The Effectiveness of New Church Education

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

 

Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  MAT 18:3

 

  1. The purpose of New Church Education is to prepare people for eternal life in heaven.  This is accomplished in two ways:  First, through teaching spiritual truths from the Word so that the person can know about God, heaven, and His plan for the human race.  And secondly through teaching natural truths from the world so that the person can prepare for being a useful member of heaven by being useful in this world. Or, as Bishop Pendleton puts it so elegantly, New Church Education is education for use.
  2. Secular education does not end when you leave school
  3. Those of us who have been out of school for a while smile to ourselves when the graduates celebrate the end of school. They think that they know something now, and their learning has come to an end.  But then why do we call it “commencement” unless it is the symbolic beginning of their lives?
  4. In many ways, your education just begins then — Job, marriage, family…..
  5. New Church Education does not end when you leave the New Church School
  6. It continues as long as you
  7. Read the Word
  8. Attend Church and Class
  9. Think about the ethics of your work
  10. Work to keep your marriage strong and your family healthy
  11. Scriptural Injunction

    Our world is confused and confusing.  People are so concerned with how they appear to others that they are willing to sacrifice principle.  We become hardened to the abuses and disorders. Everything becomes shades of gray, nothing is “right” or “wrong” anymore.  We become cynical about the motives of others, jaded by what the world has to offer.

    Not only are we tempted into this kind of negative sphere, when we get into such a state we are inclined to believe that everyone else thinks the same way, even our children.  The more we fall into this, the more we think of ourselves as “realistic”, “worldly wise” and “prudent.”

    At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  MAT 11:25

III.  We think so much about the ideals and the doctrines.  Are the children as cynical as we are?  Or does creating a special sphere for their education have a beneficial effect on the way they think and act?  Are we giving them a foundation of truth, and confidence in the Lord’s Divine Providence that will help them get through the states of disorder and outright evil that they will face as adults?

  1. Several years ago, the Durban Society was compelled by circumstances to open their Society School to children from the community. The community surrounding Kainon School is incredibly rich in cultural diversity.  While every home was Christian, and supported the unique approach provided by Kainon School, and while all the children were fluent in English, there was a great variety of languages spoken at home:  English, Afrikaans, and Zulu were the most common, but there were also several Indian dialects.
  2. Language influences how we think. With all this variety of language, culture, and background, there was a legitimate concern among the parents and teachers about whether or not we were successfully reaching these diverse states with the message and real meaning of New Church Education.
  3. So, without telling the children what we were doing, we asked the children to respond to several questions. The answers, in their clarity and sincerity are extremely moving.
  4. The question we asked was, “What is New Church Education?” Every child answered, whether or not they came from member families.  The children came from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds — but you can’t tell it from their answers.
  5. Charity
  6. It is that we are getting lots of information about the Lord’s Word. It is teaching us not to be horrible and what will happen if you don’t listen.  Teaching us to think about others.  (Nomfundo, Std. 4)
  7. Kainon is a New Church School because it teaches you to be kind to other people and we learn a lot from the Word in worship…. (Angela, Std. 3)
  8. Since we learn about the Lord and His commandments in our school, we can try to live our lives by doing the right thing all the time. (Lara, Class ii)
  9. You are encouraged to love the Lord, follow His commandments, and read His Word. (Kish, Class i)
  10. Through what you learn in school (reading), you can learn about the Lord because you can read His Word. Don’t be selfish, be charitable and help others.  (Zama, Std. 1)
  11. Forgiveness
  12. You learn about the Lord and His Word and when you’ve done something wrong you can ask for forgiveness. (Jennifer, Class ii)
  13. Obedience
  14. New Church Education is about what we must do and what we must not do. It also teaches us about the Lord and the Church and what the Word of the Lord means.  It also teaches us what the Lord wants us to do.  (Swazi, Std. 4)
  15. You are taught to be friends with everyone, to forgive, to obey the commandments and to believe in the Lord. (Judy, Std. 5)
  16. New Church Education is a church school that teaches you how to behave for the Lord — that is, not telling lies, honesty, helpfulness, caring, and respect. (Liesl, Std. 5)
  17. To speak openly of the Lord and His Kingdom
  18. New Church Education is different to other schools because other schools tend to leave out the Lord too much when He is more important than any of the school subjects. (Gareth, Std. 5)
  19. New Church Education tells us about Jesus Christ and we must worship Him. But there are also many children out there who don’t believe Jesus is alive.  (Nkululeko, Std. 4)
  20. You get to go into church and learn about the Lord and your school is built around the church and if it wasn’t for the church the school would not be here. (Zanie, Std. 4)
  21. Learn to write, and can use that to write about the Lord. (Curt, class ii)
  22. Learning about the Lord’s kingdom
  23. New Church Education is about learning about the Lord and heaven and new things about the Word. (Stuart, Std. 4)
  24. You learn about the way to go to heaven, the Lord’s prayer and you learn the ten commandments, good, and the laws that the Lord tells us to do. (Candice, Std. 2)
  25. You learn about heaven and how to get there. (Denmar, class i)
  26. Learning about the New Church
  27. You learn a lot about the Lord in general, but you also learn specifically about the New Church. (Tenjiwe, Class ii)
  28. Learn the Stories of the Word
  29. You learn about His disciples. (David, Class i)
  30. To learn to read the Word for yourself with understanding
  31. You are encouraged to think and try to understand. Because you can do those two things you can study the Lord on your own.  (Andrew, Std. 1)
  32. If New Church Education can flourish under these diverse and difficult circumstances, how much better will it work where the conditions are favorable?
  33. We have them in our local Society school for no more than 11 years, and then they are out into the world where they have to face the questions of life on their own. None of these are answers that people can discover left on their own — they need Revelation and doctrine to find their way.
  34. For example, while everyone knows that parts of the Word are symbolic: “I am a door.”  The 144,000 who are saved, etc.  Everyone knows some symbolism, but there’s no way that people could discover the science of correspondences entirely on their own — it had to be revealed from heaven.
  35. Doctrine is formed by reading the Word from Doctrine.
  36. At first a very primitive idea, but it is added to by parents, teacher, church, and their own reading.
  37. That’s why you see something new each time you read something from the Word.
  38. Passages rightly collated — lessons tied to an idea.
  39. The lessons from scripture (Joseph preparing Egypt for the famine and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins) are tied together to illustrate the idea that if we do the best we can to prepare ourselves, even disasters can be overcome and lead to good, but if we are not prepared, then misfortunes occur.

