My Yoke is Easy


An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper, Toronto, Feb. 17, 2008

(Mat 11:28-30) “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

  1. Introduction
    1. Most of us enjoy the challenge of crossword puzzles, and take pride in being able to harder and harder puzzles that use increasingly obscure clues.
    2. There are people who can get quite involved with the secret messages passed between partners in a game of contract bridge.
      1. What does it mean when you bid “1 no trump” when your hand is strong in spades?
    3. I enjoy flying because it requires managing a number of diverse systems (talking on the radio, managing the engine, keeping an eye on the weather, not getting lost, and controlling movement through 3 dimensional space) all at the same time. And the easier it looks to the passenger, the more successful the flight.
    4. There are people who enjoy puzzles like Sudoku!
    5. Someone recently sent me an e-mail full of questions that were asked of second graders and their cute answers. One of them was:
      1. What ingredients are mothers made of? And the answer was, “God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.”
    6. Now think about that one for a minute. It’s really cute. It probably made you chuckle or laugh out loud – which means that you understood it. But, if you analyze the words, it’s complete nonsense. “Clouds and angel hair?” “A dab of mean?” Nevertheless, we can interpret it, derive meaning out of it, and enjoy it – and e-mail copies of it to 100 of our closest friends….
  2. The point that I’m trying to establish is that human beings are pretty clever! When we’re not engaged in our actual work, we challenge our minds with symbolism and puzzles, with hobbies that are exacting and challenging.
    1. Here’s a passage from the New Testament where the Lord is recognizing how amazingly smart we are when it comes to working out something as complicated as the weather, but when it comes to Religion we are quite capable of ignoring the simple and the obvious!
    2. (Mat 16:1-4) Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. {2} He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; {3} “and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. {4} “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
      1. He’s apparently angry because the Pharisees (and by extension mankind in general) can figure out all kinds of complicated things – but they don’t seem to get it when He tells them they need to be kind to each other, to lay up treasures in heaven instead of the earth, and that His kingdom is NOT of this world!
    3. Now here’s the hard teaching: We can be like the Pharisees and the Sadducees when we tell each other that “we don’t understand these complicated doctrines of the New Church.”
      1. AC 9399 [2] …Divine Truth emanating from the Lord … is the Light which enlightens the human mind and composes its inner sight, which is the understanding…. This Divine Truth is also meant in John, He was the true light which enlightens every person coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, but the world did not know Him. John 1:9-11. This refers to the Word, which is Divine Truth emanating from the Lord. [3] Every person in the world who is sound in mind has the ability to learn God’s truth, and consequently has the ability to receive it to the extent that he departs from evil ways…. (emphasis added).
        1. The idea that the Word is difficult to understand is from hell. It is the product of self-justification and the desire to continue in our favourite evils. The passage says, in essence, that everyone who shuns evils as sins will be led by the Lord to understand the Word. Simply at first, but as the process continues over a lifetime, eventually even the deepest heavenly secrets.

      2. The problem is not that the truths are too difficult, but that our lives are too full of other things – natural things.
        1. If we truly wish to understand the Word, all we need do is shun evils as sins against the Lord, and He will flow in with the Divine truth and will work in secret ways to adapt our minds to receive it!

