I Shall See Him, But Not Now

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, 11 December, 2005

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (GEN 3:15)

In the first chapters of Genesis, we learn the story of the earliest beginnings of the human race, for Adam and Eve are symbols that represent the qualities of the first beings who lived on earth and had immortal souls. The word “Adam” is a transliteration of the Hebrew “a-tham” which properly means “Man” or “Mankind.”

These most ancient people were different from us in several ways.

At first, they did not know evil. It could not have existed then, because the only things in the world at that time were there because God had created them, and God did not and could not have created evil. Because there was no evil in the world, those ancient people did not require any means to rise above their evil, so they were born with their will and understanding united as one.

If they heard something that was true, they immediately loved it and tried to do it. The very nature of their minds made it impossible for them to think one thing and do another.

Their choices were not between good and evil, as ours are, but between one good and another good – and therein lay the seeds of their destruction.

They were like the angels as to their minds and spirits, but they were like us as to their bodies. Some foods were more delicious than others, some sights more beautiful, some feelings more pleasant, and, enjoying those sensations, those people began to choose one good over another according to the sensual pleasure they would derive from it.

And in those circumstances, at that time, choosing a lesser good because it gave more personal pleasure was the same thing for them as choosing evil is for us, for it was turning away from God and towards self.

This is what is meant in the internal sense by the Woman being seduced by the serpent:

That this Most Ancient Church, represented by the woman, was overcome by the love of self, represented by the serpent.

As soon as this happened, the Lord foresaw that it must mean the end of the Most Ancient Church, for, as before said, those people had no means of rising above their evils because their will and understanding were united.

That church was doomed to suffocate in their own evils, represented by the Flood, and to give way to a new Church formed of a new kind of people, represented by Noah, whose will and understanding were separated so that they could desire to do evil, and yet know that they should not, and be able to refrain, to compel themselves to do what they knew to be right. (See AC2661:2, 4687:2)

The Lord also foresaw that the separation of the will and understanding by itself, although essential, would not be enough.

The Most Ancient Church had been in open communication with heaven, and so had been able to see God themselves – and still they had fallen away. He saw that this evil would, like a disease, have to run its full course before it could be defeated.

And He knew that He would have to meet it on its own terms in order to win the battle, that He would have to take on a physical human body and allow the evil to attack that body in the world before it could be brought under control.

And He knew that until that happened, the ultimate fate of the human race was in question.

Because the people of the Church represented by Noah would not have their will and understanding united, and therefore would not be able to be in open communication with heaven, the Lord provided a means for recording the doctrines of the church:

They were for the first time written down and so preserved for the Churches which were to follow.

In this way He sought to prepare men in the world for the great miracle of His birth on earth as Jesus Christ.

And the very first prophecy of His birth is found in God’s words to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

The evils of self love, represented by the serpent, would bruise the heel of Christ, they would cause the death of His physical body, but His spirit could not be harmed, and when Christ raised Himself from the dead by His own power, the head of the serpent was crushed, for it would never again have such power over men in the world.

The Lord never does anything without warning and preparation, and so, as the prophecies and documents of the Old Testament were written, the writers were inspired to include certain passages which told of the Messiah to come.

No one prophecy gave a complete picture, but rather each one added a little something to the others so that even in the literal sense a fairly clear picture of the Messiah and His mission was painted.

The second major prophecy of the Lord’s Coming is also in the book of Genesis, but this time in the later, historical portion. The prophecy is contained in the blessing that Jacob gave to his fourth son, Judah.

After comparing Judah to a lion, Jacob said, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people (GEN 49:10).

Throughout the Word, Judah represents the celestial kingdom, or love to the Lord. Therefore, this prophecy tells us that sovereignty, represented by the sceptre, would rest with the angels of the celestial heaven until such time as the Lord came into the world to restore order and peace. The tranquillity that would result from the Lord’s Coming is represented by “Shiloh” because it is derived from the Hebrew word which means “peace” and “tranquillity.”

The sovereignty of the celestial kingdom refers to the fact that until the Lord came into the world Himself, and took on His own human body, He had to present Himself to men in the world by means of a representative, called the “Angel of Jehovah.”

The Divine Itself dwells above the highest heaven, and no created human can bear Its direct presence. And yet it was necessary that the Lord speak to men from time to time, to teach them, and to give them the prophecies that would prepare them for His Coming. So the Lord would use the spiritual body of a celestial angel, putting the angel’s mind and personality to sleep for a time, and then bring the man whom He wished to speak to into the spiritual world by opening the senses of his spiritual body. In this way man and God could meet on a middle ground without harm to either.

Because the Lord used the angels of the celestial heaven in this way from time to time, it was said that He ruled through the celestial heaven, the sceptre was in Judah – but only until Shiloh would come. Once the Lord had been born into the world, and had made His own human form Divine by the process of glorification, all that power that had previously passed through the celestial heaven was now taken up directly by the Lord Himself in His Divine Human.

We are told that the angels of the celestial heaven still have great sovereignty now, but only in so far as they, like all other people, are in the Lord’s Divine Human through love to Him. (See AC6371, 1069:4, 6362, 6373)

The next major prophecy of the Lord’s Coming is found in the 24th Chapter of the book of Numbers, and it is a part of one of the blessings that Balaam, a prophet who held the secrets of the Ancient Church, pronounced upon the children of Israel.

Balaam had been called by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel and to drive them out of his land. Balaam was only permitted to go to the king of Moab on the condition that he say only what the Lord put into his mouth.

And so on four separate occasions, commanded by Balak to curse the children of Israel, Balaam spoke instead the blessings commanded by the Lord, and in so doing, revealed more about the time, place, and nature of the Lord’s Coming.

He said, I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult (NUM 24:17).

The first part of the prophecy, I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near, reaffirms the previous prophecies, and tells us that the promise will be kept, but not here, and not now, as the time is not yet right.

However, the second part of the prophecy balances this by promising a sign that will be unmistakable, and will also reveal both the time and place of His Coming: A Star shall come out of Jacob.

This prophecy may have in fact been a fragment of a fuller prophecy to the Ancient Church which is now lost, for we read in the Arcana that such a prophecy existed from of old among the sons of the east, who were from Syria (AC3762:5), and we also know that Balaam was one of the ‘sons of the east’ that is, he came from Syria where there was a remnant of the Ancient Church (AC1675:5).

The wise men also were ‘sons of the east,’ and their knowledge of the Ancient Word and the science of correspondences made it possible for them to know where and when to look for the Star that led them to the Lord.

Isaiah was privileged to receive some of the most specific and detailed prophecies of the Lord’s life on earth.

His earliest prophecy of the Lord’s Coming was given to king Ahaz of Judah. The circumstances were that King Rezin of Assyria, and King Pekah of Israel had joined forces and were together attacking Ahaz in Jerusalem. Isaiah came to him in this time of extreme difficulty and brought the word of the Lord that the lands of his enemies would, in time, be forsaken by both their kings, and that the promised Messiah was still to come.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that in order that King Ahaz might be assured that his enemies would be defeated, he was told to ask for a sign, that is, proof so that he might be assured of the Lord’s help. The Lord especially wanted to protect Jerusalem because He wished to go there Himself when He came into the world for the sake of the things that would be represented by His visits, and therefore, in spite of the fact that Ahaz was an evil king, his capitol city Jerusalem was to be saved, and Isaiah gave him the miraculous sign that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, whose name shall be God-with-us. (See AE706:15)

Finally, in one of the very latest prophecies of the Lord’s Coming, the prophet Micah tells us exactly where the Messiah would be born: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (MIC 5:2).

Bethlehem, a little village within the borders of Benjamin, was a good choice for the birthplace of the Lord for a number of geographic and political reasons.

The birthplace of Jacob and Rachel’s son Benjamin, and also King David, Bethlehem was conveniently near to Jerusalem.

The region itself was, from time to time, politically aligned with both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and for many years existed as a buffer zone between them.

Just as the child Benjamin was the pawn in the battle between his brothers Judah and Joseph, so the tribe of Benjamin became the buffer between Ephraim (the tribe descended from Joseph’s son) and Judah.

If you follow the history of Benjamin through the history of the Israelitish Church, you will see that tribe of Benjamin aligns itself sometimes with Israel, and at other times with Judah.

