The Seventh Day

Practices of Peace week 7

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – March 16, 2014

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen 2:1-3)

For the past 6 weeks we have been looking at the days of creation as found in the book of Genesis. Through this careful study it has become quite clear that these passages do not and are not intended to speak about the creation of the natural world. They are the states of the development of the human mind. The wonderful thing is that because the story itself is written in the form of a parable, there are all kinds of valid ways to interpret and use this information. It’s a wonderful way to describe the steps of awakening intelligence in a new-born. It can also be used to describe the states that the Lord Himself went through when He was born into the world. Or, as we have been focussing on here, the seven days can speak of the seven successive states that each one of us goes through when we tackle some evil that we find within ourselves and try to remove it with the Lord’s help.

Today we are talking about the seventh day, a day of rest and reflection. It’s like hiking to the top of a mountain. There are a number of different kinds of challenges to face along the way. You have to look at the weather and make the decision to go or not go. You have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes and have the proper supplies. There will be steep portions, streams to cross, and long, grinding ascents. But once at the top, the first thing that most people do is turn around and look back to see just how far they’ve come. And that is what the seventh day is about. You have decided to tackle a spiritual task. There have been a variety of challenges along the way, but now you are coming to the end and beginning to feel the delights that the Lord provides. It’s time to look back, remember the obstacles overcome, and rejoice in the accomplishment.

With that in mind, let’s review the steps.

  1. Awakening – light shines for the first time
    1. (Gen 1:1-5) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. {3} Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. {4} And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. {5} God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
    2. AC 7. The first state is the state which precedes, both the state existing from earliest childhood onwards and that existing immediately before regeneration; and it is called a void, emptiness, and thick darkness. And the first movement, which is the Lord’s mercy, is ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the face1 of the waters’.
    3. In this first stage, before the light hits, we grope in darkness. We might be thinking only about ourselves, our possessions, our need to be respected. Since we are unaware of the real, spiritual world within everything, our life is “empty, dark and void.” The change begins when we start to acknowledge a higher power, something more than the shallow life we’ve been living. This is like a light dawning.
  2. Distinguishing – Waters above from waters below.
    1. (Gen 1:6-8) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
    2. AC 8. The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are man’s own. Those which are the Lord’s are called in the Word ‘remnants’, and here they are chiefly the cognitions of faith which a person has learned since he was a small child. These are stored away and do not come out into the open until he reaches this state. Nowadays this state rarely occurs without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, which lead to the inactivity and so to speak the death of bodily and worldly concerns – the things which are man’s own. In this way what belongs to the external man is segregated from what belongs to the internal. Within the internal are the remnants, stored away by the Lord until this time and for this purpose.
    3. Once we have become aware that that there is a higher authority, we begin to try to distinguish between what’s really important and what isn’t. But because we don’t worry about these things when everything is going well, these two first phases come about in times of trouble. Hardship or heartache washes away shallow concerns. We see a separation between the things that do and don’t matter. Most importantly we begin to see that the truths that the Lord provides in the Word are on a high level while the knowledges provided by the sense and other people are far below.
  3. Cultivating – Tender plants grow
    1. (Gen 1:9-13) Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. {11} Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. {12} And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {13} So the evening and the morning were the third day.
    2. AC 9. The third state is one of repentance, a state in which he speaks piously and devoutly from the internal man and brings forth goods, like charitable acts which are nevertheless inanimate since he imagines that they originate in himself. They are called a tender plant, then a seed-bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    3. When we have distinguished what’s important from what isn’t, the “soil” of our mind is ready to hear the truth, and a tender, more compassionate side of us can begin to take root. We have come to a point where we know that the Lord wants us to be kind and helpful to others, but it’s difficult at first. It’s hard to get started, and there’s a lot of merit mixed in. But, with practice and effort, the grass becomes the tree bringing forth good fruit. Still, it’s an effort of truth, not yet of love. We do it because we know we ought to, not yet because we love doing it. So more steps are still needed.
  4. Navigating – Sun, moon and stars placed in the sky for light
    1. (Gen 1:14-19) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; {15} “and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. {16} Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. {17} God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, {18} and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. {19} So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
    2. AC 10. The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.
    3. The more we practice changing our removing evils and doing the opposite goods, the easier it becomes. Our principles become clearer – they are like the sun and moon, the “lights” that lead us. The “sun” of love stirs us to care, while the “moon” is a picture of our faith, constantly varying as we experiment and make attempts, just as the light of the moon varies during the month. But the sun, the Lord’s love, is always there, constant. And, as we move forward and begin doing things not for our own sake, or because we think we ought to, but because it’s what the Lord wants us to do, everything we do begins to be filled with spiritual light and heat.
  5. Speaking – fish swim and birds fly
    1. (Gen 1:20-23) Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” {21} So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {22} And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” {23} So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
    2. AC 11. The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2
    3. In this stage, the things we do or say have new energy and life because we no longer take credit for them. We become stronger advocates for what we know is true, and we feel more love for others because we are putting ourselves in the stream of Providence. We begin to have a sense or perception that God is working through us, and we can share in His love.
  6. Loving – Humans are created in the image of God
    1. (Gen 1:24-31) Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. {25} And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {26} Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” {27} So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. {28} Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” {29} And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. {30} “Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. {31} Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
    2. AC 12. The sixth state is when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith and consequently from love. What he brings forth at this point are called a living creature and a beast. And because at this point he starts to act from faith and also simultaneously from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. The spiritual life of that man finds its delight in, and is sustained by, the things which are associated with cognitions of faith and with charitable acts, which are called his food; and his natural life finds its delight in, and is sustained by, those which belong to the body and the senses. The latter give rise to conflict until love rules and he becomes a celestial man.

