SHIFT of Motivation


A Sermon by the Rev. James Cooper

SHIFT week 5 – October 23, 2011 – Toronto

  1. Previous Weeks
    1. Separating from Esau, his parents.
    2. Finding Laban and beginning to work for him.
    3. Last week
      1. Rachel and Leah
        1. The two sisters represent the conflict between the internal and external affection for truth.
          1. Rachel, the beautiful idea of the delight that comes from interior truth.
          2. Leah, less attractive perhaps, but she and her handmaiden produce 8 of the 12 sons and at least 2 daughters. There are a lot of external truths, and they provide an important structure on which to rest the internal truths.
  2. This week the story in the sense of the letter regards Jacob’s eventual separation from Laban.
    1. Jacob has been working for Laban for a total of 20 years. These years have been very profitable for Laban, but Jacob still owns nothing in his own right.
    2. Jacob regards himself as a free man, working for wages. Laban seems to regard him as a servant, and therefore anything that Jacob possesses legally belongs to Laban.
    3. But as for Jacob, he was not a slave who had been purchased, but a man from a more distinguished family than Laban. He himself … purchased Laban’s daughters…. (AC 3974:2)
    4. Jacob approaches Laban and they come to an agreement.
      1. Jacob can have all the speckled and spotted of the current flock. If any white animals are born, they are to be turned over to Laban. They separate the flocks by colour, and Laban takes the white animals some distance away.
      2. Laban thinks he got the better deal because under normal circumstances Jacob’s flock would produce mostly white animals and Laban could stop by from time to time to collect all the white ones. The expectation would be that it would take a long time – many years – for Jacob to build up a flock large enough for him to strike out on his own and support his family.
    5. {36} Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. {37} Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. {38} And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink. {39} So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. (GEN 30)
      1. Jacob – and there’s no indication of where he got this idea – put variously coloured sticks of wood near the feeding trough. Apparently this is also where the animals mated, and the letter would have us believe that when the animals conceived while looking at the marked sticks, the progeny was similarly speckled and spotted.
      2. This means that Jacob becomes a rich man very quickly which infuriates Laban because Jacob was able to take his family and set off on his own rather than staying with Laban and working to make him rich. Nothing helps a business like have the senior manager work for no pay.
    6. So what’s going on in the internal sense?
      1. The Word is not, nor is it intended to be, a science text book. Events from the lives of real people are selected and reported in such a way as to carry the internal sense. It’s the story of the Lord’s glorification and our own states of regeneration that are important, it’s the meaning not the detail of the event that is important.
      2. The things that have been mentioned up to now are not such as can be explained easily and intelligibly. One reason for this is that the mind cannot be turned away instantaneously from the historical details concerning Laban and Jacob to the spiritual matters which are the subject of the internal sense; for the historical picture always lingers and fills one’s whole mental view, and yet it must completely fade so to speak, in order that the things which are not historical may be comprehended in a connected sequence (AC 3982:1)
      3. The “speckled and spotted” vs. white.
        1. This is a picture of our thoughts and intentions. While we are alive in the world our thought and affections are never pure. Thoughts are flawed and mixed with falsities. Intentions are mixed with “enlightened self interest” or even selfish motives. But that’s okay. The Lord can work with that.
        2. The evils residing with man are of various kinds. There are evils with which goods cannot be mingled and there are evils with which they can. And the same applies to falsities. If this were not so nobody could ever have been regenerated. The evils and falsities with which goods and truths cannot be mingled are ones that are contrary to love to God and love towards the neighbour – forms of hatred, revenge, and cruelty, and consequent contempt for others in comparison with oneself, and also consequent false persuasions. But the evils and falsities with which goods and truths can be mingled are ones that are not contrary to love to God and love towards the neighbour (AC 3993:8)