There is reason for this in the spiritual sense as well, for Judah represents those who are celestial, while Israel represents those who are spiritual.

Bethlehem itself represents the spiritual of the celestial within a new state. The reason the Lord was born there … was that He alone has been born a spiritual-celestial man. Everyone else has been born a natural man with the ability or capacity to become, through regeneration by the Lord, either celestial or spiritual.

The Lord was born a spiritual-celestial man to the end that He might make His Human Divine, doing so according to order from the lowest degree to the highest, and so would bring order to everything in the heavens and everything in the hells. For the spiritual of the celestial is an intermediate part between the natural or external man and the rational or internal man. (See AC4594)

In touching on these key prophecies of the Old Testament, we have tried to show that Lord foresaw from the very beginning that it would be necessary for Him to come into the world in a human form, and that from that time He began to prepare the way for that to happen in an orderly and timely fashion.

The various prophecies did not give such specific information that when the Lord was born there could be no doubt, for that would take away spiritual freedom. Rather, the prophecies provided confirmations so that the gospel writers, especially Matthew, could look back on these sayings of old, and in them see the careful preparation by the Lord, and so know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah as He said.

As we move into the Christmas season, let us reflect on the thousands of years of careful, orderly preparation made by the Lord for this event, and that it was all done for the sake of our spiritual lives.

And let us therefore prepare ourselves for the proper celebration of Christmas by thinking deeply about the effect of the Lord’s presence in our lives, and about what we can do to bring Him ever closer. AMEN.


First Lesson: GEN 3:1-15

(GEN 3:1-15) Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” {2} And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; {3} “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” {4} Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. {5} “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” {6} So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. {7} Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. {8} And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. {9} Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” {10} So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” {11} And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” {12} Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” {13} And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” {14} So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. {15} And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Amen.

Second Lesson: ISA 7:1-17

(Isa 7:1-17) Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it. {2} And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. {3} Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, {4} “and say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah. {5} ‘Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, {6} “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel”; {7} ‘thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass. {8} For the head of Syria is Damascus, And the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken, So that it will not be a people. {9} The head of Ephraim is Samaria, And the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.”’ “ {10} Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, {11} “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” {12} But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” {13} Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? {14} “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. {15} “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. {16} “For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. {17} “The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house; days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AE 422:20

AE 422d. [20] In ancient times there was a church in many kingdoms of Asia, as in the land of Canaan, in Syria and Assyria, in Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chaldea, in Tyre and Sidon, and elsewhere; but the church with them was a representative church, for in all the particulars of their worship, and in every one of their statutes, spiritual and celestial things, which are the internals of the church, were represented, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself was represented. These representatives in worship and statutes remained with many even to the Lord’s coming, and thence there was a knowledge of His coming; as can be seen from the predictions of Balaam, who was from Syria, and who prophesied of the Lord in these words:-

 

I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh; there shall arise a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. xxiv. 17).

That this knowledge was afterwards preserved is evident from this, that certain wise men from the east, when the Lord was born saw a star from the east, which they followed, which is thus described in Matthew:-

 

In the days of Herod the king wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him; and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was (ii. 1,2,9).

The star appeared to those from the east because the Lord is the east; and because they had knowledge respecting the Lord’s coming from representatives that were with them, the star appeared and went before them, first to Jerusalem, which represented the church itself in respect to doctrine and in respect to the word, and from there to the place where the infant Lord lay. Moreover, a “star” signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and in the highest sense the knowledge respecting the Lord. Amen.

 


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

Filling the Vessels to the Brim

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Sept. 16, 2007

Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2:7)

Changing the water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana is generally regarded as the Lord’s first miracle. Tradition holds that it was the wedding of the disciple Nathanael who had been called only a few days earlier.

A wedding feast was the closest thing to a vacation that people had in those days in Israel. There were no annual holidays, no 3 day weekends, only dawn to dusk labor in the fields or in the shops, broken only by religious observances on the Sabbath. It is not surprising then, that when given the opportunity to spend several days in celebration that such an opportunity was not wasted. The large supply of wine ran out before the planned end of the feast. This would have been a great embarrassment to the hosts and to the bride and groom, and marked an unfortunate beginning to their marriage. No one would want to be remembered for hosting the wedding feast where they ran out of wine!

When the wine began to run short it was a matter of some concern to the friends of the groom. Mary, who was also a guest at the feast, came to Jesus to tell Him that there was no more wine. This incident is a secondary theme to the story, for it clearly establishes the relationship between Mary and the adult Jesus. Everywhere in the New Testament where Mary is called the mother of Jesus, the words come from someone other than Jesus. He Himself always refers to her as “woman.”1

That Mary came to Jesus with the problem shows that by this early date in His public ministry, she had already seen enough to be convinced that He was the Messiah. Her comments show her faith in Him, her assumption that He would wish to do something about the problems, and that she believed He had the power to do it.

That He rebuffed her tells us a number of things about His relationship to her: First, He called her “woman,” which suggests that whole body of doctrine in which we learn that the Lord came on earth to glorify His human, and put off all those hereditary and environmental things He derived from Mary. Also, it tells us that He wanted to wait until the time was right in His view to perform the miracle.

Mary, thinking about the feelings of the host, wanted Jesus to do something before people found out that they had run short of wine. Jesus, however, knew that the miracle would mean nothing unless it were generally known. He had to wait for the right time, until His “hour had come” so that the miracle would draw attention to His power and support His claim to be the Son of God.

The Lord carefully chose the time and place of every one of His miracles so that they would have the maximum impact. The only reason for performing miracles was to draw attention to Himself, to show His Divine powers, and to confirm the belief that many had in His Divinity. For example, if He had come to earth to be a healer, why did He then heal relatively few people? And why was He unable to do miracles in Nazareth? The only explanation is that He only did miracles to attract attention to Himself and His teachings, and to confirm belief in those who already believed, or were strongly inclined to believe. At the same time, the record of the miracles in the Word contained within them spiritual things which can be discovered by applying the Science of Correspondences.

Throughout the Word, weddings represent the church, because a wedding is the celebration of the conjunction of a man and a woman. A man represents truth, and a woman good. When people know the truth from the Lord, and do it, they are conjoining good and truth, and they make up the Lord’s church on earth. So the fact that the setting for this miracle is a wedding tells us that the main subject is the church.

That the wedding took place in Cana of Galilee tells us that this miracle is really about the establishment of the church among the Gentiles, for Cana was far removed from Jerusalem, and was populated for the most part by non-Jews.

We learn that the Gentiles, those with whom the Lord was about to establish the Christian Church, did have an abundance of external truths about life which they had received from the writings and traditions of the Jewish Church, for these external truths are represented by the 2 or 3 firkins of water kept in the house in six water pots of stone.

The number six represents “all” or “everything”2 and since it is here associated with stone pots full of water, it represents all the external truths of the Word. And because the stone pots of water were there for the purpose of ritual washings, they especially represent the external truths of the Word as received by the Jewish Church, for the purification from sin through ritual washings was the characteristic of that Church. That is why every Jewish home at that time kept stone pots of water near the door so that when a guest entered, water could be drawn and his feet washed by his host as a sign of welcome.

Wine, like water, represents truth. However, because it comes from grapes, and has gone through the process of fermentation, it has changed into something quite different. Therefore, wine represents spiritual truths, the truths of the internal church, the truths which the Lord had come to earth to reveal and with which He would establish the Christian Church.

So we can see that in general, making the water into wine stands for the process whereby the Lord would take the truths of the external church, that is, the truths of the Old Testament so carefully preserved and revered by the Jewish Church, and would make them into the internal truths of the Christian Church which was being established by opening the internal things that had lain hidden within them throughout the generations of the Jewish Church.

When we read about the ruler of the feast, and his reaction to the wine that the Lord had provided, we are being given an insight into the process whereby the Lord builds a New church on the foundation provided by the Old. As said before, the wedding itself represents the church. The tradition of serving the best wine at first, then the poorer wine later when the guests are no longer so discriminating represents the fact that each of the four previous churches established by the Lord have, in the process of time, declined. Specifically, this represents the decline of the Jewish Church. However, when the time of a church is at an end, the Lord comes again with new truth so that those who truly love the Lord and wish to do His will are inspired, and enfilled with a new vision of the church and heaven. This is represented by the delicious wine that was saved until last.

