A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am Jehovah the Healer. (EXO 15:26)
I. Each of today’s readings focused on a different aspect of the Lord as a Healer
A. In the first lesson from Jeremiah.
1. The prophet refers to the various forms of idolatry that the people follow.
2. He says that there is no physician, no healer, because they have rejected God and the idols do not have real power to heal because they are dead in themselves.
B. 2nd lesson from Luke.
1. The Lord goes into the house of a publican — and is criticized because He is a leader, and important person. He should not be associating Himself with such low people and commoners.
2. He responds by pointing out that it is the sinners who need Him, and draws a parallel between the way a physician helps one with a disease, and the way the Lord helps one who’s life is afflicted by evil.
3. In the third lesson we read in several places that in the internal sense a “physician” is one who leads people out of evil, and those who are “ill” are sinners.
II. This leads us to consider how we in the New Church ought to respond to “disease” for the disorders that we see in the world are the symptoms of diseases of the spirit.
A. The world is full of disorder, evils, outright sins – and instead of being ashamed of their behaviour, the sinners seem proud of their sins, and criticize us for “being judgmental” and not accepting of a standard of behaviour that is contrary to the 10 Commandments.
1. (That whole “judge not” thing only works if you ignore the second half of the sentence – not a good practice.)
B. Other Church organizations take highly visible stands, even involve themselves directly in political issues.
1. What part does the New Church take? What part should it take?
a. The first of the church is the life of charity.
b. The first of charity is to sun evils as sins.
c. You cannot shun a sin unless you know what sins are.
2. The Church is to instruct about good and truth.
a. The Church condemns sin in the abstract.
b. The Church is to warn about evils and falsities when it sees them.
i. However, the Church does not condemn (or excommunicate) individuals when they fall into sin – except in certain circumstances which will be discussed shortly.
C. We can learn about healing spiritual ills by thinking about healing physical ills. For example a hospital has a dual role as a centre of physical healing in the community.
1. For example, it is common today for people who are at high risk for certain types of diseases such as heart disease, to attend programs at local hospitals to learn how to manage their risk of heart attack through exercise and diet.
a. But what would happen in a person in such a program had a heart attack anyhow? Can you imagine the doctor in the emergency room turning him away and refusing to treat him because he hadn’t lost as much weight as the doctor thought he should have? Of course not.
b. If, in spite of a sincere effort to take part in the health program, a patient has a heart attack anyhow, the patient takes advantage of the other aspect of a community hospital, the systematic and professional attempt to cure diseases.
2. There is another aspect that needs to be touched upon. Sometimes patients come to the hospital when they are infected with highly contagious diseases. Then, for the sake of the greater good of the entire hospital community – doctors, nurses, and patients – the contagious patient is kept isolated from the other patients until the danger is passed.
a. The analogy extends to the church when individual members find themselves in states of active evil that are disturbing to the other members. For the sake of the greater good the church needs to help these people apart from rest of the congregation for the sake of the spiritual health of all concerned, and with the prayer that the member will soon be returned to health and can return to take his place in the congregation.
i. One of the things that distinguishes the aboriginal world view from the Western European world view is the different view of “harmony.”
ii. Aboriginal people see sin as a sickness that affects the harmony, wholeness, and happiness of the whole group. Their goal is to make the person well so they can be a part of the whole once again. Westerners tend to isolate and punish sinners.
D. The Lord’s highest love is the salvation of souls
1. That there be people in heaven is the end of the creation of the universe.
2. The Church’s highest goal is also the salvation of souls because the church seeks to help the Lord implement the goals that He has revealed in the Word, to assist the Lord in His work.
a. Thus the Priest’s highest love is (or should be) the salvation of souls.
b. These loves must govern the church.
c. The success of the church can should only be judged by the Lord’s own criteria: how many enter heaven – not how many contribute how much to the church, or any other external measure.
E. The Church must do whatever it can to lead people out of sin and into order.
1. Accepting of people as fallible and repentant, it can also stand firm against sin in the abstract.
2. It is not the purpose of the church to punish people for their sins, but to lead them out of their sins and back into order, and to offer them comfort and support as they struggle with their sins and seek to bring their lives back into order.
3. The church is a hospital for the spiritually sick, and we do not turn patients away.
III. Let’s look at the way the book Conjugial Love is organized for guidance.
A. It is a collection of teachings on the most important aspect of earthly life, the marriage of one husband to one wife representing the marriage of Divine Love to Divine Wisdom in the Divine Itself.
1. The first half is incredibly idealistic.
2. The second half is startlingly frank.
a. Somehow we have to see that the Church incorporates both positions.
B. The purpose is twofold:
1. On the one hand the Lord wants to show us that there is a beautiful, wonderful thing called “love truly conjugial,” and that it is possible for people who live in this world to attain it if they will only shun wandering lusts and pray to the Lord for a lovely partner.
2. On the other hand, the Lord is also infinite mercy. He wants to show us that if we fall into terrible disorders through weakness, ignorance, or foolishness, we can still choose lesser and lesser evils until He can lift us into heaven.
a. Remember the conclusion of the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a powerful illustration of how one who is spiritually sick, with the Lord’s careful loving guidance, can be healed.
1) His self-examination and repentance are represented by his disgust when he found himself eating the pig’s food
2) His reformation is represented by the long journey to his father’s home.
3) And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.
C. As mentioned earlier, the first use of the church is instruction, and this use can be met in many ways, including sin and the consequent failure and pain. But our heavenly Father is ready to reach out to us in mercy and love, no matter how sick we may have been, to heal us, and to welcome us home again, no matter how long our journey. Amen.
Hear now the Word of the Lord as it is written in …
First Lesson: JER 8:18-22
I would comfort myself in sorrow; my heart is faint in me.
Listen! The voice, the cry of the daughter of my people from a far country: “Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her?” “Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images, and with foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!”
For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?
Second Lesson: LUK 5:27-32
After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.”
And he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.
But their scribes and the Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick.
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
The Lord did not come into the world to save those who are celestial, but to save those who are spiritual. …the people who belonged to the spiritual church could not have been saved unless the Lord had come into the world.
For I am Jehovah your healer. That this signifies that the Lord alone preserves from evils, is evident from the signification ‘to heal,’ as being to cure, and also to preserve from evils, for when ‘diseases’ signify evils, ‘to heal’ signifies a remedy and a preservation from them. …As ‘healing’ has this signification, the Lord also calls Himself a ‘physician.’
The Lord calls Himself ‘a Physician’ as in LUK 5:31, 32, where a ‘physician’ stands for a preserver from evils; for ‘those who are healthy’ is used to mean the righteous, and ‘those who are ill’ sinners.
Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.