Hiding Your Light Under A Basket

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 8, 2012

For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. (Mark 4:22)

When the Lord spoke these words, He was in Galilee, by the sea, preaching to huge crowds and healing the sick. He ended the day’s lessons with the Parable of the Sower. When He finished teaching for the day and the crowds were gone, He returned to shore and went into a house with His disciples. There the disciples asked Him to privately explain the Parable of the Sower, which He did, and the “internal sense” of the parable – or at least an inner meaning – was recorded in the New Testament, and it was read as the second lesson.

Then, while speaking to His disciples in the privacy of the house, having just been speaking about how He has been working to spread the Word throughout the world with varying degrees of reception, He taught a new parable about hiding one’s light under a basket (which was the topic of the children’s talk).

What makes this new parable particularly interesting is that it provides several different levels of meaning, and not only are those meanings on different levels, but they seem to be about different subjects. The usual pattern is for interior meanings to reveal more interior applications of the same concept – but this parable shows us a different face of the Word.

On the natural-historical level, the parable seems to be just like any other story that has a moral, just like any other story used to illustrate some point of human life and interaction. The moral is the message that when we have truth, we are not to hide it, but share it with others in a variety of different ways, either by openly teaching it to others, by living it and thus being a good example, or by amending others when we see that they are not living rightly.

However it is interesting to note that when you look up the various references to this story in the Heavenly Doctrine, it is used to illustrate not this idea but instead it is the basis for several other widely divergent ideas, such as the dangers of the doctrine of faith alone and the state of vastation.

We tend to think of “faith alone” as a doctrine made popular by Martin Luther’s attempt to reform the Christian Church, but we need to remember that the human ability to learn truth and then fail to apply it to life goes back to the origins of human life. It shows up in the earliest histories of the Old Testament where the Philistines, that Canaanite nation that caused the children of Israel so much trouble, represent faith alone.

Faith alone reveals itself in the stories of the Old Testament in that people were able to follow the rituals, but unable to see that there was a moral code behind them. They could follow the letter of the law, but could not see or apply its spirit. The Lord speaks about this quite frequently in the New Testament as He sought to show them the spirit behind the letter.

Of course the value of pointing this out is that it shows us that this has been a human problem for a long time, and it shows itself in our church and in our culture in much the same way. We delight in discussing the Word and the doctrinal principles revealed there, but find it very tough to put them into action in our own lives.

Both the prophets Ezekiel and John spoke about the Word being “sweet in the mouth but bitter in the belly” (EZE 3:3, REV 10:10) because while we love to talk about our big plans to regenerate, doing it is hard work. This experience shared by Ezekiel and John calls to mind the way that we love to talk about diets and dieting and how wonderful it would be to loose those extra pounds, but when it comes to actually pushing back from the table after a light meal, day after day, your stomach can actually begin to growl. Making a choice to change the way we live, even on this simple, natural level is “sweet in the mouth, bitter in the belly.” An idea that exists only in theory and is never actually put into action, is faith alone, and it’s been around since laziness was invented.

In the parable of the Sower we have an image of the Lord moving among all people of the world, seeking to give them the truth that they need. We see the Sower scattering the seed, that represents truths from the Word, far and wide. We then hear that there are some who receive it gladly, and the good and truth that the Lord gives them is multiplied a hundredfold. Then, immediately thereafter, the Lord begins to speak of those who hide their light under the a basket. What light is He talking about? The light from the Word that He has just so freely and generously given to them. Why in the world would people who just received enlightenment from the Lord hide it away? Because faith alone has blinded them to the truth, so that they see the Word as if at night, as if the light that it would provide for them is covered over.

The Heavenly Doctrine also uses the idea of a light hidden under a basket to illustrate something completely different – or at least a subject that doesn’t have an immediately obvious and direct link to Faith Alone – the state of “vastation” that all have to pass through after the death of the body, and that is experienced in relation to individual sins from time to time in the world.

Human beings have a tendency to be deceitful – the little boy with chocolate all over his face who states emphatically that he did not eat the candy bar, the little girl with lipstick all over her face who promises that she has not been touching her Mum’s make-up. But as we grow older, we find that while other people are sceptical of our more outrageous statements, we also find there is one person who is always ready to accept our fabrications and lies – our own self.

Why do we find it so easy to deceive ourselves? Probably because we want to believe that we don’t have any evils that need to be removed through temptation and spiritual work. It’s much easier to believe that everything is fine, and we are ready to go just as we are.