We read in the text that the wedding guests were surprised by the delicious new wine, and that many were unable to accept that it had been provided miraculously by Jesus. At the end of every church, new truth is revealed. Those who accept the new truth and carry it forward into life become the “remnant” of the old church from whom the new is to be built. The Lord, in His first public miracle, is announcing His miraculous powers, and therefore His divinity, thereby attracting those of the former church who are prepared to accept the new. Scripture tells us that although not all at the feast believed in Him, the disciples were inspired by this miracle, and their faith in Him increased.

We can easily see the “big picture” of this miracle, how the Lord, in His first public miracle is, in the internal sense, announcing that He has come to fulfill the Old Testament, to reveal the moral and spiritual truths that are contained in the letter of the Mosaic law, and inviting those Gentiles and Jews who are genuinely interested in spiritual things to follow Him and help Him establish a new, more internal, church. But what do these passages tell us that we can take home with us today and use in some way to make our lives better?

A home represents the mind, and, like the Jewish home where the wedding feast was held, we keep a great deal of water around: 2 or 3 firkins; 20 or 30 gallons; about 100 liters — in other words, during the course of our lives, we accumulate a great deal of information about the world. Water represents natural truth, the kind of truth which has for its subject the world and things in it. These are all important things that we need to know in order to maintain our homes, and keep our bodies healthy and fit for uses, but there is far more to life than the natural world and its delights.

If we are to be properly prepared for life in heaven, the water has to be turned into wine; the natural truths have to be reordered and enfilled so that they support spiritual goals, so that they lead our thoughts and actions toward the Lord and heaven.

The way this happens is represented when the Lord commanded that the waterpots be filled with water, and the servants filled them to the brim (text). Waterpots, being vessels which receive water, represents the mind which receives truth. Filling the water pots is, therefore, an image of learning.

The Lord Himself commands us to learn, to fill our vessels. Whether or not that water is turned into wine with us depends entirely upon our response. Do we approach learning half-heartedly? Do we fill the pots with only enough water to satisfy the master, to avoid getting into trouble, or do we learn with enthusiasm and interest, do we fill our vessels to the brim?

It’s not a simple thing. Imagine what life would be like for people in Etobicoke if we had to depend on the Mimico (or the Humber) for all our water. Imagine the effort of filling six 100+ liter cisterns by carrying the water yourself. It’s quite a job.

In the New Church we believe that even the simple can be saved, that if a man only knows one truth, but lives according to it because he believes that is what the Lord wants him to do, that he will find his way to eternal happiness in heaven. However, while such a person may be saved because he is far less useful than someone who knows many truths, he is not fulfilling the capabilities given to him by the Lord. The truth of the matter is that charity is the real life of heaven, and charity is according to the quality and the quantity of truth with a person.3

If we are planning a trip to a place some distance away that we had never visited before, we would certainly prepare ourselves by reading brochures and articles about the destination, and we would want to talk to others who had been there and could offer little tips that would go beyond what was mentioned in the articles. The more we could learn about the country before we actually arrived, the more relaxed we will be, and the more enjoyment we will get out of our visit. Do not the exact same rules apply about our future trip to the Spiritual World, a trip every one of us is going to take sooner or later?

Every truth that we learn is first of all a natural truth. When a little child learns that in the Word water corresponds to truth, he does not understand the spiritual truth within. He learns it as a fact, a natural truth, something he stores away with all the other assorted things that he knows. Adults learn spiritual truths in the same way — as facts presented to their minds as spoken or written words; natural truths. They are filed away in the memory with all the other things that are learned during the course of a day. And if that is all that happens, they soon fade into oblivion, like the contents of last week’s newspaper, or the water in the stone pots beside the door that is periodically used up and replaced with fresh.

How then is the water turned to wine? How do the natural truths become spiritual truths? How do we turn our attention away from the short term pleasures of the natural world so that we can reach out for the things of real, lasting value, spiritual things? By living them. Only through experience, through temptation, through seeing that the principles of the church do work for us when they are consistently applied in our life do we finally come to the point where we really see what the truths mean, because we have lived them. Only then does true spiritual understanding come. Spiritual truth and enlightenment come to us through plain, good old-fashioned work, just like anything else of real, lasting value.

There is no magic involved, no short cuts. The Lord has given us each a vessel, a mind, and commanded that we fill it to the brim. That means learning to how read the Word with understanding (which is the main focus of our school and the Society doctrinal class), and continuing to read and study throughout life as our understanding increases through the experience of life in natural world. Then, having made the truth our own through life, spiritual light will shine on those truths we have acquired through great effort, and it will be seen that instead of ordinary water, miraculously, in its place is the most delicious new wine. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim (text). Amen.

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

First Lesson: 2KI 4:1-7

A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” {2} So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” {3} Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors; empty vessels; do not gather just a few. {4} “And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” {5} So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. {6} Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. {7} Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.” Amen.

Second Lesson: JOH 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. {2} Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. {3} And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” {4} Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” {5} His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” {6} Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. {7} Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. {8} And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. {9} When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. {10} And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” {11} This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. {12} After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. Amen.

Third Lesson:

[2] The primary thing of the rational with man is truth, consequently it is the affection of truth, which makes it possible that man may be reformed, and so regenerated. This is effected by means of knowledges that are of truth, which are continually being implanted in good, that is, in charity, that so the man may receive the life of charity. It is on this account that the affection of truth in man is predominant in his rational. For it is the case with the life of charity (which is the heavenly life itself) that with those who are being reformed and regenerated it is continually being born and growing up and receiving increments, and this by means of truths therefore the more of truth there is insinuated, the more is the life of charity perfected; wherefore according to the quality and quantity of truth, so is the charity with a man.

[3] From all this it may in some measure be evident how the case is with man’s rational. In truth, however, there is no life, but in good. Truth is only a recipient of life, that is, of good. Truth is as the clothing or garment of good; therefore also truths are called in the Word “clothing,” and also “garments.” But when good constitutes the rational, truth disappears and becomes as if it were good. Good then shines through the truth, in the same way as takes place with the angels, for when they appear clothed, it is a brightness inducing the appearance of raiment, as was the case also when angels appeared before the prophets. AMEN

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


1 See SD 5992, AC 2574:2, 2649:2, AE 205:e, Lord 35, TCR 102

2 See AR 610:2

3 See AC 2189:2

 

Motherhood: Preparation for Heaven

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!” {50} “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mat 12:49-50)

The doctrine of the Sacred Scripture tells us, in explaining the meaning of the fourth commandment, that by honor thy … mother a spiritual angel understands the Church, but a celestial angel understands the Lord s Divine Wisdom. (SS 67)

If we add to this the teaching that all things in the universe have been created “from firsts to lasts and thence into intermediates” (which means that all things come from God as a source. His life flows out from Him as the heat and light from a sun. This influx is received in the lowest things of nature, and from them then arise more complex forms of life). From these teachings we can then draw the parallel teaching that the Divine Itself flows out from God.

It is received in the Celestial Kingdom as Divine Wisdom; it is received in the Spiritual Kingdom as the Lord s spiritual Church; and in the Natural kingdom, that is, the world, as motherhood. This is why everywhere in the Word mother corresponds to the Church.

As we read in the Third Lesson, the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church tell us that the earth … is the common mother … for it receives the seeds of all plants, opens them, carries them as in the womb, and then nourishes them, and brings them forth … and afterwards clothes and supports them.& That the earth is the common mother … is illustrated by this that the earth in the Word represents the Church; and that the Church is the common mother. (TCR 585)

After having been received in the natural kingdom as motherhood, that influx of life then returns to the intermediate degree, that is, children, born in the world of nature, are nurtured and taught and prepared for spiritual life which they then receive when their natural body is laid aside in death.

Focusing on the role of the church as a mother as a means of receiving those gifts

“Mother” properly = the affection of truth, which makes the Church in man. (AC 4257E), so we regard the church as our spiritual mother.

