselves to establish the principles on which we will base our life’s decisions. Amen.


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

“Worship” is an Active Verb.

 

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (PSA 29:1-2)

  1. Modern Western culture has introduced some subtle assumptions into our forms of worship.
    1. So much of our experience of the world is passive.
      1. We sit back in comfort in the privacy of our own homes and watch someone work very hard to entertain and inform.
        1. This has led to “sound bites” instead of real information.
          1. A national leader may give an important speech that involves complex ideas, but all you get on the news is a sentence fragment because they assume that if you have to listen to too much, you’ll get bored and channel surf to something else.
          2. And, ironically, we think ourselves “informed” because we watch the news.
          3. As a culture we’ve lost the patience to listen all the way to the end of a complex sentence.
    2. We have begun to think that our comfort is an essential element of every aspect of life, and its our right to be protected from anything difficult or boring.
      1. Casual Fridays are practised widely now.
        1. Do we believe that we will soon see a movement back to more formal business attire, or will we soon have casual Mondays as well?
          1. Which direction is this trend headed?
    3. This leads us to the question under consideration today, is church supposed to be like that? Bishop W. F. Pendleton wrote in his book Notes on Ritual1
      1. Active co-operation is given throughout the Writings as a prime essential of the regenerate life, and what is prime in that life should be represented in worship. In fact, ritual is reduced to its minimum if the congregation does not take an active part in the service. It is notable, that in those denominations where the doctrine of justification by faith without deeds of the law has been applied to the extreme, there has been a large removal of ritual, or the co-operation by the worshipper. Where man is regarded as a passive recipient in his life, the same is reflected in worship.
      2. It follows, that in the New Church, in which a daily obedience to the Commandments is taught as essential to salvation, there should be a sufficiency of ritual; which, as taken from the letter of Scripture, teaches everywhere the co-operation of man with God in the work of regeneration, or the doctrine of life.
    4. We should reflect, therefore, on some of the basic elements of our worship to see if we can discover and appreciate the importance of an active role in worship as a means of improving our spiritual states, a part of the process of repentance, reformation, and regeneration.
  2. The role of the offertory
    1. Sometimes called “the first thing of worship.”
      1. Not because it is the most important
      2. But because it ought to come first.
        1. It’s not really worship unless there is recognition that the one worshipped is actually superior to the worshipper.
        2. There must be a belief that there is a being outside of oneself that is greater than oneself, or there cannot be any worship
        3. It is not worship to come just to listen to homilies about living a happier life – that’s “instruction” and has its own value.
        4. Worship requires submission to a higher authority.
    2. That submission or humbling of self is represented by giving a gift of something that we ourselves value.
      1. It is intended to be an acknowledgement that God Himself is the giver of gifts.
      2. It is an acknowledgement that God is superior to us.
      3. It puts us in the proper state to receive instruction and direction.
        1. Why would we feel compelled to follow the instructions of an equal?
  3. The role of music
    1. Just as words are the language of ideas, musical tones are the language of affection.
      1. A “good” song is one where ideas expressed in the words are supported by the feelings expressed in the rhythm and tones.
        1. We might also observe that a “good” hymn is one that we are familiar with and are therefore able to join in.
    2. Having a congregation sing the same song helps to bring everyone into a similar state – like a society of heaven.
      1. There is the element of freewill choice – to sing or not to sing.
      2. There is also the need to be acutely aware of what other people are doing – the words, the rhythm, and the notes – and making a concerted effort to fit in with what other people are doing.
        1. In order to act non-selfishly.
          1. These are essential skills for working “harmoniously” with others.
      3. This is how spirits find their eternal, heavenly home when they are ready to leave the world of Spirits.
    3. There is a dual role of music in a church service here in the world
      1. On the one hand to provide appropriate music that stirs affections for the Lord and heaven, to draw on affections stored away from childhood, and to stir many different affections, both joyful and sad.
      2. On the other hand, for the individual members of the congregation to make a sincere effort to take part, for it is a symbol of spiritual co-operation.
  4. The role of the Psalter (or other recitations from scripture)
    1. Communication is not one way. Ideas have to pass back and forth.
      1. Abraham arguing with God in the 1st lesson.
      2. The doctrine of the As-of-self.
    2. The Psalter is important because we have the priest, representing the Lord, reading a line of scripture, followed by the people reading the next line. It is intended to be a representation of the way that we communicate back and forth with the Lord.
      1. He teaches us something.
      2. We try it out for ourselves and learn from the experience.
      3. He gives us a new truth, and we see it from the perspective of the recent lesson and the newly acquired wisdom.
      4. As the cycle continues, we become wiser and move closer to heaven.
    3. This is distinctly different from the use of the lessons read from the pulpit which is intended to represent instruction directly from the Lord.
  5. The role of the prayers on the knees.
    1. There are churches with a tradition of silent prayer
      1. Or prayer sitting
      2. Or prayer standing
      3. They have their own reasons for doing what they do.
    2. In the New Church we kneel in prayer because of what “bending the knee” represents.
      1. This is said of the coming of the Lord; and “every knee shall bow” signifies that all who are in natural good from spiritual good will worship Him, the “knee” signifying the conjunction of natural good with spiritual. This shows that bending the knees signifies acknowledgement, thanksgiving, and adoration from spiritual good and delight in the natural2.
      2. Kneeling is an outward representation of the state of humiliation, which is a fundamental of worship; sitting is a posture of rest and meditative reflection, and is at the same time representative of a state of receiving instruction; while standing represents elevation of thought and affection.3
      3. The act of kneeling is an outward representation of humility of spirit, and by reaction tends to cultivate it.4
  6. All of the elements of worship that have gone before add a special quality to the sermon, and make it a form of instruction unlike any other, because it is delivered to people who are in a sphere of worship and who have made a conscious effort to prepare themselves to receive that instruction.
    1. It’s not television.
    2. It’s not the same as reading the Word at home – or even family worship, although these are both valuable in their own right as extensions of and supports to worship as part of a congregation.
    3. The Lord distinguishes between goods done to family and those done to strangers (2nd lesson), and He asks us to make the effort to bring ourselves into harmony with others – even people we don’t like – because it is good for our souls.
    4. Worship is supposed to be active because it involves spiritual effort on our parts.
      1. To deliberately and specifically put aside the natural and material sides of our lives for the sake of something spiritual.
    5. Sunday worship is distinct from other forms of instruction, such as a study group or a doctrinal class because of the deliberate effort to prepare the will through music and prayer to receive the instruction from the Word on an elevated (or more interior) level.
  7. Worship is not only important to each individual worshipper
    1. It is also important to the life of the congregation
      1. By bringing the diverse elements together in a common purpose, a common voice: harmony
    2. And it is even important to the life of the church in the heavens.
      1. Third lesson described the importance of both internal and external worship
        1. How even purely external worship, as practised by the Jews, could inspire genuine, internal worship among the angels in the heavens.
        2. And how much more profitable it is for us to make the effort to come into internal worship, to prepare ourselves ahead of time by thinking about what we are about to do, by reflecting on the importance of the various elements of worship, and by leaving the cares and thoughts of the world at the door so that the mind is free to enter into the presence of the Lord, and to worship Him in a sphere of peace and holiness so that He may enter in and dwell with us.

The Lord is present in a very different way with those within the church who are in spiritual love and thence in faith. With these there are good spirits and angels not only in their external worship, but also at the same time in their internal; and therefore with them there exists a communication of heaven with themselves; for the Lord flows into them through heaven through their internals into their externals.5 Amen.

First Lesson: GEN 18:17-33

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, {18} “since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? {19} “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” {20} And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, {21} “I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” {22} Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.

23} And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? {24} “Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? {25} “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” {26} So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” {27} Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: {28} “Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.” {29} And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.” {30} Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” {31} And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.” {32} Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” {33} So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Luke 14:1-14

Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. {2} And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. {3} And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” {4} But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. {5} Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” {6} And they could not answer Him regarding these things. {7} So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: {8} “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honourable than you be invited by him; {9} “and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. {10} “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. {11} “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” {12} Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbours, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. {13} “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. {14} “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: AC 4311:2

That nation which is here treated of, was in such a state as to good and truth, or as to love and faith. In order however that they might serve as the representative of a church, it was miraculously provided by the Lord that when they were in a holy external, and were at the same time surrounded by evil spirits, the holy in which they were might yet be uplifted into heaven; and this by good spirits and angels not within but without them, for within them there was nothing but emptiness or uncleanness. Communication was therefore given not with the man himself, but with the holy itself in which they were when they fulfilled the statutes and precepts given them, which were all representative of spiritual and heavenly things of the Lord’s kingdom. This is signified by the Lord’s being present with that nation representatively. But the Lord is present in a very different way with those within the church who are in spiritual love and thence in faith. With these there are good spirits and angels not only in their external worship, but also at the same time in their internal; and therefore with them there exists a communication of heaven with themselves; for the Lord flows into them through heaven through their internals into their externals. To these the holy of worship is profitable in the other life, but not to the former. Amen.