    4. Heaven and Hell 359: Since a man can live outwardly as others do, can grow rich, keep a plentiful table, dwell in an elegant house and wear fine clothing according to his condition and function, can enjoy delights and gratifications, and engage in worldly affairs for the sake of his occupation and business and for the life both of the mind and body, provided he inwardly acknowledges the Divine and wishes well to the neighbour, it is evident that to enter upon the way to heaven is not so difficult as many believe. The sole difficulty lies in being able to resist the love of self and the world, and to prevent their becoming dominant; for this is the source of all evils. That this is not so difficult as is believed is meant by these words of the Lord: Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls; for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matt. xi. 29, 30. The Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden light because a man is led by the Lord and not by self just to the extent that he resists the evils that flow forth from love of self and of the world, and because the Lord then resists these evils with the man and removes them. (emphasis added).
      1. How many of us hear something like this and immediately begin building a list in our heads of all the “hard” doctrines to try to prove that this is wrong and we’re safe to carry on thinking the way we always have.
    5. Let’s go back to the Word and see what else the Lord has to say about this.
      1. (Mat 22:36-40) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” {37} Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ {38} “This is the first and great commandment. {39} “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ {40} “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
        1. Everything in the Word – everything – is summarized by these two ideas.
      2. AR 490. And I will give unto My two witnesses, signifies those who confess and acknowledge from the heart that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine, and who are conjoined to Him by a life according to the precepts of the Decalogue. The reason why these are here meant by “the two witnesses,” is, because these two are the two essential [doctrines] of the New Church.
    6. The True Christian Religion is the “universal theology of the New Church.” It covers everything you need to know – including the details if you need them – in 14 chapters.
    7. The first five are all about the Lord and His Word. The next five are about how love the neighbor. The last four identify some things that where the New Church makes a significant departure from the what the doctrine of the Christian Church has become after 2,000 years of tinkering.
      1. God the Creator
      2. The Lord the Redeemer
      3. The Holy Spirit and the Divine Operation
      4. The Sacred Scripture or the Word of God
      5. The Ten Commandments
      6. Faith
      7. Charity
      8. Free Will
      9. Repentance
      10. Reformation and Regeneration
      11. Imputation
        1. Not grace, but the Lord imputes good, hell imputes evil.
      12. Baptism
      13. The Holy Supper
      14. The Second Coming
      15. The Memoribilia – the doctrine of the spiritual world
      16. If one repents, reforms, and regenerates, one will have an eternal marriage in heaven – Conjugial Love.
  3. Conclusion
    1. Yes, there are some really interesting and complicated doctrinal issues we can discuss.
      1. Creation by means of the Spiritual Sun
      2. The doctrine of the Limbus (which we like to joke about but is actually not all that difficult).
      3. The Nature of the Resurrection Body.
      4. The Nature of Spiritual Substance.
    2. None of these doctrines are essential for your salvation, but are there because there are those who want and need to pursue these things as they master the simpler things.
      1. The Lord created heaven for EVERYONE.
        1. That means that it must be possible for anyone of us to be able to figure out how to get there.
        2. But you do need to make some effort, you need to remove the impediments from the world, and to apply the good sense that the Lord gave you.
    3. HH 533. That it is not so difficult to live the life of heaven as some believe can now be seen from this, that when any thing presents itself to a man that he knows to be dishonest and unjust, but to which his mind is borne, it is simply necessary for him to think that it ought not to be done because it is opposed to the Divine precepts. If a man accustoms himself so to think, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually conjoined to heaven; and so far as he is conjoined to heaven the higher regions of his mind are opened; and so far as these are opened he sees whatever is dishonest and unjust, and so far as he sees these evils they can be dispersed, for no evil can be dispersed until it is seen. Into this state man is able to enter because of his freedom, for is not any one able from his freedom to so think? And when man has made a beginning the Lord quickens all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils to be evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them. This is meant by the Lord’s words, My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11:30)…. (emphasis added).

First Lesson: LEV 19:1-18

(Lev 19:1-18) And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {2} “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. {3} ‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. {4} ‘Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the LORD your God. {5} ‘And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, you shall offer it of your own free will. {6} ‘It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and on the next day. And if any remains until the third day, it shall be burned in the fire. {7} ‘And if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination. It shall not be accepted. {8} ‘Therefore everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned the hallowed offering of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people. {9} ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. {10} ‘And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. {11} ‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. {12} ‘And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. {13} ‘You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. {14} ‘You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. {15} ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. {16} ‘You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. {17} ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. {18} ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Second Lesson: MAT 11:25-30

(Mat 11:25-30) At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. {26} “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. {27} “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. {28} “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Third Lesson: AR 490

And I will give unto my two witnesses signifies those who confess and acknowledge from the heart that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth and His Human is Divine, and who are conjoined to Him by means of a life in accordance with the precepts of the Decalogue. These are they who are understood here by the ‘two witnesses’ because these two are the two Essentials of the New Church.

[3] Something shall be said here concerning conjunction with the Lord by means of a life in accordance with the precepts of the Decalogue. There are two tables upon which those precepts have been written, the one for the Lord, the other for man. The first table has as its content that not many gods are to be worshipped, but the One. The second table has as its content that evils are not to be done. Therefore when the One God is worshipped and a man does not do evils there is conjunction; for in so far as a man desists from evils, that is, is actively repentant, so far he is accepted by God and does good from Him.

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