 

 

In the spiritual sense, by to honor … the mother is meant to reverence and love … the Church Infants and Angels in the Heavens know no other … mother; because there they are born anew from the Lord through the Church. TCR 306

That by mother, in the spiritual sense, is meant the Church, is because as a mother on earth feeds her children with natural food, so the Church feeds them with spiritual food; and therefore the Church is called mother in the Word. The New Jerusalem means the New Church which is being instaurated by the Lord at this day& This Church, and not a former one, is wife, and mother, in this sense. TCR 3062

The role of the church in regeneration is like that of a mother in birth

 

 

It is known that the soul of man commences in the ovum of the mother, and is afterwards perfected in her womb.& The like is the case when a man is born again. AC 35704

Nurturing, protecting, preparing for heaven

Angel mothers

 

As these female Angels … had loved all infants from a tenderness as it were maternal, they receive them as their own; and the infants also … love them as their own mothers. There are as many infants with each Angel as she longs for from spiritual storge. HH 332

Early child care by loving mothers prepares a person for spiritual life

 

 

The love of the children with the mother is as the heart … because the heart corresponds to love … and love from the will is with the mother.& With spiritual men there is conjugial conjunction … from justice, because the mother has gestated them in the womb, with pain has brought them forth, and afterwards with unwearied care suckles, nourishes, washes, dresses, and educates them. CL 284

It is an innate quality of women to care for children, even if not their own

 

 

It appears as if mothers had the love of infants from nourishing them in the womb from their own blood, and from the consequent appropriation of their own life, and thus from a sympathetic union; but still this is not the origin of that love; for if, unknown to the mother, another infant were to be substituted after birth … she would love it with equal tenderness.& CL 3932

Such care is not without its reward for mothers. There is communication with the heaven of innocences which brings its particular delights

 

 

That the communication and the derivative conjunction of innocences is especially effected through the touch is clearly seen from the pleasantness of carrying them in the arms, embracing and kissing them, especially with mothers, who are [delighted] by laying their mouths and faces upon their bosoms, and at the same time with the touch of the palms of their hands there; in general, by their sucking their breasts & and also by softly touching their naked bodies, and by the unwearied pains in washing and dressing them upon their knees. CL 3962

The Lord is the source of all good and truth

But the Lord does not act apart from means

His influx into to the world comes by means of the Church in the heavens

The Church is represented in the Word by the word “mother”

Which means that we can learn about how the church works in our lives by studying the ideals, responsibilities, and uses of motherhood

 

It can be hard to give thanks to the Lord. He is not with us in the natural world. His presence with us is a matter of faith.

It is not nearly so hard to remember the endless gifts that a mother gives.

As we think about our mothers, let us be reminded of our Mother the Church

As we think about the Church and the benefits that come to us through it, et us give thanks to the Lord.

 

 

 

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, On an instrument of ten strings, On the lute, And on the harp, With harmonious sound. For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. (PSA 921-4)

1st Lesson: GEN 1715-21

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. {16} “And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

{17} Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” {18} And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” {19} Then God said “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. {20} “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. {21} “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.”

2nd Lesson: MAT 1246-50

While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. {47} Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” {48} But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” {49} And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! {50} “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

3rd Lesson: TCR 585

It has been taught by many of the learned that the processes of plant growth & correspond to human prolification. I will, therefore, add something on this subject by way of appendix.

In trees and in all other [kinds of plants] there are not two sexes & but everything & is masculine. The earth alone, or the soil, is the common mother, and is thus as it were feminine, for it received the seeds of all fruits, opens them, carries them as it were in a womb, and then nourishes them and brings them forth, that is, ushers them into the light of day, and afterwards clothes and sustains them.

3) That no one may be astonished at the statement & let it be illustrated by something similar among bees. According to the observation of Swammerdam, reported in his Books of Nature, bees have only one common mother, from which the offspring of the entire hive is produced. As there is but one common mother for these little insects, why not the same for all plants?

4) That the earth is a common mother may also be illustrated spiritually; and is so illustrated by the fact that in the Word “the Earth” signifies the church and the church is a common mother, and is so called in the Word.


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

 

In the Midst of the Storm

Olivet Society

Church of the New Jerusalem

In the Midst of the Storm

July 25, 2010

 

First Lesson: 1KI 19:1-10

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. {2} Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” {3} And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. {4} But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” {5} Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” {6} Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. {7} And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” {8} So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. {9} And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” {10} So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Amen.

Second Lesson:  AC 2708:2

[2] In the Word ‘a wilderness’ can mean that which is sparsely inhabited and cultivated, or it can mean that which is totally uninhabited and uncultivated, and so is used in two senses. When it means that which is sparsely inhabited and cultivated, that is, where there are few dwellings, and where there are sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, it means that thing or those persons who, compared with others, have little life and light, as is the case with that which is spiritual or those who are spiritual in comparison with that which is celestial or those who are celestial. When however it means that which is totally uninhabited and uncultivated, that is, where there are no dwellings, sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, it means those who have undergone vastation as regards good and desolation as regards truth. Amen.

 

In the Midst of the Storm

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid. (MAT 14:27, MAR 6:50, JOH 6:20)

The description of Jesus walking across a stormy sea of Galilee to join His disciples in their boat is recorded in three of the four gospels. Each version is similar to the others in the main elements of the miracle. However, it is interesting that only Matthew mentions Peter’s attempt to walk on the water too.

There are three main elements common to each description given in the gospels:  First, that having achieved a great success with His teachings and the miracles of the loaves and fishes, it was necessary to escape from the crowds, whom, we are told in John, were going to “take Him by force to make Him king” (JOH 6:15). The disciples were sent off in a boat to cross the sea of Galilee, while Jesus Himself slipped away into the mountains to pray.

The second element is that once the disciples were in the midst of the sea that night, a dangerous storm began to blow. It does not seem from the scripture that they were in immediate danger of losing their lives, but they were in some distress. It says that they were “tossed by the waves” (MAT 14:24), and that they “strained at rowing” (MAR 6:48) because “a great wind was blowing” (JOH 6:18) and it “was against them” (MAR 6:48).

The third and final element of the story is during the “fourth watch” (MAT 14:25), that is, just before dawn, Jesus came to them, walking across the water. At first they were afraid, thinking Him a ghost — which is about as reasonable an explanation as could be expected under the circumstances – but when they recognized that it was Jesus they were no longer afraid. In fact, Peter wanted to try it himself, and at the Lord’s invitation walked part of the way to meet Him before his confidence faltered. When Jesus joined them in the boat, the “wind ceased” (MAT 14:32, MAR 6:51), and, according to John, “immediately the boat was at the land where they were going” (JOH 6:21).

On the level of the historical sense, these events serve to enrich the image we have of Jesus Christ and the way that people reacted to Him and His teachings. We are surprised that the people wanted to “take Him by force to make Him king” (JOH 6:15). We are interested to hear that faced with a crowd that was becoming unruly through its own enthusiasm for Him, He used the same technique that famous people today use to avoid the crowds — He sent the disciples off in the boat, attracting the crowds, while He Himself slipped off into the mountains.

When word of the events of that night was added to the list of miracles already achieved it would have attracted the attention of ever more people, people who might not otherwise have ever made the effort to seek out the Lord and listen to His teachings. And of course, to those who already suspected that He was more than just a teacher, that He was perhaps a prophet with as much power as the fabled Elijah, these events simply served to confirm their belief in His power, and prepared them to receive the things that were yet to come.

The Pharisees, and others like them, no doubt passed these events off as lies designed to mislead the people and weaken their own hold on the power to control them, leading them to hate the Lord even more, and to continue to develop their plans to destroy Him. Such men could not be convinced by any miracle, for their whole mind was turned toward defending and protecting their own particular view of life, and any truth could be twisted to that end so that they did not even believe the evidence of their own senses if it was contrary to their belief.

Even the most cursory examination of this story makes its symbolism evident:  The disciples leave the Lord and venture out to sea. They are faced with troubles which become more serious until they are frightened. The Lord returns, they are no longer frightened, the storm ends, and they arrive safely at their destination.

Such cycles occur frequently in our own lives. We get busy with the various activities of our lives and as it were forget the Lord. We face difficulties and temptations, and although we try very hard, we cannot make headway against them until we are frightened that we will fail. If we then turn to the Lord and invite Him into our lives by returning to order, the storm ends, the dawn breaks, and we begin a new cycle of life on a happy, optimistic note.