1Pages 42 – 43

2AE 455:14

3Ritual, W F Pendleton, p. 20

4Ritual, W F Pendleton, p. 34

5AC 4311:2

What’s New about the New Church, Part 6

 

The New Jerusalem

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2)

  1. The New Jerusalem
    1. Jerusalem was originally a Canaanite city, occupied by the Jebusites at the time of the Judges of Israel.
      1. David selected it to be his capital city when he became king, and conceived the plan where warriors conquered it by getting into the spring that fed the city’s well and swimming under the walls so that they could open the gates from within to allow his army to enter and capture the city.
      2. The natural reason for selecting Jerusalem as the capital was its location within the tribe of Benjamin
        1. This is a reminder of the continuing rivalry between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel.
          1. The northern kingdom of Israel was dominated by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh – named after Joseph’s sons.
          2. The southern kingdom of Judah was primarily the tribe of Judah, although it incorporated the tribe of Simeon, two of Leah’s sons; Judah being the most powerful and dynamic of them all.
          3. The tribe of Benjamin stood between these two warring nations as a buffer zone, just as the boy Benjamin was a pawn that Joseph used in the game he played with his brothers when he was ruler in Egypt.
        2. David, a man of Judah, needed his capital to be in the neutral tribe of Benjamin in order for the men of Israel to accept his leadership.
        3. The city itself was located on a mountain — Mt. Zion. The peak of Mt. Zion, within the city walls, was where Solomon built his temple to the Lord.
          1. The mountain itself, as mountains in the Word do, represented love to the Lord, or the celestial of the church.
          2. The city that was built upon the mountain represented, as cities in the Word do, the doctrine of the church, or the Lord’s Spiritual Kingdom.
    2. It is because the physical city of Jerusalem represented so many aspects of the Lord’s church on earth that when He was on earth He repeatedly visited Jerusalem.
      1. Bishop deCharms based his works Life of the Lord and The Harmony of the Gospels on the idea that the Lord deliberately made seven visits to Jerusalem to mark the changing states of His own process of glorification.
        1. Certainly we would agree that many of the key events in His life on earth took place in or near the temple in Jerusalem.
  2. It should not be surprising, then, that when the Lord opened John’s spiritual eyes to show him a vision of His Heavenly kingdom, a new, heavenly Jerusalem would be the central image.
    1. (Rev 21:2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
      1. Why would someone describe a city as a bride? Perhaps simply to present the idea that there is a close conjunction between the Lord and heaven, a marriage, a union of will and action between the Lord and His people. Another way of thinking of it is as the covenant between husband and wife represents the covenant between the Lord and each of us.
      2. Another reason might be to draw our minds to qualities that make it so that every bride is the most beautiful bride — because the wedding day is the culmination of dream and much hard, practical work. What John was perceiving from the states of the angels was that they had worked hard and long for this moment, and in his experience the only similar kind of joy he had felt was that of a wedding. As in the rest of the Word, to explain heavenly things, the Lord and the prophets had to resort to comparisons to things known and understood in the natural world.
    2. (Rev 21:9-14) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” {10} 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, {11} having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. {12} Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: {13} three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. {14} Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
      1. Twelve gates, three on each side of the cube
        1. In the Word, “twelve” represent all good and truths in their complex, so the twelve gates represent the idea that heaven is open to all who approach it from the good works inspired by the truth that they know, no matter the name of their belief structure.
          1. No matter what spiritual direction one approaches that city from, there will always be an open gate.
      2. (Rev 21:21) The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.
        1. Each gate is a single pearl, the so called “pearly gates”, representing that “great pearl” that is the treasure of life, the knowledge and acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One God of heaven and earth.
      3. (Rev 21:15-17) And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. {16} The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. {17} Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
        1. Shaped like a cube
          1. Equal in good, truth, and usefulness, these three forces present in every created thing in total harmony and balance.
    3. John’s vision continues at some length, describing many other aspects of the heavenly New Jerusalem, all of which combine to give us a picture of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.
  3. This is a manifestation of the revelation of the doctrine of the New Church
    1. True Christian Religion 787.
      1. This New Church is the crown of all the churches that have hitherto existed on the earth, because it is to worship one visible God in whom is the invisible like the soul in the body.
      2. Thus, and not otherwise, is a conjunction of God with man possible because man is natural, and therefore thinks naturally, and conjunction must exist in his thought, and thus in his love’s affection, and this is the case when he thinks of God as a Man.
      3. That before the assumption of the Human, God was not visible, the Lord Himself also teaches in John:-
        1. (5:37) “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.
      4. But that He is visible through His Humanity is stated in John:-
        1. (14:6-9) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
        2. 7} “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” {9} … He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
      5. That there is a conjunction with the invisible God through the visible, that is, through the Lord, He teaches in the following passages:-
        1. (15:4-5) “Abide in Me, and I in you. … He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.
      6. It is also taught that He and the Father are one, and that in order to have eternal life man must believe in Him.
    2. True Christian Religion 788.
      1. That this church is to follow those that have existed since the beginning of the world, and that it is to endure for ages of ages, and is thus to be the crown of all the churches that have preceded, was foretold by Daniel; first, when he narrated and explained to Nebuchadnezzar his dream of the four kingdoms (which mean the four churches that were represented by the statue that he saw), saying:-
        1. (Dan 2:44) “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
    3. True Christian Religion 789.
      1. Furthermore, the other prophets have made many predictions respecting this church, what its character would be, a few of which shall be cited: In Jeremiah:-
        1. (3:17) “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.
      2. In Isaiah:-
        1. (33:20) Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home, A tabernacle that will not be taken down; Not one of its stakes will ever be removed, Nor will any of its cords be broken.
      3. In these passages “Jerusalem” means the new and holy Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse (chap. xxi.), by which the New Church is meant.
      4. That such things have not yet taken place in the churches, least of all in the last, is well known. In Jeremiah:-
        1. (31:31-33) “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; {32} “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. {33} “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
      5. That this state of things has not existed in the churches heretofore, is also, known. This was because men did not approach the visible God whom all shall know, because He is the Word or law which He will put in their inward parts and write upon their hearts.
  4. John’s vision of the Holy City New Jerusalem is central to the identity and faith of the New Church because it incorporates all of the ideas that make this church new and unique.
    1. The idea that doctrine has to rest on love as its foundation as Jerusalem rests on Mt. Zion.
    2. The idea that being in the natural world must have a visible God to worship — for we cannot be conjoined with or love something we cannot comprehend or understand because we cannot love it. And because the doctrines of the New Church show how the invisible Creator God dwelled within Jesus Christ as the soul within the body, we know God and love Him and live with Him to eternity in the Holy City.
    3. The twelve gates demonstrate the church’s new teaching about membership: that no one denomination has a lock on the truth; that the Lord created all people to live to eternity in heaven. Membership in a particular group has nothing to do with it, except that some groups are more helpful than others in preparing people for eternal life.
    4. The vision of the City descending out of heaven as a Bride reminds us of our covenant with God, His promise to all of us that if we will learn what is true from the Word, and measure ourselves against His standards, He will give us the power to change ourselves, to become the spiritual beings we want to be, He will give us our spiritual wedding garments.
    5. The New Jerusalem is one way of picturing heaven. This beautiful vision provides us with a goal to work towards, something to keep us moving in the right direction when the actual work of daily living begins to wear us down.
      1. (Isa 62:1-4, 11-12) For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. {2} … You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name. {3} You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. {4} … For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married. … ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.'” {12} And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. Amen.

 

Lessons

(2 Sam 5:1-10) Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. {2} “Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.'” {3} Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel. {4} David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. {5} In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. {6} And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” {7} Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). {8} Now David said on that day, “Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul), he shall be chief and captain.” Therefore they say, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” {9} Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. {10} So David went on and became great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.

(John 8:21-29) Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” {22} So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” {23} And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. {24} “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” {25} Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. {26} “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” {27} They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. {28} Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. {29} “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

True Christian Religion 508.

One day there appeared to me a magnificent temple, square in form, the roof of which was crown-shaped, arched above and raised round about; its walls were continuous windows of crystal; its door was of a pearly substance. Within, on the south side, towards the west was a pulpit, on the right-hand side of which lay the open Word enveloped in a sphere of light, the splendor of which surrounded and illuminated the whole pulpit. In the center of the temple was a sanctuary, before which there was a veil, at that time raised, and there a golden cherub stood with a sword turning hither and thither in his hand.

[2] While I looked at these things, the significance of each one of them flowed into my meditation: The temple signified the New Church; the door of pearly substance, entrance into it; the windows of crystal, the truths that enlighten it; the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching; the Word lying open upon the pulpit and illuminating the upper part of it, signified the revelation of the internal sense of the Word, which is spiritual; the sanctuary in the center of the temple signified the conjunction of that church with the angelic heaven; the golden cherub therein, the Word in the sense of the letter; the sword waving in his hand signified that this sense can be turned in any direction, provided it is done in adaptation to some truth; the veil before the cherub being raised, signified that the Word is now laid open.

[3] Afterward, when I drew nearer, I saw this inscription above the door, Nunc Licet — It is now permitted — which signified that it is now permitted to enter understandingly into the mysteries of faith….

[5] But in the New Church the contrary is the case; there it is permitted to enter with the understanding and penetrate into all her secrets, and to confirm them by the Word, because her doctrines are continuous truths laid open by the Lord by means of the Word, and confirmations of these truths by rational means cause the understanding to be opened above more and more, and thus to be raised into the light in which the angels of heaven are. That light in its essence is truth, and in that light acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in its glory. This is what is meant by the inscription Nunc Licet over the door of the temple, and also by the veil of the sanctuary before the cherub being raised. For it is a canon of the New Church, that falsities close the understanding, and that truths open it.

“Looking Forward, Looking Back”

Olivet Day School

School Closing Chapel Service

June 15, 2006

Looking Forward, Looking Back”

Rev. James P. Cooper

(EXO 13:3-5) And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. {4} “On this day you are going out, in the month Abib. {5} “And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month.

(Exo 13:17-22) Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” {18} So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. {19} And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.” {20} So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. {21} And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. {22} He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

  1. Back when I was in college in Arizona, a friend invited me to join him in a hike across the Grand Canyon.

    1. We drove to Grand Canyon Village on the south rim, chartered a small plane, and flew across to the north rim.

    2. We hiked from the north rim to the Colorado river in one day.

      1. Anyone who has read Marguerite Henry’s Brighty will know the trail.

      2. 1 mile down, 25 miles long.

