God the Father

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (MAT 23:8-9)

  1. To most of us in the New Church, the Trinity of God is not really an issue.
    1. Either we grew up in the Church familiar with the doctrine,
    2. Or we came into the New Church because the doctrine matched our existing beliefs.
    3. Part of the reason is in the usage of the term Lord
      1. The distinction between Father and Son, Jehovah and Jesus are deliberately blurred.
        1. The lesson from Revelation sounds like Jehovah, the Ancient One
          1. But is actually a description of Jesus appearing to John — as God the Father.
          2. Confusing? Not if the names are simply to distinguish aspects of One God.
  2. It is less of an issue today in the Christian Church than it was 200 years ago
    1. The distractions of modern life have turned our attention away from the church.
      1. Church used to be the center of social life in a society where more than 90% of the work force was required just to produce food, there was not a lot of entertainment available, nor did anyone have much time to enjoy it.
        1. The sermon the only real source of news and entertainment since the general populace could neither read nor write.
    2. But the nature of God was and is a very important issue to some people.
      1. AC 3704:6,7
        1. [6] When being initiated into the good of love and its truth, all little children are there taught to acknowledge the Lord alone as their Father; nay, even novitiates who come into heaven are taught with solicitous care that there is one God; and they who have been horn within the church are taught that the whole Trinity is in the Lord; for almost all who come from the Christian world bring with them an idea of three gods, although with their lips they had said that there is but one God; for to think of one, when the idea of three has before entered, and when each of these is called God, and also is distinguished from the others as to attributes and offices, and likewise is separately worshipped, is humanly impossible; consequently the worship of three gods is in the heart, while the Worship of one only is in the mouth.
        2. [7] That the whole Trinity is in the Lord is known in the Christian world, and yet among these in the other life the Lord is little thought of; nay, His Human is a stumbling-block to many, because they distinguish the Human from the Divine, neither do they believe it to he Divine.…
      2. We sometimes hear the words, “pray to the Father through the Son” and we dismiss them, because we think we know what is meant. But there are those who enter the spiritual world very confused by such teachings, very confused by the division of the aspects of the Divine because they never stopped to think about what they were saying, what the implications of such ideas were.
      3. The Writings say that these people see the Divine Human as a “stumbling block”
        1. Because the Divine Human was distinguished from the Divine itself, and therefore it was difficult to see Him as Divine.
      4. Every year, some church leader will question the virgin birth arguing that in this modern world we don’t need such “foolishness” to support our faith, that we are more sophisticated than the early Christians and therefore can be let in on the secret that Jesus was the son of Joseph, or if not Joseph, the result of an adulterous affair by Mary.
    3. God’s purpose in coming to earth was to show us the Humanity of His Divinity.
      1. Mankind’s response has been to separate the Divine from the Human, and to make the Divine distant and unapproachable:
        1. God the Father is the Creator of the Universe who has become enraged with His creation because of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, and has “washed His hands” of us, condemning all to hell.
          1. (One might wonder how the world has continued to exist at all if the Creator has turned His back on it? One might wonder why, if He went to all the trouble to create the world, why He made no effort to fix it, or why he didn’t destroy it and start over having learned from His “mistake.” The real problem with all these dogmas is that they simply don’t make any sense.)
      2. And the Human all too human.
        1. Modern Theology has struggle for a hundred years to make the Lord less Divine, and therefore more “approachable.” The virgin birth is not taught in many churches any more, because the concept of His divinity gets in the way the far more important issue of His “humanity.” The miracles are regarded as enthusiastic and biased reporting on the part of the disciples:
          1. For example, the current thought is that the great miracle of feeding the 4,000 with a few loaves and fishes was that He was able to persuade those present to give up the food they had hidden away and share it with each other.
  3. It is our purpose, therefore, to concentrate on the Doctrine of the Lord this Easter Season, to remind ourselves that the Writings of the New Church have shed new light on what the Old and New Testaments teach about the Lord; they provide a clear, consistent, understandable view of the Divine, rather than hiding behind a “divine mystery.”