Clearly, since such an interpretation leads people to a life of order, and to have confidence that the Lord has the power to save them from life’s difficulties and lead them to a life of peace, it is therefore in harmony with God’s overall plan for the salvation of all men and is therefore a correct understanding of the lesson carried in the report of this event. This general understanding of the symbolic meaning of scripture can be brought into sharper focus by application of the Science of Correspondences revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem – and this is an important point about using correspondences to understand the true meaning of scripture – the application of correspondences to a particular story produces a meaning that is rarely different from the meaning that can be derived by anyone who is honestly trying to see how scripture applies in their own life. What the Science of Correspondences does is draw out those meanings in a systematic and detailed way, and serves to aid our understanding of passages that otherwise have no meaning to us at all, as those in the prophets.

The Writings do not add to the Word, but open it up in all its wonder, so that its Divine author can be seen ever more clearly. For example, we read in each of the three gospel accounts that the Lord sent the disciples off into the sea while He Himself went up into a mountain to pray (MAT 14:22,23; MAR 6:45,46; JOH 6:15-17). The Science of Correspondence tells us concerning these facts that in the Word there are two different kinds of wilderness, and they each mean different things. We use the word wilderness in several senses. To someone brought up in Paris, moving to any lesser city would be to live “in the wilderness.” It’s not really the wilderness, but relatively so, and we would understand that they did not mean it literally. On the other hand, there are places in the world that are utterly uncultivated and without inhabitants:  the great mountain ranges, the great deserts, the arctic wastes, and the seas. In the same way, when used in the Word, the word “wilderness” can mean either “the thing or those persons who, compared with others, have little life and light, as is the case with . . . those who are spiritual in comparison with . . . those who are celestial” (AC 2708) or it can mean “those who have undergone vastation as regards good and desolation as regards truth” (AC 2708). Therefore, the word “wilderness” used in the first sense, refers to those who are in a relative state of falsity and evil, but for whom we have every confidence that with work they probably can improve their spiritual state, while in the second sense it refers to those who are utterly without good or truth, and for whom there is little hope of reformation.

It can be seen that when the Lord went into the mountain to pray, it was a wilderness in the relative sense. It represented that He was entering a period of prayer, introspection and temptation. Because He was the Divine Being, it cannot be said that He was actually in a state of being without good or truth, but it can be said that He was relatively in a state of less good and truth.

The disciples, on the other hand, taking their boat out into the uninhabited and uncivilized sea of Galilee were actually entering the other kind of wilderness to represent the state of the Jewish Church:  that it was without good, that the truths of the Word, given by Moses and the prophets had been perverted and profaned, that the Jewish Church was at its end.

The Word also specifically uses the imagery of night and storm to show the spiritual states of the people of that time, people who sought to learn the truth and do what was right, but because they were so misled by the self-seeking leaders of their church, were unable to discern right from wrong. Specifically, we are told that “this was done in the ‘fourth watch’ to represent the first state of the church, when it is daybreak and morning is at hand, for then good begins to act through truth, and then the Lord comes” (AE 514).

We can see then that the disciples represent those people who, in any time and in any place, would like to know how to make their lives spiritually better, but simply don’t know where to turn for the answers they need. Such people are not scholars, or theologians, but they worry about their future, they worry about their children, and they want to do what is best for them.

The miracle of the Lord walking across the sea to the frightened, storm-tossed disciples, signifies His presence and love for even these, the most simple of people, those who know little but who are willing to hold to and obey those things they do know. Peter, the disciple who represents faith, represented the state of their faith when he tried to walk to the Lord. By itself, based on the limited knowledge then in their possession, that faith was not enough to support Peter, and he began to sink. But we must remember that the Lord quickly reached out His hand to support Peter and carry him back to the boat, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (MAT 14:31) I believe He said these words to Peter gently, and with the affection of a father who is helping a beloved child try to do things that are as yet beyond his skill, patient in the knowledge that success will come with time, effort, and practice.

The meaning of this story is clear, no matter what level we study it on; whether the sense of the letter, the history of the church, the path of our own regeneration, or the Lord’s glorification:  Each of us, church, society, nation, or individual goes through cycles of light and darkness. There are times that we feel more powerful and effective than others, but it is the dark times, the sad times that worry us, that cause us to fear. Like the disciples, we struggle at our tasks, trying to make headway against the strong winds that try to drive us back. As we tire, we become aware of our own weaknesses, and we realize that by ourselves, without help, we will fail. The Lord cannot enter our lives without our invitation, and we are too full of the love of self and confidence in our own abilities to invite Him in when things are going well, and so, for the sake of our own spiritual lives, He allows the storms to blow, the waves the build, until we are once again aware of our own frailty. Once the true perspective is restored, once we can see ourselves as we really are, we are ready to accept the help that the Lord offers. And when we turn to the Lord, to the truths that He has given to guide our lives in the Word, the states that have been tormenting us are broken. The spiritual storm abates, and the sun comes out. When we bring ourselves into order, we are given a taste of heaven which is order itself. This pleasant state will continue as long as we continue in order.

It is not the Lord’s will that we face problems in this world. Problems come to us from hell, and as the consequence of our own free choices. He permits certain problems, however, because they can serve to improve our spiritual character. From time to time, He even allows a storm to brew so that we can learn that there comes a time when we must admit to ourselves that we are not all powerful, but that we need the Lord’s help to overcome problems that we cannot overcome by ourselves.

Let us not leave the subject thinking about the storms, rather let us remember that the Lord came to them, miraculously, at the time of their greatest need. He comforted their fears, calmed the storm, and brought them safely into port. And in so doing, He told all people for all time that He would do the same for them. But when (Peter) saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshipped Him, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God.” (MAT 14:30-33) Amen.

 

 

The Use of Recreation

The Use of Recreation

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 27, 2008

Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring you a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts (Gen. 18:4,5)

Our text for today comes from the story in Genesis where the Lord appeared to Abraham and Sarah to confirm the covenant with them. Abraham had been called by Jehovah to travel to Canaan and beyond when he was a young man. Jehovah had shown him Canaan and promised that it would be the homeland of a great nation, and that his descendants would fill it. Abraham was then led to travel into Egypt, and other lands.

All the while he was becoming richer, he was also becoming older, but he had fathered no children. He must have wondered how the Lord would fulfil His promise of descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven as he and Sarah approached old age, childless.

Sarah, believing that she had passed the age of childbearing, gave Abraham her handmaiden, Hagar, so that she could obtain children through her. Ishmael was born to Hagar in Abraham’s 86th year. But the Lord had intended that the nation that He was to establish would come from Abraham and Sarah, and so in Abraham’s 99th year, the angel of the Lord came to visit Abraham in his camp.

Abraham invited Him to wash His feet, to rest, and to enjoy his hospitality. While Sarah was busy preparing a feast for them, The Angel told Abraham that Sarah was have a son. Sarah, overhearing, laughed at this prophecy, for she knew she had passed the age of childbearing. Thus, because she had laughed at the news, when their son was born, just as the Angel had promised, he was named “Isaac” which is Hebrew for “laughter.”

The covenant had been miraculously established. The Lord had shown His power and good faith. Now it was up to Abraham and his descendants to return that faith to the Lord by obeying the conditions of the covenant. And therein lies the story and the drama of the Jewish nation.

The reason for considering this text today is that it is an example of the importance of rest and recreation in our spiritual and natural lives. Abraham and Sarah had travelled many miles and had many adventures while following Jehovah. Through their experiences they had progressed from believing that Jehovah was one of the Chaldean idols, called “god Shaddai,” to believing that Jehovah was the most powerful of all the gods. More and more they had come to understand and accept the mission that they were called to perform, and on the way they had successively put off the false ideas and evil loves that they had originally had. In other words, we can see the steps of reformation and regeneration in the life and travels of Abraham and Sarah that culminated in the visit of the Angel and the subsequent feast in His honour.

This shows that rest and relaxation, feasts and entertainments, are an important part of our spiritual lives. We cannot be regenerated by the Lord without them, for they provide a balance and contrast that allows us to return to our occupations, uses, and spiritual growth with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

The human mind does not just enjoy variety, but actually requires it to function properly. While we live in the natural world, we are primarily conscious in the rational degree of our mind. The word “rational” is from the root word “ratio” which means to compare one value to another. The rational mind functions by weighing one thought against another, by comparing their values, examining their differences. Without a variety of truths, the rational mind would first become bored, and eventually whither and die.

There is a similar situation in regard to vision. Although it is not a common experience among people who do not live in Arctic regions, it is true that people can become temporarily blind during white out conditions, when sky and land merge into an indistinguishable whiteness and the brain is no longer able to process information that is completely uniform. We need all kinds of visual cues to establish distance and scale, and if denied that information, the visual centres of the brain shut down. (This is different from the situation where one finds it hard to see when coming into the house after being out in very bright conditions for a while).