    3. I slept on a sandbar where the Bright Angel Creek joins the Colorado River.

    4. I was so stiff and sore when I woke up that I could barely move.

      1. I looked up and could see Grand Canyon Village a mile above me and I knew I had to get there before sundown to catch the ride home.

  2. The first part of the trail was along the river. Walking in the warm sun got me loosened up – until the trail turned up.

    1. It was only 8 miles long – but it was a mile up, too!

    2. It was too steep to walk continuously, even slowly.

      1. I’d walk 10 paces and then stop to rest.

      2. Every time I stopped, I’d turn to look at the view and to see how far I had come.

    3. Every time I started walking, I’d look up at Grand Canyon Village to see if it seemed any closer.

    4. Several times I had to stop and take off my boots to cool my feet in the stream.

    5. Several times I had to get out of the way of tourists on mules.

    6. After 10 hours I reached the rim, stepped out of the canyon and arrived in Grand Canyon Village in time for my ride back to Tucson.

      1. I still remember how good it felt to stand on the edge and look all the way across the Grand Canyon, and know that I just walked all that way in just two days. I felt a lot better standing on the rim looking back than I did that morning when I was standing beside the river looking forward to a hard climb.

  3. Lots of people have noticed that life itself is kind of like a journey.

    1. Remember the Journey of the children of Israel, how they were freed from slavery in Egypt, and then spent the next 40 years in the wilderness, getting ready to enter the land of Canaan.

    2. Sometimes school seems like a long, hard, uphill battle. You just get through one grade and get to feeling really good about it, and the next thing you know you are starting all over in another grade.

    3. Or you can look at it from a bigger picture

      1. School

      2. Family

      3. Adult life

      4. Getting ready for heaven!

    4. These things probably seem pretty far away to you

      1. Sort of like looking up at Grand Canyon Village from the bottom of the Canyon.

      2. Here’s a way to tackle the problem.

        1. Break it up into little steps.

        2. Every so often, turn around and see just how far you’ve come.

          1. A school closing ceremony would be a good time to do that, don’t you think?

        3. Then look up at your goal and notice that you are getting closer.

  4. In our school, we often read about and study the Holy City New Jerusalem.

    1. Given as a vision to John, it is a picture of heaven.

    2. There it is, up in the sky, our goal.

      1. Be steady in your course.

      2. Look back from time to time to appreciate what real progress you have made.

      3. Rest when you need it because it is hard work (but not impossible).

      4. But always keep heading for that goal.

    3. Remember the children of Israel

      1. The pillar of cloud by day

      2. The pillar of fire by night

      3. No matter where they might be in that wilderness, they always knew the Lord was near, leading and protecting them.

      4. No matter where you go in your life, the Lord will be with you too – all you need to do is look for Him and He’ll be there. Amen.

Judgment Upon the Church

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

  1. Last week we celebrated “New Church Day” the anniversary of the day when the Christian Heaven and the world of spirits were restored to complete order, when the evil of the love of dominion and the falsity of salvation by faith alone were finally purged from that world by the introduction of the doctrine of genuine truth from the Word.
    1. We’re told that this process began in 1747 with the publication of the first volumes of the Arcana Coelestia, and was completed on the 19th Day of June, 1770. On that day, the twelve disciples who had been with the Lord in the world were sent out throughout the whole spiritual world to proclaim the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages. (TCR 791)
    2. In an attempt to improve our understanding of this incredibly important event in spiritual history, we are going to take a moment to examine the historical record of an earlier spiritual judgment.
      1. When Jesus Christ came into the world, His purpose was first to see if it was possible restore the Jewish Church.
        1. He was born as a Jew into a Jewish family.
        2. John the Baptist prepared the way for Him not by teaching a new doctrine, but by calling people to return to their religious roots, to literally and symbolically wash away their sins and return to obedience to the laws of Moses.
        3. Jesus Himself became a rabbi or teacher and went into the temples to teach the scriptures.
        4. He gave that church every chance He could to see and recognize the Messiah, and to follow Him into a restoration of the church.
          1. (Luke 13:6-9) He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. {7} “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ {8} “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. {9} ‘And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”
        5. The Lord worked hard to see if the Jewish Church could be led to bear fruit once again. Unfortunately, it could not, not because it was too far gone, but because its members were not willing to make the necessary changes in their own lives.
      2. In order to bring about the end of the Jewish Church and establish a new church in its place it was necessary for the Lord to allow them to symbolically treat Him in the same way that they had come to treat the Word itself.
        1. And by allowing that to happen, it thrust the disciples into a whole new level of thought as they struggled to apply the principles He had taught them to this new situation.
  2. The book of the Acts of the Apostles, by Luke
    1. Is called in the Writings a “good book for the church” because it reveals what these men when through and struggled with as they tried to adjust their thinking to comprehend for themselves what had happened, and to understand it so that they could teach and lead others.
    2. After the resurrection of Jesus, the focus of the new Christian Church was in Jerusalem, with Peter and John taking the lead among the disciples.
    3. Certain situations that the Lord handled relatively peacefully
      1. Peter, Stephen, and others take a much more aggressive stance, and attract more members, and also attract persecution.
      2. Their leadership was confirmed when they were responsible for several powerful miracles.
        1. They healed a man who had been lame from childhood.
        2. People began to show their support for the fledgling church by selling their homes and property and giving the money to the apostles. Then they expected to be supported from the common fund.
          1. The church began to struggle with administration problems related to collecting and distributing the money fairly.
          2. A couple sold their house and property but when they came to give the money to the disciples, they held some of the money back.
            1. Peter first challenged the husband, who lied, and at Peter’s word, he died.
            2. The wife came to Peter three hours later, and also lies about withholding some of the money from the sale. Also at Peter’s word, she falls down dead.
            3. These kind of events called a great deal of attention to Peter and John, and thousands of people became members of the church.
              1. Of course, this also attracted negative attention from the elders and chief priests, and there began to be a pattern of arrest and inquisition, although they were unable to punish them, or frighten them into silence. Instead, the church continued to grow.
  3. The disciples have polarized the church in Jerusalem, and violence is the result.
    1. Stephen was one of those who joined the church at this time. He was an effective preacher, and was soon arrested by the chief priests, and taken in for interrogation. The Jews, unwisely, allowed Stephen to speak.
    2. Stephen’s words to the leaders of the Jewish Church were a picture of the judgment that was taking place on that church at that moment, and by analogy, a picture of the judgment that was to come upon the Christian Church, and the judgment that will ours at the end of our natural life:
    3. (Acts 7:37 ff.) “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ {38} “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, {39} “whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, {40} “saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ {41} “And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

      {51} “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. {52} “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, {53} “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” {54} When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. {55} But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, “Look !I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” {57} Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; {58} and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” {60} Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

    4. (Acts 8:1-3) Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. {2} And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. {3} As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
  4. This is a picture of the judgment of the Jewish Church
    1. The events in the natural world could not take place until after the Lord’s resurrection.
      1. The events in the natural world mirror the events in the spiritual world.
      2. As we know from the doctrines, the disciples themselves were not fully aware of the spiritual nature of the Lord’s mission until after the resurrection, so too the ordering of the spiritual world could not begin in earnest until the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and resurrection was known in the spiritual world as well.
      3. We can imagine similar events happening in the spiritual world, especially in those places in the world of spirits where the Jews were gathered waiting for the judgment.
        1. Messengers bringing the truth to the gathered crowds, but they not receiving the word, but instead rioting, trying to harm the messenger.
          1. An important difference between the two worlds is that in the spiritual world, the messenger could come to no harm, while in the natural world, angry crowds often kill the bearer of bad news.
    2. Note the condemnation of the Jewish Church, especially how it is carefully and in detail pointed out that the Covenant was not kept.
      1. This judgment was not arbitrary or revengeful.
        1. It was to be shown clearly that from the very beginning the Jews had failed to keep the Covenant, and it was for that failure that they were being called to account.
  5. Evidence in the natural world of the effects of the last judgment on the Jewish Church.
    1. A revelation of the spiritual principles that would govern the things that would happen to the Christian heaven when the when the internal sense of the Word was finally revealed to them in the spiritual world.
    2. Each of us faces a judgment at the end of our natural life. What can we learn from this?
    3. Remember the rich man from the Lord’s parable in Luke 16, who represents the state of the Jewish church at the time the Lord was in the world.
      1. Suffering in hell, he begs that someone go back to warn his five brothers.
      2. Now, knowing what he knows, he believes that his brothers would listen to someone who had been to the spiritual world.
      3. He is told that the church has ignored Moses and the prophets, so they will also ignore one who rises from the dead.
    4. The Lord is describing how the church will respond to His own death and resurrection.
      1. He told them that the only sign He would give was that of the prophet Jonah – that he would die and live again on the third day.
        1. They had Moses, they had the prophets, one even rose from the dead to tell them about preparing themselves for spiritual life, and yet they turned away.
    5. We too have Moses: the Old Testament.
    6. We too have the prophets: The New Testament and the Writings.
    7. We too have seen the sign: Jesus rising from the dead by His own power on the third day.
    8. We too have one who has come from heaven to try to persuade us to live the life of charity and prepare ourselves for spiritual life: Emanuel Swedenborg.
    9. And now the responsibility for our own spiritual fate rests solidly on our own shoulders. The Lord has done all He can do and still preserve our freedom.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Amen.

 

1st Lesson: Exo 32:15-20

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. {16} Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. {17} And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” {18} But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.” {19} So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. {20} Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Luke 16:19-31

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. {20} “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,

21} “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. {22} “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. {23} “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. {24} “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ {25} “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. {26} ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ {27} “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, {28} ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ {29} “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ {30} “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ {31} “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” Amen.

3rd Lesson: SD 2387

CONCERNING THE STATE OF THE WORLD OF SPIRITS BEFORE THE ADVENT OF THE LORD.