But wait! The link to faith alone is coming into focus. When faith alone rules in our lives, we can think about the Doctrine of Charity in the abstract without having to deal with the inconvenience and work of being genuinely charitable. All we have to do is say to ourselves that we are charitable, and we believe that we are without having to dirty ourselves with the actual work. We don’t feel the need to examine our motives and thoughts, and so the things that the Lord had intended to be revealed through honest, charitable work, remain hidden. So, because we never actually think deeply about these things, or confront them through life, the evils in our character remain deeply hidden, but still very much a part of our spiritual life. But, “Nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed.” We keep the truth about our spiritual states safely hidden away.

We may be able to hide them during life in this world, but eventually the natural body wears out and is put off. Once we enter the spiritual world, new rules come into play. We are no longer permitted to hide our true feeling behind faces trained to show no emotion.

The ruling principle is that no evil is permitted in heaven, nor is any good permitted in hell. Therefore, the main purpose of the work in the world of spirits is to expose the ruling love and then remove all things that are not in agreement with that ruling love.

In the short term, this is painful, for we love our evils and the falsities that we wove around them to protect them. Even if we are destined to heaven, still there are things in us that need to be removed so that our spirit can be whole and uncontaminated. The same thing is true for those spirits who have a ruling love of evil. In the short term, it is painful to have the few goods that they may have removed, but in the long term it is better that their spirit be whole and all their loves be related one to another. Because this process is painful and can be devastating to the spirit, it is called “vastation” and every one will go through it.

Those who have learned to examine themselves for evils while still on earth, and have made it a regular practice in preparation for the Holy Supper will find it much less painful and difficult than those who have spent their lives building walls of lies around their evil loves. Those who have practised self-examination will respond with joy and co-operation when the angels point out a sin, because they are willing to acknowledge in their hearts that there are sins present that need to be removed, and they rejoice because there are experts there ready to help them finish up the job. Those who have tried to keep them hidden all their lives will continue to fight and deny and to struggle, but to no avail.

AE 794 [3] …In this world no one can determine whether works are from the Lord or from man, since in external form the two kinds appear alike, but they can be distinguished by the Lord alone, and after man’s life in the world their origin is disclosed (Matt. 10:26, 27; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2, 3, 8, 9). …

AC 7795. [2] That before the evil are condemned and let down into hell they undergo so many states is altogether unknown in the world. It is believed that man is at once either condemned or saved, and that this is effected without any process; but the case is otherwise. Justice reigns there, and no one is condemned until he himself knows, and is inwardly convinced, that he is in evil, and that it is utterly impossible for him to be in heaven. His own evils are also laid open to him, according to the words of the Lord in Luke: There is nothing covered up, that shall not be revealed; or hidden, that shall not be known. Wherefore whatsoever ye have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in the bed chambers shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:2-3; Matt. 10:26-27; Mark 4:22).

We may hear this teaching from the Word and scoff within ourselves because it is our experience that we are able to put a basket over our light for a while, it is possible for us to hide evil thoughts and acts from other people for a time. And because we can do it for a while, we hope and believe that we can do it for all time.

But for the sake of our spiritual lives, to save us from our own ignorance, the Lord has repeatedly sent prophets to us to tell us so clearly that “nothing can be hidden” from Him. So what are we to do? Seek out those things that do not belong in a spiritual mind, and root them out, now, before they have taken root too deeply. Examine the intentions of your will, reflect on those things that you daydream about doing if you were not prevented by the law and your need to preserve your reputation, and make every effort to bring your life into the spiritual order that has been laid out for us all in the Word.

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (ISA 1:16-20) Amen.

 

First Lesson: Ezek 3:1-14

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” {2} So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. {3} And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. {4} Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. {5} “For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, {6} “not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you. {7} “But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. {8} “Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. {9} “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” {10} Moreover He said to me: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. {11} “And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.” {12} Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: “Blessed is the glory of the LORD from His place!” {13} I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise. {14} So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.

Second Lesson: Mark 4:13-20

And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? {14} “The sower sows the word. {15} “And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. {16} “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; {17} “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. {18} “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, {19} “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. {20} “But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Third Lesson: AC 7795:2

That before the evil are condemned and let down into hell they undergo so many states is altogether unknown in the world. It is believed that man is at once either condemned or saved, and that this is effected without any process; but the case is otherwise. Justice reigns there, and no one is condemned until he himself knows, and is inwardly convinced, that he is in evil, and that it is utterly impossible for him to be in heaven. His own evils are also laid open to him, according to the words of the Lord in Luke: There is nothing covered up, that shall not be revealed; or hidden, that shall not be known. Wherefore whatsoever ye have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in the bed chambers shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:2-3; Matt. 10:26-27; Mark 4:22); and what is more, he is also warned to desist from evil; but when he cannot do this because of the dominion of evil, the power is then taken away from him of doing evil by falsifications of truth and pretenses of good, which is effected successively from one degree to another, and finally condemnation follows and the letting down into hell. This takes place when he comes into the evil of his life.

 

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