    It’s not just the internal sense that helps them tie these teachings together into a coherent, livable whole, but many passages, acquired through the habit of daily reading, that are associated by means of affections.

  40. Faith and Charity together
  41. New Church Education makes this possible by teaching a systematic approach to the Lord, and His Word, a “Unified Theory” of Religion, if you will.
  42. The reward of useful work well done in this world.
  43. Leads to a life of eternal usefulness.
  44. Let us not be led astray by our own cynicism and “prudence.” Instead let us have the innocence of little children, let us see the Lord as living, and real, and with the whole world in His hands.  Let us look outward, to the needs of others, and the Lord will doubly bless us and fulfill our needs.

    …Jesus … said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  MAT 11:25.

 

 
Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified  November 15, 2008

The Chosen People

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, May 22, 2005

The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples. (DEU 7:7)

Why were the Jews the Chosen People?

One of the most familiar themes that runs through the Old Testament is that of the Jewish people as the “chosen people.”

But even the casual reader of the Old Testament can see that the “chosen” people were in fact most difficult and disobedient. Time after time they forgot the teachings given to them by the Lord through Moses and fell into the worship of idols, and other even worse forms of evil. Time after time we read about how the Lord allowed one nation after another to conquer the children of Israel to try to teach them humility and obedience, but they were a “stubborn” and “stiff necked” people, unable to keep themselves in order for any length of time.

And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. (JDG 2:19)

We find ourselves reading these stories of their evil ways, and wondering why in the world did the Lord choose them as “His” people. There are two answers:

By their very materialistic nature they served a special use of preserving the Word and certain correspondential forms of worship.

And the other reason is indicated in the verse in Deuteronomy that immediately follows our text: The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (DEU 7:7-8 Emphasis added.)

The Jews were “chosen” because they were the least of all peoples: They were few in number; they were not particularly strong or clever; they were not moral or obedient. If the Lord could save a nation such as this, it would clearly be because of His power, and no one could suspect it was through their own efforts or abilities.

The story of Gideon against the Midianites is a power example of this very lesson.

And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (JDG 7:2)

An army of 32,000 was reduced to 300 men armed with torches and trumpets

22,000 went home because they were afraid

Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’ And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. (JDG 7:3)

10,000 still too many – the people would take credit themselves

And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. (JDG 7:4-6)

The resulting victory was clearly the Lord’s because not one of the 300 men had a weapon! They had lamps with torches hidden inside, and trumpets.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us they were chosen because they “insisted.”