I spake with those in heaven, concerning the state of spirits, or of the world of spirits, before the Lord’s advent into the world; that it had been of such a quality as was their the faith of men on earth, especially among the Jews, who were in knowledges, to wit, that many had been ignorant that there is a life after death. Very many openly denied it. The Pharisees who defended it were not such as were persuaded of the resurrection of the body, as appears from the Lord’s Word. Such were the spirits in the world of spirits before the advent of the Lord. I saw this firstly. Another point was, that they were wholly ignorant that Messiah was to come, in order to save them to eternity, in a kingdom that would last to eternity, but only that he would make them lords in the world, and thus they were ignorant the Lord would come, on account of the salvation of souls. Amen.

By Whose Authority?

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Olivet New Church, Toronto.  March 25, 2007

Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him And spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” (LUK 20:1-2)

As we approach the Easter Season it is useful for us to reflect on some of the events that took place during the final week of the Lord’s earthly ministry using the chronology provided in the gospel of Luke. It begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we now call “Palm Sunday.” We’re told that as He approached the city He “wept over it.” The Arcana tells us that:

Jerusalem, over which Jesus wept, or which He pitied and over which He grieved, was not only the city Jerusalem, but also the church; the last day of which, when there would no longer be any charity nor consequently any faith, is meant in the internal sense; and hence from pity and grief He wept (AC 5480).

The Lord was here in this time and place because it had come to this, that the Jewish Church had to come to an end and needed to be judged and removed so that a new church could take its place. It is our very nature that we grieve when one state comes to an end and we begin another – even when we leave something good for something better, as every homesick college student knows. And even when we leave hard times or difficult situations, there are still elements within them that we can look back upon with fondness. So too the Lord grieved for the Jewish Church at its end, and He pitied those who, in spiritual freedom, had chosen to follow the loves of self and the world. And yet He continued into the city to finish what had to be done for the sake of the eternal welfare of all people.

Once He entered Jerusalem, the first thing He did was go to the temple. One might have expected Him to go to the Palace – but He didn’t. Instead of cleaning out the corrupt governors, He cleaned out the temple, showing yet again in yet another way, that His kingdom was not of this world.

Remember that the Jewish tradition of sacrificial worship had declined by steps until it was almost non-existent. With the division of the kingdom, the northern tribes had no access to the temple in Jerusalem. They either ignored the rituals altogether, or broke the commandments by sacrificing in other places. When the Jews were carried captive to Babylon, they were not permitted to make sacrifices at all, and it was there that they invented reading the scriptures and discussing them as a substitute for sacrifice. In the Lord’s day, they retained the idea of scripture reading and discussion, but they had also restored sacrifice to some extent. For the convenience of Jews who had to travel some distance to make their sacrifices, and who might have currency issued by a variety of nations, there were convenient merchants within the temple itself so that visitors to Jerusalem could change their money (and pay a small fee, of course), and then purchase the appropriate animal for the ritual sacrifice. As you can imagine all this activity, the noise of the animals, the shouting and haggling over exchange rates, would have a profound effect on the sphere within the temple. It explains why the Lord called it a “den of thieves” instead of a house of prayer.

For the next several days He took over the temple. He recognized as a “rabbi” or teacher, and therefore allowed to conduct public lessons in places of worship. It wasn’t an official position like an ordained priest today. It seems it was more a matter of when people began to speak about scriptural issues, the speaker’s eloquence and reasoning marked him as a learned person and such a person would be given the honory title of “rabbi” and given deference in future discussions.

His actions in cleaning out the market stalls, and the ideas that He was teaching in the temple infuriated the chief priests and the scribes and the leaders of the people. No doubt the merchants had been paying rent for their space inside the temple, and the ideas challenged their authority over the common people. They were beside themselves with anger. They wanted to destroy Him, but they were afraid to because they could see with their own eyes that there were crowds of people who came to the temple every day to hear Him, and the people were “very attentive.” (LUK 19:48)

Finally, the anger boiled over and the priests confronted Jesus:

Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him And spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” (LUK 20:1-2)

We like to think of the Lord as a gentle shepherd, a heavenly Father who can answer any question. We may even be a little uncomfortable with this picture of a confrontational Jesus who, instead of answering their question in a kindly way, instead snapped back with one of His own.

Sometimes people ask questions when they don’t really want to know the answer, rather they are trying to introduce a new subject, or create an opening to give their own answer to the question. And sometimes, like politicians in a debate, they just want to trip the other guy up. The Lord didn’t answer their question because it wasn’t really question but a statement, like when you find your child finger painting on the walls, and you ask “What are you doing?” What the child is doing is obvious. The real question the parent is asking is “How dare you challenge my authority by doing something I don’t want you to do?” The leaders of the church were angry because He was questioning their authority, so the Lord, knowing this, asks them to address the question of authority by asking them a question about the authority of John the Baptist.

But He answered and said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, and answer Me: “The baptism of John – was it from heaven or from men?” (LUK 20:3-4)

Notice how their answer shows that the leaders of the church had no concern for the TRUTH.

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it was from. (LUK 20:5-70)

Notice what the church leaders didn’t say: They didn’t ask each other what they believed. They didn’t refer to scripture. Without any regard to the truth, they considered the political implications of the answers available to them. Since they didn’t like the results of either possible answer, they refused to answer. Unable to solve the problem of Jesus’s teaching and leading through confrontation and argument, the leaders of the church resolved to move to the next level.

The Jews and Israelites had 2 kinds of capital punishment: stoning and hanging on wood. Stoning was used to punish those who sought to destroy truths relating to worship which were commanded by the Lord because a stone represents truth, or in the opposite sense falsity.

Hanging on Wood was used to punish one who sought to destroy the goodness of life because wood is a sign of good and in the opposite sense the evil belonging to evils desires.

When someone steals something, we say that he took our “goods.” Remember that when the Lord was crucified, there were two thieves crucified at the same time, men being punished for taking away the goods of another.

Blasphemy is the contradiction of what is held to be true so stoning is the appropriate punishment. Since the scribes were about to contradict the belief in John’s holiness, they were correctly afraid of being stoned. Several times the people threatened to stone Jesus for saying that He was God.

But what about stoning for adultery? Many of us think first of stoning as the prescribed punishment for adultery, and that does not seem to fit the system described. To our way of thinking, adultery seems to be a perversion of something good – the marriage, not a matter of falsity. The Arcana explains it this way:

If a damsel were married, and the tokens of virginity were not found in her, she was to be stoned, because she had wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house (DEU. xxii. 20, 21). This was because by “whoredom” was signified the falsification of truth, thus its destruction. If a man lay in a city with a damsel, a virgin betrothed to a man, they were both to be stoned (DEU. xxii. 23, 24), for the same reason, namely, because of whoredom, for spiritual whoredom is the falsification of truth. (AC 7456:7)

When they finally came to try destroy the Lord, they sought to crucify Him, which is the punishment of hanging on wood. This shows that it wasn’t the truth of the doctrine that He taught that condemned Him. In fact, He actually agreed on most points with the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in the Divine Origin of the books of Moses. The Pharisees believed in the importance of following the Mosaic law. The Pharisees, unlike the Saducees, also believed in a life after death.

If Jesus had only limited Himself to political activism, the Pharisees could easily have supported Him, even teamed up with Him to overthrow the Roman government – but He challenged their authority over the church and the people instead of working with them. And so He had to be destroyed.

It wasn’t the new doctrine that they hated, it was His challenge to their way of life. Remember the scene when Pilate tried to release Him to them? Pilate knew that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. He knew that the church leaders were terribly frustrated and could not think of another way to make the problem go away.

Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. (LUK 23:20-23)

This reveals the real issue for the Jews was not doctrinal differences. If it had been, they would have demanded that He be stoned. But they gave no reason to Pilate, just screamed their hatred of Him. The reason that drove their hatred was that He challenged their way of life. Jesus had not stolen their goods. Rather, He had made it obvious to them that they were without good, that in spite of their traditions, and their laws, and their teachings, they had failed to apply those teachings to their own lives. They had made the laws of Moses of “no effect.” The wooden cross became a symbol of that nation’s destructive evils.

So what is it in us that separates us from God, from the church, and from each other? The appearance is that it’s a difference of ideas, of doctrine. That’s certainly what appears on the surface. But remember what the Word teaches about the Ancient Church, that there was with that church a great variety of doctrine, a great variety of form and they were still unified into one church because there was an underlying recognition of the importance of charity. In the Easter story, it appears to be the Lord’s teachings that cause the anger, but in the last analysis they could not explain themselves, there was no argument over forms or teachings. It was the loves of self and the world overpowering everything else until it became pure hatred. When asked for a logical reason, all that hatred can reply is “crucify him.”

That underlying love of self that expresses itself as hatred and contempt for others is what put the eternal salvation of the entire human race at risk. Hatred can only be conquered by love. That the Lord allowed Himself to be crucified was also a symbol of the power of His Divine Love for the salvation of the universal human race – it could overcome even this.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (JOH 3:14-17)

Amen.


Lessons

First Lesson: Luke 20:1-8

Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him {2} and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” {3} But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: {4} “The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men?” {5} And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ {6} “But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” {7} So they answered that they did not know where it was from. {8} And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Second Lesson: AC 7456

[2] As regards the signification of “stoning,” be it known that there were two death penalties among the Israelites and Jews, with whom the representative of a church had been instituted, of which the one was stoning, and the other was hanging upon wood. Stoning was for any one who desired to destroy the truths of worship that had been commanded, and hanging was for any one who desired to destroy the good of life. That those were stoned who desired to destroy the truths of worship, was because a “stone” signified truth, and in the opposite sense falsity; and that those were hanged upon wood who desired to destroy the good of life, was because “wood” signified good, and in the opposite sense the evil of cupidities.