        3. All of our motives are mixed. In the beginning they tend toward the selfish side of the scale, as we get older and progress in our spiritual development they become less selfish and more heavenly — but never perfectly so.
        4. Most of the things we think are true are only partly true. Even simple statements of fact like, “the Lord is One” are clouded and confused by our incomplete understanding of what that concept might mean. Our understanding begins superficially and becomes deeper and more enlightened as we progress.
        5. The only motives that the Lord cannot work with are the ones that are contrary to the loves of the Lord and the neighbour, such things as hatred, revenge, cruelty, and contempt – and all the false arguments that attempt to justify such feelings and behaviours.
      4. The rods
          1. They saw the rods when they were coming to the troughs to drink – the animals’ thirst representing a strong affection for truth, a desire to learn.
          2. It should be delicately noted that the letter refers to the animals being “on heat” to represent a spiritual state within our minds where our affections are aroused with the desire to learn truth, and then conjoin good to it by bringing it into life.
            1. A teenager desperate for a driver’s licence and a car. The end, driving a car, exists in the imagination. And because there is a strong desire the young person eagerly acquires the knowledges that are necessary to achieve that end. Then the newly acquired knowledges and skills are conjoined when they successfully and skilfully take that car for a drive.
            2. That young person probably also entertains ideas of speeding around and playing road racer. These are the related falsities that have to be separated out.
          3. The question then becomes, what causes the shift in our motivations, what is needed to move us from that immature state where the mixture tends towards selfishness and falsity and moves it towards the love of the neighbour and heavenly enlightenment?
          4. Those things that are received with affection, remain.
        1. Where does that affection come from? At first, natural good, represented by the rods.
            1. The power of natural good and from that the good that empowers natural truths (AC 4013:2)
              1. You have all these ideas and feelings milling around in your heart and mind – like a big flock of sheep and goats and cattle all mixed together. How are you to decide what is more valuable? How are you to decide what is true?
            2. And he stripped white strips on them – an exposing of the white which was on the rods means an ordering effected by the interior power of truth (AC 4015:1)
              1. We lean what is true from the Word, and compel ourselves to be obedient to it and the resulting change of the way of life has an effect on the mind and heart, bringing them into a more heavenly order.
            3. By an ordering effected by the interior power of truth is meant the power of the interior man acting on the exterior man, that is, of the spiritual man acting on the natural man (AC 4015:1)
              1. Whenever we ask the Lord for guidance in our life, when we appeal to conscience, we are inviting the internal spiritual man within each one of us to order and direct the natural, thus bringing our lives into heavenly order.
            4. Truths are not capable of being implanted and joined to good except by means of affections for truth and good, which affections well up from charity towards the neighbour and love to the Lord as their sources (AC 4018:3)
              1. When we bring forth good fruits, the Lord can work within our hearts and minds in secret ways to shift things in a heavenly direction.
  3. As you grow you leave behind things that, at the time you loved a great deal and were quite useful to you at the time, but are no longer useful to you.,
    1. Do you really think High School was as much fun as you remember?
    2. Do you really want to go back to the basement apartment with the borrowed wicker furniture?
    3. As painful as the separation is; as difficult as it may be to leave behind the thought patterns and ways of life that we learned in our parents’ home, we all need to have the courage to leave the safety of “I always thought” to the new land, the new life that comes from confidently acting freely, as masters of our own home, in the Lord’s order.
      1. {54} Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. {55} And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place. Amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord as it is written in …