The brain works in a similar way to filter a steady noise out of the environment. Visitors often notice noises that long time residents no longer notice unless something calls their attention to it. They have become deaf to a noise that exists in their environment without variety.

The same kind of numbness can occur in the mind in every employment, no matter what it is. Even if the job itself requires quite a variety of activities, there is an affection the underlies every employment, and it strains the mind as it keeps it intent upon the subject of the work or study. If this affection and drive is not relaxed from time to time, the mind becomes dull, and the desire to work flags, as does the delight and satisfaction that is derived from the job. (See Charity 190)

Sometimes we allow ourselves to believe that our personal success, and the regard of others, depends on our being able to keep our “nose to the grindstone” and our “shoulder to the wheel” in spite of the minor inconveniences of the demands of our bodies to rest, to do something, anything, else. We feel guilty for every moment “stolen” from our work. The doctrines of the New Church make it quite clear that such guilt is misplaced, that in fact we are more useful to ourselves, to our families, and to our employers when we take appropriate opportunities to enjoy some variety in our life.

The recreations we choose correspond to the interior states of our affections and the physical needs of our bodies (See Charity 191). The interior quality of the various diversions varies according to the affection of charity that is in us that inspires those types of recreation (See Charity 192).

Provided that the affection of charity is within them, then virtually any form of recreation that stimulates the senses through variety, or a change of scene, serves the use of recreation. And, while involved in that recreation, the underlying love of use remains interiorly within the recreation. Without necessarily being conscious of it, the mind knows that this rest and recreation is actually serving the use that it resting from. While playing, the affection for the use of life is gradually renewed, and there is a sense that the time for play is done when the longing to return to the use signals that the state is complete. And the amazing thing that the Heavenly Doctrines reveal, is that those who love their use, and relax in order to return to their use invigorated are given an interior sense of pleasure in their relaxations that far exceeds the pleasure of one who seeks recreation and relaxation as an end in itself. (See Charity 193).

Having established the principles behind the use of recreation, the Heavenly Doctrines then go on to give a number of examples of the kinds of things that are good ways of giving the mind and body refreshment so that it can return to its primary uses refreshed. The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but merely to serve as examples of the kinds of things that refresh the mind. We are certainly free to add other, modern forms that abide to the principles set forth.

The first example given in the work on Charity is conversation with others on public, private, and economical affairs. We need look no further than the popularity of refreshments after church functions to see the truth in this.

The second category regards pleasures for the sense of sight, and includes such things as walks in cities in the sight of palaces and house, or in the country where trees, flowers, and animals can be observed. It also includes spectacles of various kinds which are representative of the moral virtues, and events where something of the Divine Providence shines forth. An exciting movie or play where good triumphs over evil is a form of recreation sanctioned by the doctrines, as is watching a sporting event, and seeing the fortunes of the teams as illustrations of the principles of the Divine Providence (See Charity 189).

The third category of recreation is things that give pleasure to the hearing such as various kinds of music which correspond to the affections and stir them, and also jokes and funny stories that exhilarate the mind — provided they are decorous (puns, stories that do not ridicule – the Latin word for laughter – individuals or groups)

The fourth category regards things that give pleasure to the other senses, such as banquets, feasts, and other entertainments. If the conversation at such a banquet regards many various domestic and civil subjects, but especially as these matters relate to the Church and its doctrines, and if the conversation proceeds with charity towards all, then the spiritual sphere is one of love to the Lord and the neighbour. It cheers the mind, and spreads a warm feeling of cordiality among the guests. Such was the sphere of the banquets and feasts among the early members of the Christian Church, and they were called “feasts of Charity” because the Lord was at their centre (See TCR 433).

Unfortunately, although it is the goal of our Church dinners, the doctrines tell us that such “feasts of Charity” are rare in our modern world, primarily because our interests and thus our conversations are seldom centred on the Lord. Instead, today the social conversations of friends has no other end in view than the pleasure of conversation itself, the intellectual exhilaration from the exchange of ideas, the expression of pent-up thoughts, and so forth (See TCR 434)

Other examples of good forms of recreation suggested by the doctrines are games played at home with dice, balls, and cards; dances at weddings and other festive gatherings; hobbies, or “labours of the hands” that give motion to the body, and divert the mind from the works of its calling; and finally the reading of books and newspapers (See Charity 189).

All the above has presupposed that the person enjoying the recreation is in charity, and does their work for the sake of the Lord and the use that it performs for others. The recreations of those who work only for the sake of their loves of self and the world refresh themselves differently. The doctrine of Charity teaches that, They rush into voluptuous pleasures, into drunkenness, luxury, whoredoms, into hatred, vindictiveness, and slander of the neighbour, if he does not do them honour. And if from time to time they are not raised to higher honoris, they come to loathe their employments, and give themselves up to leisure and become idlers; and after their departure from the world they become demons. (Charity 194)

The conclusion we must draw from these teachings is that sports and various other forms of recreation have been provided for our refreshment by the Lord, and like any other gift from the Lord, they are to be used wisely so that they are not abused. Sports and recreation are to be seen in their proper perspective:   When they are used to restore and invigorate the mind and body to prepare it to return to the use of life, they are in order and give great pleasure. They are not to be ends in themselves, but they are in order and delightful when they serve higher uses, allowing us to return to the use of our life refreshed and with renewed enthusiasm to serve the Lord and the neighbour each in our own unique way. AMEN

1st Lesson: GEN 18:1-8

Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. {2} So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, {3} and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favour in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. {4} “Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. {5} “And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.” {6} So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” {7} And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. {8} So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. Amen.

2nd Lesson: 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.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: Charity 190 – 191

  1. These are diversions for everyone who is in office or employment. They may therefore be called the diversions of offices or employments. But really they are diversions of the affections from which one engages in his employment. There is an affection in every employment, and it strains the mind, and keeps it intent upon its work or study. This, if it be not relaxed, becomes dull, and its desire flags, as salt that has lost its savour, so that it has no pungency or relish; or as a bent bow, which, unless it be unbent, loses the power that it derives from its elasticity. Just so the mind, kept from day to day in the same ideas, without variety. So the eyes, when they look only at one object, or continually upon one colour. For, to look continually at a thing which is black, or continually at red or at white, destroys the sight. Thus, if one looks continually at the snow the sight is destroyed; but it is enlivened if he looks in succession or at the same time upon many colours. Every form delights by its varieties, as a garland of roses of different colours arranged in beautiful order. Hence it is that the rainbow is more charming than the light itself.
  2. When the mind has been continually upon the stretch, at its work, it aspires to rest; and when it rests it descends into the body, and seeks there its pleasures, correspondent to its mental operations, which the mind chooses, according to its interior state in the viscera of the body. The interior things of the body derive their pleasures chiefly from the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, delights which are in fact drawn from outward things, but yet insinuate themselves into the single parts of the body, which are called members and viscera. From hence and from no other source have they their delights and pleasures. The single fibres, and single tissues of fibres, the single capillary vessels, and thence the common vessels, and so all the viscera in common, derive their own delights; which a man then perceives, not singly but universally, as one common sensation. But just as is the mind within them, from the head, such are the delights, pure or impure, spiritual or natural, heavenly or infernal. For within, in every sensation of the body, is the love of his will, with its affections; and the understanding makes him to perceive their delights.

For the love of the will, with its affections, constitutes the life of every sensation; and the perception thence of the understanding produces the sensation. Hence come all delights and pleasures. For the body is a connected work, and one form. Sensation communicates itself, like a force applied to a chain with its single links; and as a form which has been wrought together from uninterrupted links. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

A Land For Which You Did Not Labour

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Toronto, March 15, 2009

          I have given you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant. (JOS 24:13)

Our text for today is taken from the last chapter of the book of Joshua, and is a part of his final speech to the children of Israel when he was one hundred and ten years old and knew that he was about to die.