    1. However, it should be noted that although every aspect of the doctrine of the Lord is understandable, it doesn’t mean that every one can understand it fully at once. It does take some time to acquire the necessary experience and factual basis. The main focus of this sermon is God the Father. However, since the “Father” is simply one aspect of the one God, it is very difficult to speak of the Father without making some reference to the Son and the Holy Spirit.
      1. The internal of the Lord was Jehovah Himself
        1. AC 1893
          1. There are in every man an internal man, a rational man that is intermediate, and an external, which is properly called the natural man. With the Lord these were represented by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the internal man by Abraham, the rational by Isaac, and the natural by Jacob.
          2. The internal man in the Lord was Jehovah Himself, for He was conceived of Jehovah; on this account He so often called Him His “Father,” and in the Word He is called the “Only-begotten of God,” and the only “Son of God.”
      2. The Soul is from the Father, so there is unity
        1. AC 2005
          1. Every man’s internal is from his father, and his external from his mother; or what is the same thing, the soul itself is from the father, and the body with which the soul is clothed is from the mother. The soul together with the body, although two, make a one; for the soul is the body’s, and the body is the soul’s; and therefore they are inseparable. The Lord’s internal was from the Father, and therefore was the Father Himself, and hence it is that the Lord says that “the Father is in Him;” also, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me;” also, “He that seeth Me seeth the Father; I and the Father are one.”
      3. The Father = Divine Good, the Son = Divine truth
        1. Good is the source of truth, and truth is the form of good
          1. AC 2803
            1. That the Divine Truth is the “son,” and the Divine Good the “father,” is evident from the signification of a “son,” as being truth; and of a “father,” as being good. Truth cannot be and come forth (existere) from any other source than good. That the “son” here is the Divine Truth, and the “father” the Divine Good, is because the union of the Divine Essence with the Human, and of the Human Essence with the Divine, is the Divine marriage of Good with Truth, and of Truth with Good, from which comes the heavenly marriage; for in Jehovah or the Lord there is nothing but what is infinite; and because infinite, it cannot be apprehended by any idea, except that it is the being and the coming forth (esse et existere) of all good and truth, or is Good itself and Truth itself.
        2. All things come from the marriage of good and truth
          1. AC 3703
            1. That in the internal sense “father” signifies good, is because good is that from which all things are in both general and particular, and truth is that through which they all come into manifestation; thus from the marriage of good and truth. Heaven itself, which consists of nothing else than the Divine marriage of good and truth, is from the Divine marriage of good and truth and of truth and good in the Lord.
        3. Why the Father and Son are sometimes unified, sometimes distinct in scripture
          1. AC 3704
            1. As in heaven, and with man, and even in universal nature, all things both in general and in particular have relation to good and truth, therefore also the Lord’s Divine is distinguished into Divine good and Divine truth, and the Lord’s Divine good is called “Father,” and His Divine truth ” Son;” but the Lord’s Divine is nothing else than good; yea, Good itself; and the Divine truth is the Lord’s Divine good so appearing in heaven; that is, before the angels.
            2. [2] Thus the Lord in His essence is nothing else than Divine good, and this as to both the Divine Itself and the Divine Human; but Divine truth is not in Divine good, but from Divine good, for as before said so does the Divine good appear in heaven. And as Divine good comes to appearance as Divine truth, therefore for the sake of man’s apprehension the Lord’s Divine is distinguished into Divine good and Divine truth, and Divine good is that which in the Word is called “Father,” and Divine truth is that which is called “Son.”
            3. This is the secret which lies concealed in the fact that the Lord Himself so often speaks of His Father as distinct, and as if another than Himself; and yet in other places asserts that He is one with Himself. And the same is evident from all those passages where the Lord makes mention of His “Father,” and calls Himself the ” Son.”
  4. . Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not persons, but aspects or qualities of God
    1. At Easter, we can think of the Father as the incredible love for the salvation of the human race, for providing them with eternal life with Him in heaven, that motivated and sustained the Divine Human through all the terrible trials and temptations that He had to face throughout His time on earth, and during the last week particularly.
      1. Scripture tells us that the son of Man was tempted, but never the Son of God. In the internal sense this means that although the Lord may have wondered about the best course to take while on earth, the Divine Love within Him that burned for the salvation of all human beings never wavered.
    2. He is, truly, our Heavenly Father who loves us as we love our own children, and who was willing to risk everything for our sakes.