First Lesson: GEN 31:1-13

Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favourable toward him as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favourable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ “ Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 26:31-46

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ {32} “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” {33} Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” {34} Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” {35} Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. {36} Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” {37} And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. {38} Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” {39} He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” {40} Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? {41} “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” {42} Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” {43} And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. {44} So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. {45} Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 3982:2

[2] It is well known that a person learns many things in early and later childhood, the sole purpose being that through them as means he may learn things that are more useful, and then through these, things that are more useful still, until finally he learns those that have to do with eternal life; and that when he learns the latter the earlier things he has learnt are virtually obliterated. In a similar way when somebody is being born anew from the Lord he is led by means of many affections for good and truth which are not affections for genuine good and truth but those which enable him to have a mental grasp of the genuine and after that to be endued with them. Once he has been endued with them the previous things sink into oblivion and are discarded, because they have served solely as means. The same also applies to the parallel good meant by ‘Laban’ in relation to the good of truth meant by ‘Jacob’, and also by each one’s flock, dealt with below.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.


“A Shift in Perspective”

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
Toronto: SHIFT week 2

I.    The SHIFT program follows the story of Jacob as told in the book of Genesis.

A.    To briefly review what’s gone before, we remember that Isaac and Rebekah are the parents of twin sons.
1.    Esau, the elder, is rough, hairy, a hunter; he is his father’s favourite.
2.    Jacob is more what we would call “bookish.” He prefers to stay in camp, and is favoured by his mother.
3.    Esau is entitled to the birthright and the blessing due the eldest.
a.    When Jacob asks for the birthright as payment, he arrogantly gives it away because he can easily take it back again.
b.    On the other hand, when Rebekah conspires with him to get the blessing as well, it does seem that Esau is hard done by, which ex-plains why Rebekah warns Jacob to flee.
4.    As dramatic as all this is, what we need to remember is that on the spir-itual level this story is giving us instruction about the balance between good and truth, our desires and our thoughts.
a.    Each one of us has two distinct parts to our mind, called the will and the understanding.
i.    As children, we are led primarily by our native will represented by Esau.
1)    It’s rough, and difficult. “I WANT it!!”
2)    Giving away the birthright for a bowl of stew indicates how the will, without the regulation of the intellect, can do foolish things.
a)    It’s not good at long term planning. It is unable to defer gratification.
ii.    But then, if all goes according to the Lord’s plan, the understand-ing part of the mind kicks in – Jacob gets the birthright – and as we become rational adults, the intellectual side begins to rule over the will side.
1)    We develop maturity, or the ability to delay gratification, to work for a long term goal.
2)    The ability to do something that we don’t want to do.
3)    The ability to not do something that we want to do.
iii.    And the promise of the story in the sense of the letter is that these two parts will be reunited at the end of life, a reformed Esau representing the new will, will be reconciled to his brother Jacob.
iv.    Our subject for today is the first of the steps in the process that leads to the reconciliation.

II.    (GEN 27:42-45) And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. {43} “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. {44} “And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, {45} “until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?”

A.    Jacob is sent out of Canaan to Haran, to the family home where Terah had settled after leaving Ur, to find a wife who is not a Canaanite.

III.    (GEN 28:1-21) {10} Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. {11} So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.

A.    Here, Jacob represents our own spiritual states.
1.    He’s separated from home and family, headed toward an uncertain fu-ture, and he’s in the wilderness.
a.    It’s easy to think of those time when each of us left our parents and struck out on our own; and these are the states the Word is speaking to, but
b.    These are states that reoccur throughout life.
i.    Big things like the birth of a child, being asked to move to another city, the death of a family member.
c.    But these states are also cycles that come from smaller events, too.
i.    A change in job description; a child moving to a new school; al-most anything that disrupts or adjusts the status quo making us feel uneasy and in need of reassurance, anything that upsets our perspective, our view of how life ought to be progressing.
B.    When these questions come, when we find ourselves in a spiritual or men-tal “wilderness” we seek for direction and guidance.
1.    In our story, Jacob rests his head on a rock.
2.    Throughout the Word, a rock is a symbol of the fundamental truths of the Word. What better thing could there be to rest one’s mind upon?
3.    Don’t know what to do, don’t know where to go? Go back to the Lord’s own instruction book for life.

IV.    {12} Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

A.    When Jacob dreams, it represents how when we rest our minds on the Word, we are given peace and insight into our situation and what we need to do to resolve it.
B.    The picture of the ladder with angels ascending and descending that is given in the Word describes the way the Lord communicates with us.
1.    The English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “” which means “messenger.”
2.    The ladder itself represents the Word. It’s base rests on the earth. It’s written in human language and uses examples and stories about people like ourselves with problems and failings.
3.    At the top of the ladder is the Lord.
4.    The angels, the messengers, are our prayers and thoughts ascending to the Lord and being returned in the form of enlightenment and inspira-tion.

V.    {13} And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. {14} “Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. {15} “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” {16} Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” {17} And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” {18} Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. {19} And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.