Joshua was born in Egypt while the children of Israel were still slaves. He had seen the Lord strike Egypt with the Ten Plagues and he had seen Pharaoh’s army drowned in the Red Sea. He had been one of the spies who went ahead into the land of Canaan and reported that it was a “land of milk and honey” (NUM 13:27). Joshua also reported that there were giants in the land, but he and Caleb were certain that they could be defeated with the Lord’s help. Unfortunately, the rest of the people were not so sure, and they rebelled, unable to trust in the Lord, and were condemned to wander in the wilderness until all those who had been born slaves in Egypt and thus who had a subservient, helpless mentality had died. Not one of those who had been slaves in Egypt would enter the Land of Canaan, except for Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua led the army in their very first battle against the Amalekites, the battle where the children of Israel would win only as long as Moses held his arms up. Joshua took the children who were born in the wilderness and trained them to be soldiers capable of the courage required to follow Jehovah into Canaan. Joshua was chosen to lead the children of Israel into Canaan upon the death of Moses, and because of his constant faith that it was Jehovah who fought their battles, they swept into Canaan and conquered the land, North and South, in a few years.

Finally, as an old man, near death, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together in Shechem, and there he reminded them of their history, how as a people they had begun when Jehovah had called Abram, the son of Terah, from Ur of the Chaldees. He reminded them that in the beginning, Abram and his family had worshipped idols, but how they had come to worship only Jehovah as they had seen so many different miracles that proved that He was almighty, and His power was everywhere. Joshua reminded them of all the times that the children of Israel had been in trouble, and Jehovah’s power had saved them. He also reminded them of all the times that they had turned away from Jehovah to worship other gods and how then the other nations had been able to defeat them easily. It should have been obvious to anyone that without Jehovah’s help they would have never been able to conquer the land, and without Jehovah’s help they would soon be driven out. Throughout his speech, Joshua’s emphasis was to remind that they had a covenant with Jehovah, that as long as they obeyed His commandments, and did not worship idols, He would be there to protect them from their enemies, and to help them keep the land of Canaan as their home.

The whole focus of Joshua’s speech was to draw attention to their dependence on Jehovah for everything, and in particular, to the fact that they had been given a beautiful, verdant homeland that they could have had no hope of winning without Jehovah fighting their battles for them. Joshua, speaking for Jehovah said, I have given you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant (text).

This is one of those verses of scripture that stands out because of its structure, and its symbolic message which applied literally to the children of Israel, and at the same time symbolically to people of all nations and all ages.

The doctrines of the New Church reveal that the whole of the Word, the Old and New Testaments, is a parable that has meaning on many levels. We read in Mark that, Without a parable He did not speak to them (4:34). These parables were then later explained to the disciples, revealing the meanings contained within them. But the disciples were simple fishermen, and although they could understand a deeper meaning to the parables, they could not see all the Divine meanings within. The Lord said, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (JOH 16:13), and told of a time when the Spirit of Truth would come to lead into all truth (Cf. JOH 16:14). It is our belief that by means of the Science of Correspondences, revealed through Emanuel Swedenborg, the Spirit of truth is revealed within the letter of the Word.

The Science of Correspondences gives us certain consistent rules which anyone can apply to passages from scripture to learn the spiritual truths which lead to eternal life which are contained within. For example, just as there is a trinity in the Divine Itself, there is a trinity in the Word. That trine is expressed in our text by the three rewards which are given by the Lord without labour on the part of the children of Israel:  food which they did not plant; cities which they did not build; and a land for which they did not labour.

In the Word, food represents the good that is from the Lord, while cities, because they are built of stones which represent truths, represent a religious doctrine. The land of Canaan itself represents heaven, the kingdom where all live to eternity performing uses for the Lord and one another. Thus it can be seen that there is a trinity of good, truth, and use in this passage.

There is also a duality in the Divine, the conjunction of the Divine Love with the Divine Wisdom. This too can be seen in our text:  The Lord has given us food to eat and a place to live. Olive groves and vineyards on the one hand, and a land with cities already built on the other. We see the duality of the Divine Good or Love, and the Divine Truth or Wisdom expressed here.

And again, each part has its own duality of good and truth:  The olive, because it produces an oil which is used for food, to cleanse, to light homes, and to anoint kings, represents the celestial kingdom, or love to the Lord, that is, those things that are good (See AC 2722, AE 617:13, 638:9). Vineyards produce wine, a drink, which represents the truth that we need to satisfy our “thirst” for knowledge. A vineyard in the Word represents the Spiritual Church, or the Church as to truth (See AC 2722, 9139).

A similar duality of good and truth is seen in the land with its cities. The land, because it nurtures and supports the growth of food, represents the feminine, the “mother” earth. Cities, because they are made of stone, and designed by man, represent the doctrines of the various churches, thus there is the duality of good and truth with the city of doctrine rising out of the good earth, showing us that a true Church has to be based on a life of good and charity toward the neighbour.

But the main thrust of the text is seen when these elements are viewed in the context of the whole. The history of the children of Israel begins when Abram is called by the Lord to follow Him. Abram, like his father Terah, worshipped idols, and thought God was one of his local gods, named Shaddai.

At first, we are all idolaters. We worship many different gods:  we worship ourselves, the world, money, status, position, sports, entertainment – the list of gods in our pantheon is quite extensive. Abram, Isaac, and Jacob were led by many miracles and visions to see that Jehovah, as they came to know Him, was a very powerful god. Unlike other gods, He had power everywhere. He could help them in Egypt, and in Canaan. In their pragmatic approach to life, they could see that it was to their advantage to follow Jehovah, for He had abundantly shown that He had real power.

We make the same kind of pragmatic decisions in our own lives, we try many different ways of living, and we tend towards the way that is most in harmony with our view of life. We begin to realize that we cannot live just for the pleasure of the moment, but that we have to learn to delay gratification for the sake of some later benefit. We choose the god that is the most powerful. In so doing, we have to make choices. We have to restrain ourselves, and it is difficult to stop doing things we love to do. Like the children of Israel, in order for us to enter the land we have to fight and overcome many enemies. In our lesson we read how the children of Israel fought against the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Moabites, the people of Jericho, the Canaanites, and others.

Each of these nations represent different hereditary evils, natural inclinations to do evil that we inherit from our parents. The number and variety of nations that had to be conquered reflects our own observation that life in the world is full of temptation and spiritual combats as we try to live according to the standards we have set for ourselves from the Word, while at the same time we are beset by the desire to do all many of selfish and worldly things.

If we were to attempt to fight these Canaanite nations, these hereditary evils from our own strength, we would certainly fail. However, that is not necessary. We have to fight them as if of ourselves. That means that we must make the decision to fight from our own free will, but that the actual strength, the power to drive hell away is a gift from the Lord. As He said through Joshua, then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you – also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand (JOS 24:11).

Fighting against evil as if from self can be explained by thinking of a huge machine, a machine so powerful that it can scoop up and lift a whole truck full of earth in one bite. Such a machine may itself be larger than many buildings, and require huge amounts of power to operate. But remember, deep inside that machine is the operator, a human who controls every powerful movement with a simple push or pull or twist on a hydraulic control. The operator has no power to dig on his own, but through his freewill choices, he makes the machine dig.

Just as the Lord promised, with no more effort than it takes to utter a prayer, we can literally move mountains!

In a manner of speaking, we have been given control over the most powerful force in the universe. The Lord Himself stands ready to fight hell for us, but only we ask Him to, only if we consciously and deliberately choose to do what we know from the Word to be right rather than what we feel from ourselves to be pleasant.

When our life in this world is done and we have, with the Lord’s help, conquered in temptation, we will enter heaven, the kingdom of eternal uses. Heaven is a place for which we did not labour. The Lord created and continually maintains heaven, and welcomes all who wish to live there. It is He who drives hell away from man. It is the Lord who labours to bring us to our reward, who labours from His love for us. The Lord is the source of all truth, and the truths from His Word are the building blocks with which we build the church within ourselves. And our spiritual hunger and thirst are satisfied by the goods and truths that He provides.

All these wonderful things have been promised to us. We can believe that promise because we have seen the miracles that the Lord did for the children of Israel in our minds when we read the Word. As He established His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so He offers to establish His covenant with us. If we will turn away from other gods, and follow His commandments, He will give us eternal life in the spiritual land of Canaan. We will quite literally live to eternity in a “land for which we did not labour.”  We make the choices, but the Lord does the work.  And He’s happy to do it for us, just as any parent is happy to help a child that is struggling to get started in life.