[8] In Luke: [The chief priests, scribes, and elders] concluded among themselves that if they were to say that the baptism of John was from heaven, He would say, Why did ye not believe him? But if they said, From men, all the people would stone them (xx. 5, 6); where also “stoning” is predicated of what is contrary to truth.


Copyright © 1982 – 2007 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

The Lamb of God

 

A Holy Supper Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12)

  1. Introduction
    1. We are now in the midst of celebrating Easter with observances of Palm Sunday, the institution of the Holy Supper, and Easter itself.
    2. Just as the Lord repeatedly warned His twelve disciples about events that were about to take place, it is good for us to ready ourselves for such important festivals by reflecting on their importance and meaning in our lives.
    3. Today, our purpose is to reflect on the reasons why the Lord chose the festival of the Passover to bring His earthly ministry to a close and complete His process of Glorification.
  2. Joseph in Egypt
    1. 70 people1 enter the land of Egypt, 600,0002 adults (plus children) leave from slavery.
    2. Moses (and Aaron) raised up by the Lord to lead them out.
    3. Pharaoh encouraged to resist so all could see the power of Jehovah.
      1. Hardened heart” made it clear that it was Jehovah’s power not Pharaoh’s kind heartedness that set them free. Other examples of this:
          1. Gideon and the 300 conquer the Midianites.
          2. The Battle of Ai.
    4. Series of 10 plagues, each more punishing than the last until the angel of the Lord “passes over” the land, and the firstborn sons are killed.
      1. The sign that protects the innocent? The blood of a lamb.
        1. A lamb ritualistically slain for that purpose.
      2. Lamb of God – Jesus in Revelation
        1. Lesson: Rev. chapter 7, and many other references such as:
        2. (Rev 12:10-11) Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. {11} “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
      3. Jesus was God’s first-born son.
      4. So we see the spiritual reason why Passover was chosen as the time to bring His ministry to its conclusion.
        1. Symbolic slaying of the Lamb
        2. Maximum impact on the church because of all the people gathered in Jerusalem for the festival.
        3. Symbolic establishment of a new church.
          1. The Passover was a dramatic event that spelled the end of the state where the Jews were slaves in Egypt and forced them out into the wilderness where in order to survive they had to form an organization, depend on each other, and follow the rules set out for them by Jehovah.
          2. The Last Supper signalled an event of similar spiritual importance. It was the last ritualistic act of Jesus as the Jewish rabbi, and in changing it, He established the first truly Christian sacrament.
  3. The blood of the Lamb that was slain.
    1. AE 329
      1. He who does not know that there is a spiritual sense in the Word believes that “blood” here signifies the Lord’s blood upon the cross; but this is not at all the meaning in heaven; but to the angels there the paschal supper here described has a like meaning as the holy supper instituted by the Lord, in which, in place of the paschal lamb, there are the bread and the wine
    2. Arcana Caelestia 3994
      1. [6] That in the supreme sense the paschal lamb is the Lord, is well known; for the Passover signified the Lord’s glorification, that is, the putting on of the Divine in respect to the Human; and in the representative sense it signifies man’s regeneration; and the paschal lamb signifies that which is the essential of regeneration, namely, innocence; for no one can be regenerated except by means of the charity in which there is innocence.
    3. Jewish doctrines of atonement.
      1. Once a year the sins of the congregation were put upon an innocent animal, which was then driven into the wilderness, taking the sins with him.
    4. The traditional Christian doctrine of Redemption borrows heavily from the Jewish idea
      1. Jesus, the “innocent one” takes all sin upon Himself and then dies with it, purifying us all with His blood, His sacrifice.
      2. As appealing as this may be, there are two very basic problems with it.
        1. First, the sin that He is taking away is “original” sin – Adam’s sin that caused God to be angry with all humans and condemn them to eternal death! Where in the Word does it teach that we are to be punished for sins committed by others?
        2. Secondly, how does having someone else take my punishment free me from my own sin?
          1. Has it ever happened that a friend or a sibling got punished for something that you did? Did it make you feel better, or did it make you feel worse that someone else got a a punishment that you deserved? How does punishing the innocent help the sinner?
    5. Compare to the NC doctrine of Redemption.
      1. Innocent has two meanings here.
        1. Innocent can mean someone who didn’t commit the sin – like a sibling or a friend.
        2. Or, it can mean the One who is without Sin, God Incarnate.
      2. If, as traditional Christian doctrine would have us believe, He died to take away our sins, why do we still feel their pull?
        1. He didn’t die to take them away, but to conquer hell.
          1. By allowing Himself to die when He had the power to miraculously prevent it, He overcame in His final and greatest temptation, thus defeating the hells and their influence over us.
          2. We are redeemed, not by the removal of sin, but by having the freedom to reject it as-from-self.
        2. The blood shed represents the effort taken on our behalf to put hell back into its proper bounds.
  4. This is My blood of the new testament that is shed for many for the remission of sins. (14:24)
    1. Why does the Lord call the wine of the Holy Supper His blood?
      1. Some are vaguely uncomfortable with that image
      2. But, seen in the context of the larger picture, we can see how it fits.
        1. Blood = truth
          1. Jews ate meat without the blood to signify that their obedience was without an interior understanding of why they were obedient.
        2. Blood is a symbol of effort and sacrifice
          1. This is especially seen in the process of regeneration.
            1. Regeneration requires learning the truth and compelling self to live according to it (effort).
            2. Regeneration requires giving up our beloved evils (sacrifice)
        3. When we make that effort, we are cleansed
          1. Washed in the blood of Christ. (See REV 1:5)
            1. Which only makes sense if blood is a symbol for truth/falsity like water.
  5. Conclusion
    1. Sacrifice of Isaac (and the substitution of the ram)
    2. Passover
      1. The Paschal Lamb, the protection of its blood, and the rule that none of its bones were to be broken.
    3. Laws of Moses about blood in the sacrifice and food.
    4. Jesus as the “lamb led to the slaughter”
      1. ISA 53:6-7 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
    5. Jesus asking the disciples to “drink His blood.”
    6. John’s vision of the “Lamb that was slain”
    7. All go to create a picture, a single message repeated to many states in many ages.
      1. Do these things, because they are as much a part of Me as My own flesh and blood, and by doing them, you become one with Me.
      2. (Mark 14:22-26) And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” {23} Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. {24} And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. {25} “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” {26} And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Amen.

First Lesson: Isa 53

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? {2} For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. {3} He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. {4} Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. {5} But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. {6} All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. {8} He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. {9} And they made His grave with the wicked; But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. {10} Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. {11} He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. {12} Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. Amen.

Second Lesson: Rev 7:9-17

{9} After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, {10} and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” {11} All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, {12} saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” {13} Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” {14} And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. {15} “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. {16} “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; {17} “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AE 329

Since it is said, “Thou didst redeem us to God in Thy blood,” and since this is understood within the church entirely according to the sense of the letter, and not according To any spiritual sense, I will also show that “blood” does not mean blood, or the Lord’s suffering on the cross, but Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, and the reception of it by man; thus that “Thou didst redeem us in Thy blood” means That He has delivered and freed from hell those who acknowledge Him, and receive Divine truth from Him. In illustration of this matter I will cite the following. Because all things that were commanded in the Israelitish Church were representative of things celestial and spiritual, and not the least thing was not so, it was also commanded, when the paschal supper was first instituted:-

That they shall take of the blood, and put in on the two sideposts and on the lintel upon the houses wherein they shall eat (the paschal lamb); and the blood shall be for you for a sign upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, nor shall there be a plague upon you from the destroyer when I shall smite the land of Egypt.3

He who does not know that there is a spiritual sense in the Word believes that “blood” here signifies the Lord’s blood upon the cross; but this is not at all the meaning in heaven; but to the angels there the paschal supper here described has a like meaning as the holy supper instituted by the Lord, in which, in place of the paschal lamb, there are the bread and the wine; and the Lord then said that the bread was His flesh and the wine was His blood; and every one knows, or may know, that bread and wine are what nourish the body, bread as food and wine as drink, and that in the Word, which in its bosom is spiritual, these things also must be spiritually understood, “bread” standing for all spiritual food, and “wine” for all spiritual drink. [2] Spiritual food is all the good that is communicated and given to man by the Lord, and spiritual drink is all the truth that is communicated and given to man by the Lord. These two, namely, good and truth, or love and faith, make man spiritual; it is said, or love and faith, because all good is of love, and all truth is of faith. From this it can be seen that “bread” means the Divine good of the Lord’s Divine love, and in reference to man, this good received by him; also that “wine” means the Divine truth that proceeds from the Divine good of the Lord’s Divine love, and in reference to man, this truth received by him. Since the Lord says that His flesh is bread, and His blood is wine, it can be seen that “the Lord’s flesh” means the Divine good of His Divine love, and “to eat” it means to receive it, and make it one’s own, and thus to be conjoined to the Lord; and that “the Lord’s blood” means the Divine truth that proceeds from the Divine good of His Divine love, and that “drinking” it means to receive that truth and make it one’s own, and thus be conjoined to the Lord. Amen.