A.    When Jacob lies down to sleep with his head resting on a stone for a pillow, it is a picture of how we trust in the Lord, how we support our minds with His truth even when we are in the wilderness, even when we are feeling alone and afraid.
B.    But after the dream, after the time we spend searching the Word, reflecting on what we find there, and opening our hearts and minds to what the Lord can provide, we begin to feel the Lord’s love within us. We recognize the new path that has been opened to us and we feel good about it.
C.    Olive oil — any kind of fat or oil — represents love. Jacob anointing the stone with oil represents how when we begin to live according to the Lord’s truth, He gifts us with delight. We begin to feel the delight that comes from good that is married to its own truth. We can begin to see the truths no longer as just cold facts, but we begin to see them in a new way, as the holy tools that the Lord provides for us to use to do good to the neighbour.
1.    This delight, or love, moves us to give willing service in the place of grudging obedience. Our perspective is shifted to the love of service in-stead of the hope of reward or the fear of punishment.

VI.    This story starts out with a terrible, wrenching situation, a family that is torn apart by lies and anger.

A.    The dream indicates that when seen from the Lord’s perspective, it was not a tragedy but actually an important step in the plan.
B.    Our journey from earth to heaven MUST have wrenching, difficult mo-ments.
1.    They are called temptations,
2.    Battles between loves that live in our own heart.
3.    They are accompanied with real pain.
4.    And yet it is in the midst of that pain, in the midst of that battle that we are the most free because we are acting from our rational minds.
5.    Each victory – for these battles happen throughout our live – shifts us a bit closer to the heavenly goal; each battle can be seen from the growing spir-itual perspective.  
6.    We begin to see the end in view, and that helps us understand and tolerate the painful steps that are needed.

VII.    {20} Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, {21} “so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. Amen.  

First Lesson:  LUK 7:36-48

(Luke 7:36-48) Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. {37} And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Phari-see’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, {38} and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. {39} Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” {40} And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” {41} “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. {42} “And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” {43} Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” {44} Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I en-tered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. {45} “You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. {46} “You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. {47} “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” {48} Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Second Lesson:  AC 3690:3-5

[3] How remote they are from matters of doctrine that are Divine may be seen from an example taken from those historical tales. When at first someone knows merely that God came down on Mount Sinai and gave Moses the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, and that Moses smashed them and God wrote similar commandments on another set of tablets, and this historical de-scription in itself delights him, his life is governed by external truth and is remote from matters of doctrine that are Divine. Later on however when he starts to take delight in and have an affection for the commands or precepts there, and lives ac-cording to them, his life is now governed by actual truth; yet his life is still remote from matters of doctrine that are Divine. For the life he leads in keeping with those commands is no more than a morally correct life, the precepts of which are well known to everyone living in human society from the life of the community and from the laws existing there, such as worship of the Supreme Being, honour-ing parents, not committing murder, not committing adultery, and not stealing.
[4] But a person who is being regenerated is gradually led away from this more remote or morally correct life to life that comes closer to matters of doctrine that are Divine, that is, closer to spiritual life. When this happens he starts to wonder why such commands or precepts were sent down from heaven in so miraculous a fashion and why they were written on tablets with the finger of God, when they are in fact known to all peoples and are also written in the laws of those who have never heard anything from the Word. When he enters into this state of thinking he is then led by the Lord, if he belongs among those who are able to be regenerated, into a state more interior still, that is to say, into a state when he thinks that deeper things lie within which he does not as yet know. And when he reads the Word in this state he discovers in various places in the Prophets, and especially in the Gospels, that every one of those precepts contains within it things more heavenly still.
[5] In the commandment about honouring parents, for example, he discovers that when people are born anew, that is, are being regenerated, they receive an-other Father, and in that case become His sons, and that He is the one who is to be honoured, thus that this is the meaning which lies more interiorly in that commandment. He also gradually learns who that new Father is, namely the Lord, and at length how He is to be honoured, that is to say, worshipped, and that He is worshipped when He is loved. When a person who is being regenerated possesses this truth and lives according to it, a matter of doctrine that is Divine exists with him. His state at that time is an angelic state, and from this he now sees the things he had known previously as things which follow in order one after another and which flow from the Divine, like the steps of a stairway, at the top of which is Jehovah or the Lord, and on the steps themselves His angels going up and coming down. So he sees things that had previously delighted him as steps more remote from himself. The same may be said of the rest of the Ten Commandments.