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (MAR 15:37-39) AMEN.

3rd Lesson: AC 3704.

Since every single thing in heaven, every single thing with man, and indeed every single thing in the whole natural order has reference to good and truth the Lord’s Divine too is therefore distinguished into Divine Good and Divine Truth – the Lord’s Divine Good being called ‘the Father’, and His Divine Truth ‘the Son’ .Yet the Lord’s Divine is nothing else than Good, indeed it is Good itself; but Divine Truth is the Lord’s Divine Good as it presents itself visually in heaven, that is, to angels. In this it is like the sun. Essentially the sun is nothing else than fire; but the light which one sees coming from it is not in the sun but flowing from it.

[2] So essentially the Lord is nothing else than Divine Good, and this applies to both essentials – to the Divine itself and to the Divine Human. Divine Truth however does not exist within Divine Good but flows from it, for as stated above, Divine Truth is the Divine Good presenting itself visually in heaven. Now because Divine Good presents itself as Divine Truth, therefore the Lord’s Divine is distinguished, to enable man to grasp it mentally, into Divine Good and Divine Truth, Divine Good being called in the Word ‘the Father’ and Divine Truth ‘the Son’ .This is the arcanum that lies behind the Lord Himself on so many occasions speaking of His Father as though He were separate from and so to speak One other than Himself, and yet at other times speaking of His being one with Himself. The fact that in the internal sense ‘father’ means good, and in the highest sense the Lord as regards Divine Good, has been shown just above in 3703, and the fact that ‘son’ means truth while ‘the Son of God’ and ‘the Son of Man’ mean the Lord as regards Divine Truth, in 1729, 1733, 2159, 2803, 2813. The matter is also clear from all those places where the Lord uses the name Father and calls Himself the Son.

[6] This matter is very well known in the next life, and for this reason those in heaven call no one other than the Lord ‘Father’, and by ‘Father’ mentioned in the Gospels they perceive no one other than Him, see 15, 1729.

[11] From these places it is clear that the Lord talks of the Father by virtue of the Divine Good that is His, and of the Son by virtue of the Divine Truth which springs from the Divine Good. And so they are not two but one. The Lord spoke in this fashion however in order that the Word might be received both on earth and in heaven, and also because prior to His glorification the Lord was Divine truth that sprang from Divine Good, but once He had been glorified He was as to both Essences Divine Good itself in which all Divine Good and Divine Truth have their origin.

[15] From all these places it is clear that it is Divine Good which is called ‘the Father’ and Divine Truth ‘the Son’, and that the Lord governs every single thing in all creation from Divine Good by means of Divine Truth. This being so, manifestly so from the Word, it is astounding that people in the Christian world know and teach that the whole of the Trinity resides in the Lord, and yet they do not, as those in heaven do, acknowledge and adore the Lord alone, and so one God.

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

Sowing Wild Oats


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. MAT 5:27,28

Can we learn important spiritual lessons from the mistakes and experiences of others? When we were little children, we learned from our parents that there were some things that we must not do. We tried to not do those things, and in many cases we were able to resist. But, as we grew older and more independent, our parents’ influence grew weaker as the encouragement of our friends grew stronger, and eventually, we did those things anyhow.

At first it was exciting, liberating, wonderful. Then the consequences had to be paid, and we first began to understand the pain and the hurt that our parents struggled to protect us from.

Having learned the lesson for ourselves, having lived it, we try to tell others (perhaps our own children) how they could avoid the pain – but they don’t listen. Off they go to make the same mistakes that we made, to suffer the same pain that we suffered, and they won’t listen. Then they learn from their own errors, and want to pass their “new” knowledge on to others who also won’t listen and so on.