1GEN 46:27

2EXO 12:37

3EXO 13:7

Thanksgiving Around the World

 

Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy is forever. (PSA 107:1)

  1. Canada takes the 2nd Monday in October to give thanks to God for the good harvest and for the good health and fortune of the people.
    1. In the United States, Thanksgiving is closely associated with the story of the Pilgrims.
      1. Certainly those poor people who had fled from their homes and come to a dangerous and uncivilized new world had much to give thanks for – and we can learn a lot from their dedication to religious freedom and their courage.
    2. But that story is such a good one that it may distract us from thinking about the fact not only do people in other countries celebrate Thanksgiving, but that it may be that more people have Thanksgiving in common than any other holiday.
    3. No matter what country they live in, People of many Religions throughout the world set aside a day at the end of the harvest season, to think about the blessings they have received from their Creator.
  2. The Writings tell us that when the Lord was on earth as a Teacher, He presented his ideas in a way that was specially suited to the European or western way of thinking.
    1. In His Divine Wisdom, the Lord knows that with so many different kinds of people in the world, there would have to be many different ways of teaching them.
    2. In His Divine Providence He formed other great religions through prophets like Mohammed and Buddha so that people of every kind in every land could find a path to heaven even if they didn’t know about or understand the miracle of the Lord’s birth on earth.
    3. But if they don’t know about the Lord, they don’t have Christmas or Easter because those are holidays that celebrate great events in the Lord’s life.
      1. But the people in every nation throughout the world need to eat. People everywhere depend on the bounty that comes from the earth each year.
    4. People everywhere give thanks to God, no matter which of His names they use in their prayers, for they know that they could not live a moment if it were not for God’s gifts to us.
      1. For example, people of the Jewish faith all over the World celebrate Sukkoth, or the feast of the Ingathering in October (the date varies according to the lunar calendar). It marks the end of the harvest season, specifically the vintage and fruit harvest of the Holy Land.
      2. Islamic people have a month of fasting each year called Ramadan, and they celebrate the end of the fast with feasting and thanksgiving for the many blessings they enjoy.
      3. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to [all] the children of men! {9} For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (PSA 107:8-9)
  3. Throughout the world, people are turning to God in Thanksgiving for his gifts of food and life. And, as important as these are, they are just the beginnings, the foundation of the good gifts that He gives to us, and for which we should be thankful – not just today but everyday.
    1. We bring forward our gifts of fruit because they particularly represent uses.
    2. These things grown from the good earth are representatives of all the various uses that we are called on to perform for ourselves and others.
    3. The Lord asks us to do these things for others in His name, because He asks us to, not just so that we will appear to be good people.
    4. When we are genuinely useful, when we take these gifts that the Lord provides, and use them to care for and protect others, it is a way of giving them back to the Lord, of giving thanks to Him, and recognizing that He is the source of all good things.
  4. On this day that we set aside to give thanks to the Lord we should look first at the wonderful bounty that the earth provides, the good food that we have in abundance – not just at how much food there is, but how many different kinds of food we have.
    1. All the different kinds of food can remind us that they represent all the different ways that people can find to be useful to other people, that from things we begin to think about and be thankful for the people who are in our lives.
    2. All the different people we know and the way they relate to each other as friends or family or through work or school can remind us about the way that heaven itself works:
    3. Millions and Millions of people, gathered there since the beginning of time, finding delightful ways of working and playing together, and giving thanks to God for His blessings.
    4. We have so much to be grateful for. But we do not give thanks today because the Lord demands it of us. He has no need of our thanks. He knows we cannot ever pay Him back for what He has given us, and does not expect us to try.
    5. But, because He made us, He knows that it is good for us to thank Him, to be reminded from time to time that all good is from the Lord, all blessings flow into our world from Him, and we can only truly receive Him into our hearts when we open our hearts to Him in Thanksgiving.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy is forever. (PSA 107:8)

AMEN.

 

First Lesson:

(PSA 107:1-14) Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. {8} Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! {9} For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. {10} Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons; {11} Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, {12} Therefore He brought down their heart with labour; They fell down, and there was none to help. {13} Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. {14} He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces.

Second Lesson:

[7] True confession of the heart, because it flows from celestial love, is confession in the genuine sense. The person with whom it exists acknowledges that everything good comes from the Lord and everything evil from self. When that acknowledgement exists with him it is a state of humiliation, for in this case he acknowledges the Lord to be everything in him and he himself in comparison to be nothing. And when confession is made in this state it flows from celestial love.

 

Teaching in Samaria

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, August 16, 2009

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (JOH 4:10)

I.       The fourth chapter of John is a snapshot of the spiritual cycles of our lives:  The struggle to learn the truth, the attempt to bring it to life by living according to it, and the necessity of our recognition that none of this can be done without the Lord’s help, but that with His help comes success and a time of rest and peace.

II.    First, a little history to set the scene.

A.   Samaria was a region within the kingdom of Israel.

B.   When the kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, the kings of Israel ruled in Samaria.

1.     In 721 BC, the Assyrians swept in from the north and carried off all the people of Samaria, and the rest of the northern tribes, and they were never heard from again. So people from the kingdom of Judah in the south moved in and took over the region.

2.     In 586 BC, when the kingdom was carried away by the Babylonians, only the poorest, the least educated, the old, and the sick were left in Samaria.

C.   The Babylonians sent colonists from other countries to farm the land, and they brought their own religions with them.

1.     With no one else around, and as far as they were concerned the kingdom was gone forever, the people left in Samaria had no choice but to intermarry with these strangers.

D.   When the captives were set free from Babylon and allowed to return, they were shocked and horrified to discover what those left behind had been doing, and ever more treated the “Samaritans” with disgust and horror.

1.     As a result, during the Lord’s time on earth, a proper Jew would never associate with a Samaritan.

2.     That’s why His parable about the good Samaritan was particularly powerful – He did the unthinkable and cast the Samaritan as the “good guy”!

III. The Lord and His twelve apostles were travelling through Samaria, and this is what happened:

A.   (John 4:3-26) He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. {4} But He needed to go through Samaria. {5} So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. {7} A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” {8} For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. {9} Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” {11} The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? {12} “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” {13} Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} “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.” {15} The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” {16} Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” {17} The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ {18} “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” {19} The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

IV.Water vs. Living Water.

A.   Water represents truth, but living water represents truths from the Word which are eternal and regard eternal ends.

B.   We talk about the Divine Providence, and how the Lord is always looking out for us, taking care of us, guiding everything in the world down to the smallest things.

C.   And we wonder why our life isn’t perfect. How come we get the ‘flu, and our cars break down, and other bad things happen.

D.   Because the Lord is working to give us living water.

V.   The Divine Providence regards eternal ends.

A.   The events and happenings of this world are merely the means of bringing His plans into being.

B.   DP 59. It has not been known hitherto that the Divine Providence in all its proceedings with man regards his eternal state. It can regard nothing else, because the Divine is Infinite and Eternal, and the Infinite and Eternal, that is, the Divine, is not in time, and hence all future things are present to Him; and because this is the nature of the Divine, it follows that the eternal is in all things that it does, in general and in particular. Those, however, who think from time and space have difficulty in perceiving this, not only because they love temporal things, but also because they think from what is present in the world and not from what is present in heaven, for this to them is as far away as the end of the earth.

VI.By His words, and His knowledge of her life, He proved to her that He had the authority to teach this.

A.   Having taught the Samaritan women about living water, He then takes the opportunity to teach His disciples about living food.

B.   (John 4:27-45) And at this point His disciples came, and they marvelled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” {28} The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, {29} “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” {30} Then they went out of the city and came to Him. {31} In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” {32} But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” {33} Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” {34} Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. {35} “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! {36} “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. {37} “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ {38} “I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.” {39} And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” {40} So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. {41} And many more believed because of His own word. {42} Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

VII.Everyone needs both food and water.

A.   Angels, too. But they eat spiritual food and drink spiritual water.

1.     The same things that feed the spirit that lives within us.

B.   The Lord taught that His food is to do His father’s will.

C.   He uses the image of the harvest to tell them that they can harvest spiritual food at any time:  the fields are white for harvest (a picture of how the green fields turn a lighter colour as the time for harvest approaches).

D.   Unlike natural fields which only produce their food at certain times, the spiritual benefits of obedience to His living truths can be harvested at any time.

E.    And you get back far more than you invest. The Lord has planted these fields, and tended them. He does almost all the work. We are simply invited to harvest them!

VIII.First, He talked to the woman of Samaria about “living water” and showed her that He was a prophet. Then He taught the disciples about “living bread” and how if they would make the effort of themselves, He would do all the work, and they would get the harvest – at any time of the year. Now He brings it all together by showing them His power to heal with just a word.

A.   (John 4:46-54) So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. {47} When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. {48} Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” {49} The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” {50} Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. {51} And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” {52} Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” {53} So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. {54} This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

IX.The Lord did not come into the world for the purpose of healing the sick. If He had, He would have healed everyone and there would be no more sickness in the world.

A.   Physical illness is used in the Word to represent different kind of spiritual ills – evils – that will keep us out of heaven unless we do something about them.

B.   By healing at a distance with just a word, the Lord is showing that He does not have to be visibly present to heal our spiritual lives.

C.   We can bring His near presence, and healing power, simply by asking for it, and we come into a new state of happiness and peace – at least until the next cycle begins.

1.     By having “living water” – the continual and life giving qualities of truths that are eternal, that are for the sake of eternal life, that rise above the petty and limited concerns of the natural world, that come from the Lord alone through His Word.

2.     By “reaping the harvest” – when we see that the truths from the Word are living, that they are the means to finding eternal life, and when we begin to live according to them we begin to understand what it is to be a part of God’s plan, to fit in.

a.     But it also means that we have a clearer and sharper awareness of our own failings, the areas where our spiritual life is lacking, where there is spiritual illness.

3.     The Lord is not only a teacher, He is also a healer. He stands ready to perform miracles of healing to any who ask it of Him. He can only heal those who believe that He has the power to heal, only those who approach him from humbleness of heart and who are ready to accept His authority and power in spiritual things.

4.     But for those who do believe, for those who seek Him in the Word, who live a life of charity towards the neighbour, and who pray for the healing of their spirits, He has promised that He will come to us, that our spirits will be healed of the sins and limitations of earthly life, and that we will live with Him forevermore.

D.   So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. {51} And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” {52} Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” {53} So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. (JOH 4:50-53) Amen.


First Lesson:  ZEC 13

“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. {2} “It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. {3} “It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. {4} “And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. {5} “But he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.’ {6} “And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’ {7} “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. {8} And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one- third shall be left in it: {9} I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” Amen.