AC 4290 In the internal historical sense, by he said, I will not let you go unless you bless me, is signified that they insisted upon being representative; for their insisting is signified by “I will not let thee go,” and representing a church by being “blessed….” [2] That the posterity of Jacob were not chosen, but insisted that a church should be among them, may be seen from many passages of the Word, from its internal historical sense, and openly in the following. Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” (EXO 33:12-13) It is here said that Moses made the people go up out of the land of Egypt, and then that they put off their ornament and mourned, and that Moses pitched his tent without the camp, and that thereby Jehovah assented; thus plainly showing that they themselves insisted. …It is also manifest that Jehovah willed to extinguish them, and consequently not to set up a church among them, but that they insisted and it was therefore done – besides many other times also, when Jehovah willed to utterly destroy that nation so often rebellious, but as often suffered Himself to be entreated by their supplications.

Of course the thought that Jehovah was angry, or wished to destroy them, or that they were able to change His mind are all appearances, how the Lord in His Mercy working through His laws of Divine Providence appeared to their spiritually immature state.

It wouldn’t have been permitted for them to think of themselves as the chosen people if it could not serve some use.

The two uses

The externals of worship

Rituals and sacrifices that represented heavenly things and therefore formed the foundation of the worship of the angelic heavens.

The sense of the letter of the Word

AC 4293 [3] After being punished they could be in such external humiliation as could no other people, for they could lie prostrate on the ground for entire days and wallow in the dust, not getting up until the third day; they could wail for many days, go in sackcloth, in rent garments, with ashes or dust sprinkled upon their heads; they could fast continuously for several days, and meanwhile burst forth into bitter weeping. But these things they did solely from bodily and earthly love, and from the fear of the loss of pre-eminence and worldly wealth; for it was not anything internal that affected them, because they knew not at all and did not even want to know what anything internal is, such as that there is a life after death, and that there is an eternal salvation.

[4] From this it is evident that, being of such a nature, they must needs be deprived of all holy internal, for this in no wise agrees with such a holy external, because the two things are utterly contrary to each other; and also that they could, better than others, serve as the representative of the church, that is, could represent holy things in an external form any holy internal; and thus that by means of this nation something of communication with the heavens could be possible (see n. 4288).

An example to us

It is easy to do good to a friend or family member.

It is easy to do good to him who will return the favor.

It is much more difficult, and to be desired, to do good to your enemy

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (LUK 6:33,35)

That’s why the Jews were chosen – they sometimes acted as if they were the enemies of the Lord.

If the Lord could love and care for them

He could love and care for anyone of us

Even when we are in our worst states

Return to the message of DEU 7:7-9

They were slaves in Egypt – and He saved them with a mighty hand.

But because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (DEU 7:8)

He has redeemed them

Redemption does not mean that the Lord takes away sin just by our asking Him to. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (MAT 7:21) What redemption means is that the Lord has, throughout human history, fought against the hells to keep them in order. In this way, He has created a sphere of spiritual freedom which makes it possible for us to know His will, and choose to do it, thereby bringing ourselves into the sphere and life of heaven.

The faithful are those who keep His commandments from love to God

And these He can save no matter what their history is

His mercy shall be on them for a thousand generations. Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (DEU 7:9) AMEN.


First Lesson: DEU 7:1-8

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, {2} “and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. {3} “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. {4} “For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. {5} “But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. {6} “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. {7} “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; {8} “but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Amen.

Second Lesson: LUK 6:30-36

“Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. {31} “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. {32} “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. {35} “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. {36} “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 4899:2

Does anyone at the present day believe anything other than this, that the Church existed among the Jewish nation, indeed that this nation was chosen and loved in preference to all others, the chief reasons for such belief being that so many and such great miracles were performed among that nation, so many prophets were sent to it, and also the Word existed among it? Yet that nation possessed nothing at all of the Church within it, for no charity existed there; of what genuine charity was they were completely unaware. Nor did any faith in the Lord exist there. It knew that He was to make His coming, but believed that this was to set it above all people throughout the world. As this did not happen it rejected Him altogether. Of His heavenly kingdom it had no wish to know anything at all. The things which constitute the internal features of the Church were not even acknowledged in what that nation taught, let alone in its life. From all this one can only conclude that no Church at all existed within that nation. Amen.


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