We learn to tolerate all kinds of disorders in our children, our friends, ourselves because we tell ourselves that one can only really learn about evil through personal experience. Such a belief is one of those ideas that come from hell. The evil spirits can think of nothing better than to help us think of ways to justify doing what we know to be evil – especially if they can help us convince ourselves that somehow it’s for a good end! So we look away when a young person stays out late drinking with friends. We hope that he will get into just enough trouble to learn from it without any permanent consequences. After all, everyone has to experience these things for themselves, they are “just sowing wild oats.” It must be all right. Everybody does it. Doesn’t it begin to seem that the only way that we can really learn something is to experience it for ourselves, to make the mistakes and suffer the consequences?

Unfortunately, such a view flies in the face of the teaching of the Word. If you were supposed to learn everything for yourself through personal experience, what would be the purpose of the Word?

In heaven the angels teach people about life, particularly young people who have not lived as adults in the world, with plays. We read from Conjugial Love 17:5

“Moreover, outside the city there are also theatrical performances by players, representing the varieties of honorableness and virtue characteristic of the moral life; and among them, for the sake of relationship, are also actors.”

Here one of the ten asked, “why for the sake of relationship?”

They answered: “No one of the virtues with its display of honorableness and decorum can be presented in a living way except by things related thereto from the greatest of them to the least.

But it is established by law that nothing of the opposite, which is called dishonorable or unseemly, shall be exhibited except figuratively and, as it were, remotely.

Do we really need to “sow wild oats” and experience life for ourselves by actually committing sins and experiencing the pain of the consequences of sin? Of course not! The Lord has provided other ways for us to learn what we need to know about evil so that we can avoid it. We can observe it in others, and see the unhappiness it causes. We can read literature and see plays that represent these passions and poor choices, and recreate the situation using the imaginative degree of our own minds. There is real power in seeing a play like MacBeth because it doesn’t glorify evil, but instead powerfully depicts the destruction of mind and spirit that is the result of giving in to evil.

In this connection, there may even be a use to modern movies that depict violence – if aversion to violence is the result, not fascination and delight.

In the New Testament, the Lord speaks about the power of the imaginative degree when He taught that those who look after another “with adultery in their heart” (MAT 5:28) are committing an evil, even though no outward evil act has occurred.

We can image every kind of evil deed in our minds. We can create a fantasy in which we enjoy the delights of evil, and then imagine what the consequences might be as well as the delights. If we pay attention to the consequences of evils, we may in fact be able to learn to shun evils before they become entrenched through repetition. Recall what was said in the third lesson from TCR 535:

It is strange that any one can find fault with another for his evil intentions, and say, “Do not do that because it is a sin,” and yet find it difficult to say this to himself; but this is because the latter touches the will, but the former only the thought nearest to hearing . . .

The “parent” or “responsible adult” in each one of us sees someone else about to do something wrong, and we want to warn them against it, because we know it will cause them (and those around them) a great deal of pain. Who of us can stand silently by and watch someone we care about be hurt? And yet at the same time, we find it difficult to restrain ourselves, we look for ways to excuse our evils, to make them acceptable and permissible. We change their names to make them sound nicer: we’re not acting in a wild, irresponsible, and dangerous way – we are “sowing wild oats.” But what does the Word say? All who do good from religion, avoid actual evils . . . (TCR 535)

It’s true that the Heavenly Doctrine teaches that an evil done once by mistake can be removed fairly easily. But do it a few times from intention, and it become firmly anchored in the will and is much more difficult to remove. The danger is that if we give ourselves permission to experiment with evils, thinking that we’ll be strong enough and smart enough to quit before the evil becomes entrenched, we end up doing the evils we enjoy a few times from intention. But in spiritual life, unlike the games we play, there are no “take-backs” or “Mulligans.” By helping to think that there are “take-backs”, the hells encourage us to do the very thing that will entrench the love of evil in our lives while leading us to believe that we are safe, that we are having “harmless fun.” (See DP 112:3) When it comes to evils, we really have to avoid doing them at all, ever, so they do not become a permanent part of our character.