      AC 13. Not all people who are being regenerated reach this state. Some, indeed the majority nowadays, reach only the first. Some reach merely the second, others the third, fourth, or fifth. Seldom do any reach the sixth, and hardly anybody at all reaches the seventh (which is the celestial man).

      AC 62. The stages and states of the regeneration of man – both of mankind and of the individual person – divide into six and are called the days of his creation. Gradually from being no man at all, he first becomes something, though only little, then something more, until the sixth day is reached, when he becomes ‘an image’.

    3. Finally, we not only say what we mean, we also act on our beliefs, from a loving frame of mind. In this stage, we fully embrace our spiritual heritage as men and women created in the image of God. Literally a “new chapter” begins here. The six days of creation take up the first chapter of Genesis. The seventh day begins the second chapter. The sixth day is a picture of someone reaching a pretty advanced spiritual state – not all of us will reach this during our lives in the world, but it is held out to us as a possibility. At the end of this state, the Spiritual Man is complete.
  7. Resting – No more work, “There is peace “
    1. (Gen 2:1-3) Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
    2. AC 73. Verse 1 deals next with the man who from being dead has already progressed to being spiritual, and from being spiritual now progresses to being celestial.

      AC 74. The celestial man is the seventh day on which the Lord rests, verses 2, 3.

    3. There are two creations stories in Genesis, one following another. That there are two indicates that they are not meant to be taken as scientific. The first is the creation of the spiritual man in six days followed by a day of rest. Once that is complete, the next stage, if possible, is to create the celestial man. This is described in the story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew for “rest,” and it represents both the rest that comes to people when they finally conquer in temptations and the state of rest for the Lord that comes when He is finished fighting the hells for the people who have been in temptation. This is why, when the six days of creation represent our combats with evils, it is said that on the seventh day, the Lord rested. It is because it is the Lord who actually fights for us in the combats of temptation, although it seems to us that we are fighting for ourselves.

The Sabbath comes at the end of the battle, and it is a state of rest for those weary from the battle. It is also the state of peace and rest that comes to those who are victorious in their battles, have driven the enemy away, and have restored order into their lives. The Sabbath represents the state of peace and happiness that the Lord gives to people after good and truth have been conjoined in their minds by means of the combats of temptation. In regard to the Sabbath, the Word teaches that there are only two states for mankind: the first is a state of truth alone, where there is combat while the will and the understanding are not as one — the person knows one thing but wills to do another. The second state is a state of peace that follows the combat when the will and the understanding are in accord, the one part willing what the other part now knows with a certainty to be true.3

We’ve reached the top. It’s time to look around and enjoy the view of where we’ve been. We can sit down, break out lunch, and just enjoy that we have reached a difficult goal. All the while knowing that later we’ll have to go down to our home and that there will be other mountains to climb. But not for a while. Amen

First Lesson: (Luke 6:1-11)

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. {2} And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” {3} But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: {4} “how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” {5} And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” {6} Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. {7} So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. {8} But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. {9} Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” {10} And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. {11} But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Second Lesson: AC 81

The subject in [Genesis] chapter [2] is the celestial man; in the previous chapter it was the spiritual man who progressed to being spiritual from having been a dead man. But since people nowadays do not know what the celestial man is, and scarcely know what the spiritual man is or what the dead man is, let the nature of each one be presented briefly, in order that it may be known how they differ.

First. The dead man acknowledges no other truth or good than that belonging to the body and the world. This he also worships. The spiritual man acknowledges spiritual and celestial truth and good. But he does so not so much from love as from faith, which is also the basis of his actions. The celestial man believes and perceives spiritual and celestial truth and good, and does not acknowledge any other faith than that which stems from love, which is also the basis of his actions.

Second. The dead man has solely the life of the body and of the world as his ends in view. He does not know what eternal life is, or what the Lord is. Or if he does know, he does not believe. The spiritual man has eternal life, and therefore the Lord, as his ends in view. The celestial man has the Lord and therefore His kingdom and eternal life as his ends in view.

Third. The dead man when involved in conflict nearly always gives in. And when there is no conflict evils and falsities reign supreme within him, making him their slave. His bonds are external ones, such as fear of the law, loss of life, wealth, profits, and reputation on account of these. The spiritual man is involved in conflict, but he always conquers. The bonds which restrain him are internal, and are called the bonds of conscience. The celestial man is not involved in conflict. If evils and falsities assail him, he treats them with contempt, and is therefore called a conqueror. No visible bonds restrict him, for he is a free man. His bonds, which are not visible, are perceptions of good and truth.

 

1lit. The faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

3See AC 9431

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