Second Lesson:  AC 680: 1-3

That goods and truths are the genuine foods of man must be evident to every one, for he who is destitute of them has no life, but is dead. When a man is spiritually dead the foods with which his soul is fed are delights from evils and pleasantnesses from falsities – which are foods of death – and are also those which come from bodily, worldly, and natural things, which also have nothing of life in them. Moreover, such a man does not know what spiritual and celestial food is, insomuch that whenever “food” or “bread” is mentioned in the Word he supposes the food of the body to be meant; as in the Lord’s prayer, the words “Give us our daily bread,” he supposes to mean only sustenance for the body; and those who extend their ideas further say it includes also other necessaries of the body, such as clothing, property, and the like. They even sharply deny that any other food is meant; when yet they see plainly that the words preceding and following involve only celestial and spiritual things, and that the Lord’s kingdom is spoken of; and besides, they might know that the Word of the Lord is celestial and spiritual.

[2] From this and other similar examples it must be sufficiently evident how corporeal is man at the present day; and that … he is disposed to take everything that is said in the Word in the most gross and material sense. The Lord Himself clearly teaches what is meant in His Word by “food” and “bread.” Concerning “food” He thus speaks in John:— Jesus said, Labor not for the meat (or food) which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you (vi. 27).

And concerning “bread” He says, in the same chapter:— Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this Bread he shall live eternally (vi. 49-51, 58).

But at the present day there are men like those who heard these words and said: “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” and who “went back and walked no more with Him” (ib. verses 60, 66), to whom the Lord said: “The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life” (verse 63).

[3] And so with respect to “water,” which signifies the spiritual things of faith, and concerning which the Lord thus speaks in John:— Jesus said, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life (iv. 13, 14).

But at the present day there are those who are like the woman with whom the Lord spoke at the well, and who answered, “Lord, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (verse 15).

GRIEF

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! {10} For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. (Psa 31:9-10)

  1. Introduction
    1. It would be wonderful if our lives were happy all the time, but the fact is that they are not. For many different reasons we are, from time to time, burdened with grief.
    2. Today we are going to look at grief to see what it is, how it effects us, and what we can do when we are grieving to move out of that state as quickly as possible.
    3. First, let us look at some definitions:
      1. Grieved = annoyed. He was grieved when he discovered that he had been cheated.
      2. Grief = indignation
        1. AC 1492 The case herein is like that of little children who when they love something their parents see to be hurtful to them, and it is taken away from them, are thereby grieved.
      3. Grievous = serious, painful, usually in relation to the Lord’s temptations.
      4. Love that cannot reach out to the one (or thing) loved
      5. The Lord grieves for us when we put up barriers to keep Him out
  2. Lots of things to grieve about
    1. We grieve when the marriage covenant is broken.
    2. We grieve when the people we love die.
    3. We grieve from the effects of diseases on our own states when we are in pain and lack energy to do the things we love to do, and also the anger and grief we feel when someone we love is suffering.
  3. Sometimes we think that because of our doctrines, we should not grieve.
    1. The Doctrine of the Divine Providence
      1. AC 2447:2 All order is from Jehovah, that is, from the Lord, and according to this order are all things directed by Him both in general and in particular, but in many different ways, to wit, from Will, from Good-pleasure, from Leave, and from Permission.
    2. And then when we do grieve, we end up feeling guilty, too!
  4. To grieve at heart is to love.
    1. The elements of Love (TCR 43)
      1. To love someone other than yourself
      2. To desire to be conjoined with the one who is loved
      3. To desire to make that one happy from yourself
    2. For us to feel the delights that come from love, these three aspects must be in place. When they are broken by death, disease, or anger, our love cannot go out and be returned, so we feel grief.
    3. The Lord feels grief when His love is rejected, when people turn away from Him to disorder.
      1. AC 586a And it repented Jehovah that He made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. That He “repented,” signifies mercy; that He “grieved at the heart,” has a like signification to “repent” has reference to wisdom; to “grieve at the heart” to love.
      2. AC 2248 “wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” signifies the Lord’s grief from love toward the human race, and His intercession, urging that possibly there might be what is good joined to them, although they were evil.
  5. The Spiritual do not grieve over external matters which are of no eternal value
    1. AC 2689:2 It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love. They who are affected only with corporeal and worldly things, or who love such things only, grieve when they are deprived of them; but they who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them.
      Every one’s life is nothing but affection or love. Hence it is evident what is the state of those who are desolated as to the goods and truths with which they are affected, or which they love, namely, that their state of grief is more severe, because more internal; and in the deprivation of good and truth they do not regard the death of the body, for which they do not care, but eternal death.
  6. Grief is essential to reformation
    1. AC 2694:2 That they who are being reformed are reduced into ignorance of truth, or desolation, even to grief and despair, and that they then for the first time have comfort and help from the Lord, is unknown at this day, for the reason that few are reformed. They who are such that they can be reformed are brought into this state, if not in the life of the body, nevertheless in the other life, where this state is well known, and is called vastation….
  7. Grief serves the use of subduing externals — shakes us up
    1. AC 857:2 Temptations, therefore, have for their end that the externals of man may be subdued and thus be rendered obedient to his internals, as may be evident to every one from the fact that as soon as man’s loves are assaulted and broken (as during misfortunes, sickness, and grief of mind), his cupidities begin to subside, and he at the same time begins to talk piously; but as soon as he returns to his former state, the external man prevails and he scarcely thinks of such things.
  8. Grief in temptations
    1. AC 1917 In temptations there are vastations and desolations, and there are states of despair, and of consequent grief and indignation, besides other interior painful emotions and this with variety and alternation, according to the states of evil and falsity which are excited by evil genii and spirits, and against which the combat is being waged. The diabolical spirits desire nothing more than to find some falsity, in fact it is common with them to induce a falsity from themselves, and then at the same time to make it the subject of accusation.
  9. Natural grief is not a temptation
    1. AC 762 But spiritual temptations are little known at this day. Nor are they permitted to such a degree as formerly, because man is not in the truth of faith, and would therefore succumb. In place of these temptations there are others, such as misfortunes, griefs, and anxieties, arising from natural and bodily causes, and also sicknesses and diseases of the body, which in a measure subdue and break up the life of a man’s pleasures and cupidities, and determine and uplift his thoughts to interior and religious subjects. But these are not spiritual temptations, which are experienced by those only who have received from the Lord a conscience of truth and good. Conscience is itself the plane of temptations, wherein they operate.
  10. Evil spirits cause grief
    1. AC 6828 a “wilderness” signifies what is but little inhabited and cultivated, and also what is not inhabited and cultivated at all, thus in the spiritual sense a man vastated as to good and desolated as to truth, consequently a man who is in temptation; for he who is in temptation is in vastation and in desolation, because the falsity and evil in him come out and darken and almost take away the influx of truth and good from the Lord; and the truth which flows in does not appear to him to have sufficient life to disperse the falsities and evils. Moreover evil spirits are then present, who inject grief, and despair of salvation.
  11. Grief when we find ourselves in error
    1. AC 6559:e But as regards good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but pardoned, and also excused; for their end is not to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them by hell, so that they have not come to pass by their fault; and the same is also observed from their resistance, and afterward from their grief.
  12. So what do you do about grief?
    1. Don’t feel guilty, don’t waste your energy punishing yourself
    2. Grief is normal and natural
      1. It may have a natural cause
        1. Health
        2. Personal failure or loss
      2. It may have a spiritual cause
        1. Temptations induced by the hells
    3. It serves a very important use of shaking us loose from the habits of life.
      1. And helps us stop to reflect on eternity, providence, etc.
      2. It’s also true that we may soon slip back into the habits…. Like the children of Israel who were able to witness the greatest, most spectacular miracles of all time, and within days be crying that Jehovah had brought them into the wilderness to kill them.
  13. Kubler-Ross
    1. The first psychologist who sat down and talked to people who were dying, and to the families who had just experienced a personal loss. Later, her studies on death and dying led her to an investigation of Swedenborgian teachings which she reviewed favourably in her books.
      1. Denial
      2. Anger – Why me?
      3. Bargaining
      4. Depression
      5. Acceptance
    2. Although almost everyone will go through all five steps when grieving, each step does not get equal attention.
      1. Some may be passed quickly and easily, while other linger.
      2. They do not necessarily come in this order
      3. Once a particular state is passed, it may come again in a different form.
      4. But by being aware of these states, we can cooperate in our own healing, assisting the Lord who is working in secret internal ways by keeping our external situation in order.

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. {13} For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. {14} But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” {15} My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, And from those who persecute me. (Psa 31:12-15) Amen.

The Academy Position

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Oct. 17, 2004

Introduction

This weekend, many of us are celebrating Charter Day, the anniversary of the date that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave the Academy of the New Church a charter to operate a library and a theological school, and to publish books.

For the past hundred years, individual and societies throughout the world have put a great deal of time, effort, and money into creating and improving the various schools that make up the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA, and the various other “academies” such as the British Academy Summer School and the Midwest Academy. And yet, ironically, the Academy was not at first a school, but rather it was a doctrinal position within the General Convention, the original Swedenborgian church in the United States. The seeds that would later become the Academy of the New Church were planted with discontent over quality of Theological Instruction within the General Convention, questions about the nature of Swedenborg’s inspiration and the related questions about the authority of the Writings.

The ministers and laymen with the General Convention who believed in the Divinity of Swedenborg’s inspiration, the authority of the Writings, and the related doctrinal and governmental issues began to gather around Rev. William H. Benade for support and leadership. They began to refer to their point of view as the “Academy Position.” The history of how this informal gathering of people of like minds became the General Church of the New Jerusalem is quite interesting, but is both too lengthy and too much involved with non-doctrinal issues to go into here. Let’s just say that after going through several earthly dispensations, the Academy movement found its home in the General Church of the New Jerusalem under the leadership of its first executive bishop, W. F. Pendleton, in 1897.