This is taught in the Old Testament in the story of Joash and Elisha that was read as the first lesson. The prophet asked Joash to strike the ground with a handful of arrows. Joash didn’t fully understand what was being asked of him, so he didn’t do it with enthusiasm. After the fact, he realized that it was going to cost him a great deal.

We all feel that way about rules. They challenge our proprial nature, our selfish desires. We follow them grudgingly – if at all, sometimes with painful results such as pregnancies outside of marriage, car accidents caused by the use of drugs or alcohol, and a long list of similar, easily prevented tragedies. In spite of so many examples, we think we know better, that we can beat the odds.

In the Word, the Lord teaches about good by examples and parables, so you can learn without having to do it yourself. It’s not hard to imagine yourself in all the various roles of the parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest, and then a Levite passed the injured man by. They represent our haughty intellectual side. He is encouraging us to think about the needs of others from the view of simple charity, the Samaritan.

There is also an important lesson in the story of the Prodigal Son. Somehow we like to remember the parts where the young man went into the city and lived the high life, and then, when he had learned his lesson, he went home and was received by his father as if nothing happened. We conveniently forget that before he came to his senses, he had to “hit bottom,” we forget the increasing desperation he felt as his money began to run out and he realized he had no prospects of getting more, the humiliation he felt as his new “friends” turned away from him to seek out new “friends” who still had money, and we forget the hunger that drove him to his hands and knees fighting the pigs for their swill.

The Lord wants each of us who hears this parable to be the brother who stayed behind, not the brother who nearly died of shame and hunger. The brother who stayed behind suffered none of these things. All he had to deal with were some feelings of jealousy.

The same kind of thing is true with the parable of the lost sheep. It’s likely that every one of us has been lost for at least a few minutes, long enough that we all have some sense of the panic that is felt when one is well and truly lost. Do we think that the Lord really wants us to get lost so that we can be found? What kind of Shepherd would he be then?

He is the Good Shepherd, and it is His job to make sure that we do not get lost – ever! But if we suffer from enough stubbornness or stupidity to get lost anyhow, then He will come looking for us. The lost sheep may eventually be found, but in the process becomes the one who is held up as an example of foolishness that keeps the ninety-nine close to their Shepherd. The Lord doesn’t want us to learn our lessons by getting lost, He wants us to be one of the 99 who learn their lesson in the abstract from the other guy getting lost!

We close with a final quote from True Christian Religion which gives us an “easy” way to repentance and true spiritual life by simply refusing to do what you know to be evil when the opportunity presents itself – by simply not wandering away from the Shepherd to see what interesting things might be lurking behind those rocks:

Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult . . . therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is, that when any one is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.” By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. (TCR 535) Amen.

The subject of our sermon today is how the hells lead us to believe that we have to actually commit sins first to be able to refrain from them, when in fact the Lord teaches in the Word that we can best learn about sin by observation and thought from imagination.

First Lesson: 2KI 13:14-19

Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!”

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows.

Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.

And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.”

Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped.

And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it. But now you will strike Syria only three times.” Amen.

Second Lesson: LUK 15:1-10

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it?

“And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’

“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Amen.

Third Lesson: TCR 535

Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult . . . therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is, that when any one is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.” By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented.

It is strange that any one can find fault with another for his evil intentions, and say, “Do not do that because it is a sin,” and yet find it difficult to say this to himself; but this is because the latter touches the will, but the former only the thought nearest to hearing . . .

All who do good from religion, avoid actual evils, but they very rarely reflect upon the interiors pertaining to the will, for they believe that they are not in evil because they are in good, and even that the good covers the evil. But, my friend, the first thing of charity is to shun evils. This is taught in the Word, the Decalogue, baptism, the holy supper, and even by reason; for how can any one flee from evils and banish them without some self-inspection? And how can good become good until it has been interiorly purified?

I know that all pious men, and also all men of sound reason, will assent to this when they read it, and will see it as genuine truth; but still, that few will act accordingly. Amen.

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