In 1899, at the 3rd General Assembly of the General Church, W.F. Pendleton gave an address where, for the first time, all the principles of the Academy movement were gathered into one document. In 1958 Bishop deCharms said that they still reflected the doctrinal position of the General Church. They are not a dogmatic statement of faith, they are not binding on the conscience of the church, but rather a statement of the doctrinal opinion generally held at the time, but open to modification as the church matures.

The Twelve Principles

  1. The Writings are the Second Coming of the Lord.
    1. The Divine Human appears in the Writings. The Writings are the Divine Human appearing to the New Church
      1. The reason a judgment on the former Christian Church was required was the falsity and ignorance both in the natural world and in the world of spirits. Swedenborg was not only one chosen to record and report these events, but was the instrument that caused the judgment by revealing the truths given to him by the Lord in both the natural world and the world of spirits.
    2. This view sets the Academy apart from all other churches, and justifies its independence, its existence as a separate dispensation rather than as a movement within the Christian Church.
  2. The former Christian Church is consummated and dead, with no hope of resurrection.
    1. There cannot be a genuine church except with those who separate from it and join the New Church.
    2. The New Church is to be distinct from the Old because they are distinct and separate in the world of spirits. The New Church in the heavens and in the world must act as one. The New Church in the world cannot be fully united to the New Church in the heavens until it casts out the falsities of the Old Church, the Old Church spirit, the Old Church life.
  3. The priesthood is the appointed means for establishing the church
    1. It is an appearance for the sake of freedom that priests are appointed and chosen by men. We may speak and act according to the appearance.
      1. Essential truth is that they are appointed by the Lord, and chosen, taught, and prepared by Him for the use of the office.
        1. Therefore, the priesthood is not to be placed under external bonds. In other words, lay councils and priestly councils, and any church official (such as an executive bishop) cannot force a priest to act apart from his conscience and enlightenment received while reading the Word except in the case of disorder or disturbance
  4. Baptism is the door of introduction to the New Church, and conjoins with heaven.
    1. By baptism a man becomes a member of the New Church in both worlds.
    2. Only those who are baptized should be eligible for membership in the church in general.
  5. Holy Supper is the most holy act of worship
    1. And it is a purely representative act (no miracle of conversion into flesh and blood)
    2. Holy Supper wine is to be pure, fermented juice of the grape.
      1. Apparently there was an issue about wine in the late 19th Century. The Academy position is that fermented wine was used in the events reported in Scripture, that history confirms this view, and that such a practice is confirmed by reason and common sense. Also, from time to time a paper is presented in the Council of the Clergy which gives many deep and detailed reasons as to the importance of fermentation because it symbolizes man’s regeneration.
  6. Conjugial love is between those of one mind, one faith, one religion.
    1. Conjugial life is the home life. If conjugial love is not in the home, it is not anywhere. The conjugial in the home is the pillar upon which the church rests and by which it is supported; take away this pillar and the edifice is in ruins
    2. The conjugial in the home consists in the husband and wife thinking together in the things of religion, and from this in other things. If they do not so think together they are not together in the spiritual world, and their spirits do not dwell together in the same society, and they are internally in collision and conflict.
  7. Interference with the law of offspring is an abomination.
    1. Marriage is the seminary of the human race
    2. The end of creation is a heaven from the human race, which is fulfilled in marriage.
    3. God provided marriage so that heaven would be provided with angels.
    4. Opposing creation is a sin against God, heaven, and earthly society
  8. The laws in the latter part of CL are given for the preservation of the conjugial.
    1. Specifically numbers 444 to 476 (Fornication and Concubinage)
      1. Again, we must realize that this was an active issue in the church at the time, with quite a few people claiming to be shocked at what they considered to be “obscenities” contained within CL.
      2. There were many who said that the book should be edited, that the forgiveness for moderate fornication and orderly concubinage were “mistakes” and should not be included in the Word.
      3. Since the work was under attack, and since the attack was really a judgment at the question of the Divine authorship of the Writings, the Academy people responded it to it far more strongly that we would expect from our perspective.
  9. The doctrine of the NC is revealed from God out of the inmost heaven.
    1. Again, a response to an attack from others within the New Church community, specifically those who were guilty of “false celestialism,” as when Benade claimed that the Academy was an internal church for those who were regenerated, and that his enlightenment was superior because of its “celestial” source.
    2. Therefore the NC is a celestial church, but accommodated to every state. There is no perception of truth outside of doctrine.
  10. Doubt gives reason for delay; there should be “essential unanimity.”
    1. In heaven, there is government by unanimous consent. This principle is impossible to achieve in this world, but it must be sought and protected where found.
    2. Doubt is an indication of Providence that the time is not yet right. There is need for further thought and reflection to make a rational judgment.
    3. Delay is not just to substitute unanimity for majority, but a protection of the internal
      1. Make a habit of thinking together from common affection
      2. A ruling principle of the choirs of heaven.
  11. Laws should reflect present needs and uses; laws other than this are hurtful.
    1. We cannot legislate concerning Divine revelation
    2. Nor can we reason about it.
    3. Nor can we legislate for things contingent or remote.
    4. Therefore, we should limit ourselves those things we can see: present needs and uses.
    5. The future belongs to the Lord alone.
    6. Man’s work lies in that which is immediately before him.
  12. The most fruitful field of Evangelization is with the children of NC parents.
    1. Writings teach that few from the Old Church will receive the New.
    2. 200 years of experience confirm these teachings.
      1. Not profitable to hold to the belief that there will be a mass conversion from the former Christian churches
    3. Where NC bodies have neglected their children, few have become adult members (i.e. Convention in the US.)
    4. It is reasonable to hope that children will become adult members if we cooperate.
      1. If the Lord is acknowledged in His Second Coming
      2. If the distinctiveness of the Church is seen and protected
      3. If the laws of order in marriage are preserved and followed
      4. If the sphere of the church is in the home
      5. If there are New Church day schools
    5. In order to conduct this work, there must be New Church Schools
      1. The Academy decided to occupy this new field of Evangelization hoping that it would provide the main source of new adult members.
      2. This is the most fruitful field in which to seek new members
      3. It is the field that is nearest: in our very homes
      4. The Academy will provide for growth in quality as well as numbers
    6. The resolve of the Academy was to provide for the future of the church in both the quality of understanding of the doctrines, and the numbers to support and perform the uses of the Lord’s Church on earth.

In essence, the Academy position is receiving the Writings as the Word

                  1. Sincere application of the teachings according to the light of the time. I think it can be seen that these twelve principles cover all aspects of the church.
                  1. The nature of the Lord and the Word
                  2. The connection between Regeneration and Conjugial Love in marriage
                  3. Principles to govern how larger groups interact and govern themselves
                  4. Real world applications and the creation of New Church Schools
                  1. These principles do not prescribe how one must believe to be a member of the General Church today, but rather describe what the generally held view was in our historic past.
                  1. Some of these principles we would willingly embrace today. Others we would find difficult to embrace wholeheartedly. But certainly, on the anniversary of the external embodiment of the Academy movement, it would be useful for all of us to reflect on our doctrinal heritage, and turn to the Word for ourselves to establish the principles on which we will base our life’s decisions. Amen.

First Lesson: LUK 17:20-37

20Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

22Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”

37And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?”

So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

Second Lesson: Sacred Scripture 75 – 78

75. From what has been said may be inferred the nature of the wisdom that lies hidden in the Word that is in this world. In fact all angelic wisdom, which is unutterable, lies hidden in it, for it is the container of the same, and after death a man who is being made an angel by the Lord by means of the Word comes into that wisdom.

THE CHURCH IS FROM THE WORD, AND IS SUCH AS IS ITS UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORD

76. That the church is from the Word does not admit of doubt, for the Word is Divine truth itself (n. 1-4); the doctrine of the church is from the Word (n. 50-61) and through the Word there is conjunction with the Lord (n. 62-69). But doubt may arise as to whether the understanding of the Word is what makes the church, for there are those who believe that they are of the church because they have the Word, read it or hear it from a preacher, and know something of its sense of the letter, yet how this or that in the Word is to be understood they do not know, and some of them little care. It shall therefore be proved that it is not the Word that makes the church, but the understanding of it, and that such as is the understanding of the Word among those who are in the church, such is the church itself. The proof of this is as follows.

77. The Word is the Word according to the understanding of it in a man, that is, as it is understood. If it is not understood, the Word is indeed called the Word, but it is not the Word with the man. The Word is the truth according to the understanding of it, for it may not be the truth, because it may be falsified. The Word is spirit and life according to the understanding of it, for its letter if not understood is dead. And as a man has truth and life according to his understanding of the Word, so has he faith and love according thereto, for truth is of faith, and love is of life. Now as the church exists by means of faith and love, and according to them, it follows that the church is the church through the understanding of the Word and according thereto; a noble church if in genuine truths, an ignoble church if not in genuine truths, and a destroyed church if in falsified truths.

78. Further, it is through the Word that the Lord is present with a man and is conjoined with him, for the Lord is the Word, and as it were speaks with the man in it. The Lord is also Divine truth itself, as likewise is the Word. From this it is evident that the Lord is present with a man and is at the same time conjoined with him, according to his understanding of the Word, for according to this the man has truth and the derivative faith, and also love and the derivative life. The Lord is indeed present with a man through the reading of the Word, but he is conjoined with him through the understanding of truth from the Word, and according thereto; and in proportion as the Lord has been conjoined with a man, in the same proportion the church is in him. The church is within man; the church that is outside of him is the church with a number of men who have the church within them. This is meant by the Lord’s words to the Pharisees who asked when the kingdom of God would come:

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).

Here the “kingdom of God” means the Lord, and from him, the church.