Joshua spoke to his people, and to us, for the Lord when he said, I have given you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and the olive groves which you did not plant.  Now, therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served…. Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (JOS 24:13-15). AMEN.


First Lesson:  JOS 24:1-15

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. {2} And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. {3} ‘Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. {4} ‘To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. {5} ‘Also I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to what I did among them. Afterward I brought you out. {6} ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. {7} ‘So they cried out to the LORD; and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, brought the sea upon them, and covered them. And your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. Then you dwelt in the wilderness a long time. {8} ‘And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan, and they fought with you. But I gave them into your hand, that you might possess their land, and I destroyed them from before you. {9} ‘Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. {10} ‘But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand. {11} ‘Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you; also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. {12} ‘I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. {13} ‘I have given you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ {14} “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Amen.

Second Lesson:  JOH 16:5-15

“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ {6} “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. {7} “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. {8} “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: {9} “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; {10} “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; {11} “of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged. {12} “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. {13} “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. {14} “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. {15} “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. Amen.

Third Lesson:  AC 620

‘The land’ is a term Word, and means the land where the Lord’s true Church is, such as the land of Canaan. ‘The land’ may also mean where the Church is not, such as the land of Egypt, and the lands of the heathen nations, and so stands for the nation which inhabits the land. And since it stands for the nation, it also stands for any such individual who is there. It is called ‘a land’, for example, the land of Canaan, on account of heavenly love, and ‘the lands of the heathen nations’ are so called on account of loves that are foul. It is called ‘ground’ however on account of the faith sown in it. For, as has been shown, a land includes the ground, and the ground includes the field, just as love includes faith, and faith includes the cognitions of faith that are sown in it. Here ‘the earth’ stands for the people among whom heavenly love and the Church perished utterly. It is from the subject that one may know what is attributed to it. Amen.

Copyright 2009, James P. Cooper
Page last update 15-March-2009

For the Lord is a Jealous God, part 2

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, MD, July 20, 2003


The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

In the sermon last week the subject of zeal was introduced, and the general principles relating to it were discussed at some length. We saw how the Doctrines of the New Church tell us that zeal, regarded in itself, is “the fire of love blazing” (CL 358).

When someone, be it the Lord, or one of us, is zealous, it is love acting forcefully. However, anger is also love acting forcefully, although it in this case it is an evil love which acts. When we act from zeal to protect something we love, we do not appear loving to others, but rather we may appear ready to kill for the sake of what is precious to us because anger and zeal appear the same in our outward actions. We should note that because zeal involves emotional heat and activity that it is not the highest degree of love, but rather the effect of that love burning in the lower parts of the mind.

As we can note from our text and many other references in the Old Testament, it is often said of Jehovah in the Word that He is angry, or wrathful, that He avenges, punishes, and casts into hell. These are simply the ways the Lord’s zeal for the salvation of the human race appeared to the writers of the Old Testament, for love can, and does, appear as anger when it burns brightly. (See CL 366)

As has said before, zeal is love protecting that which it loves with all the strength it possesses. It is useful for us to realize that love is not just a passive, warm and fuzzy feeling, but that it is capable of great deeds to protect what it regards to be of value. When we are speaking of the zeal to protect what is holy and delightful in marriage in particular, zeal is called jealousy.

Jealousy is one of those words that is so heavily loaded with connotations that today most people regard jealousy as something unhealthy, something that should be avoided. But the doctrines tell us that jealousy can be “just” when it is the love of protecting what is good in marriage, that is, when it is a spiritual love expressing itself. The jealousy that is to be shunned is that which comes from purely natural origins.

The Writings tell us that “just jealousy” is with married partners who love each other mutually. In such a marriage, jealousy is the just and prudent zeal that each has lest their heavenly state be harmed or violated by enemies of the marriage without or within; to protect what is precious and innocent in their relationship. On the other hand, unjust jealousy exists with those who are suspicious by nature and have a mind that is not entirely rational, but instead see threats where there are none.

But we find today that any kind of jealousy has a bad name. We are encouraged to get rid of such feelings in the interests of our mental health. But reflect for a moment about what is really being suggested: that we not respond to attacks on our marriages! In the interest of being “modern” and “forward thinking” we are encouraged to believe that a little judicious unfaithfulness can be helpful (!) to a marriage by introducing freshness and variety to replace boredom. How often do literature and the theatre show us the scene of the young man or woman contemplating their upcoming marriage and their horror as they realize that they will be evermore limited to just one partner – and we are supposed to feel sorry for them! Such ideas could come from no other place than the hell of adulteries.

Since zeal and jealousy are both forms of love defending themselves, it follows that each person’s zeal or jealousy will vary according to the quality of his loves, that a person whose loves are for what is good and true will fight with justice and judgment to protect what is innocent, while those who have loves that are for what is evil and false will rather fight to defend their own loves of self and the world. (See CL 362)

The leading principle that helps us to distinguish between proper zeal and anger is that the zeal of a good love never attacks, but only defends, while anger will attack without warning.

The second principle is that the zeal of a good love dies down instantly and becomes mild once the attack against it is stopped; while the anger that comes from an evil love seethes on and does not stop when the attack does.

The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church tell us, as mentioned above, that the zeal of conjugial love is called jealousy. (See CL 367) The zeal to protect the love between husband and wife burns more brightly than any other form of zeal, because Conjugial love, the lovely, mutual, spiritual, eternal love between a husband and wife, is the love of loves. It is the highest love because it binds the man and the woman together into a unity, a whole, where each contributes that which the other lacks and yearns for.

Marriage is the highest of human loves because it is an image of how the Divine Love land Divine Wisdom in God came together to create the universe. The Divine Love in God wanted someone to love, and the Divine Wisdom of God created a plan whereby, over billions of years, a universe was created to support human life. People were then put into that universe to learn truth and freely choose which of those truths to make their own, thus creating their own individual characters which would last to eternity. Once that work was done, the natural body was allowed to die, and they could begin their spiritual life to eternity in heaven with God.

Marriage is the greatest of human loves because it mirrors God’s creation of the universe. The feminine represents Divine Love, the masculine Divine Wisdom, and when they come together in marriage, they “create” new life. The delights of procreation in marriage are the greatest of all delights because they correspond to the conjunction of the Divine Good with the Divine truth in the creation of the universe. Our delight in rearing children corresponds to the Lord’s delight in helping the angels of heaven to grow spiritually to eternity. We have been created by God to share in His Divine work of creating a heaven from the human race, and therefore He has created us so that we also share in that delight.

Since marriage is so holy, and its delights so precious, the love that protects them from harm is, or should be, the strongest of all. It is certainly true in the marriages of angels, and we can work toward that goal in our own earthly marriages. In order to understand the church’s teachings about just jealousy in marriage, we need to understand the difference between the natural love of a partner, and the spiritual love of a partner.

The doctrines teach that jealousy is just, and spiritual with monogamists, because only those who are monogamists can receive spiritual conjugial love — however, that does not mean that those who have only one married partner therefore have spiritual marriages; for in the Christian world, where only monogamous marriages are allowed, yet still spiritual marriage love exists with only a few.

When the Writings speak about marriage, they divide all of us into two groups: those who are monogamists, and those who are polygamists. When they do so, however, they are not necessarily making the distinction based upon the number of partners that a particular person has, but rather upon that person’s attitude towards marriage. After all, how much difference is there between a person who regards marriage as a purely natural arrangement that may be ended upon the mutual agreement of the partners, with a new marriage to be entered into immediately, and someone who has all his partners at the same time? Is there any spiritual difference between polygamy and serial marriages? To take the point one step farther, how much difference is there between the person who has several partners all at once and the person who is married and has an adulterous relationship; or the person who has remained entirely faithful for the fear of the loss of reputation, but delights in fantasies of other partners? All these people have one thing in common: their view that marriage is a purely natural thing that is for the sake of their own natural delight; sexual gratification; production of heirs; effective management of the home. Such a person can be jealous in the protection of the marriage, but what is it that is protected? Possessions only, nothing of spiritual value.

On the other hand, a husband and wife who love each other spiritually know that there is far more to marriage than physical comforts and pleasures, and they are each looking to the Lord so that they can grow spiritually, and they know that as each individually works to shun evils as sins and draw closer to the Lord, they will inevitably be drawn closer and closer to each other as well. Such people have a great deal invested in their marriage. They share loves, they share memories, and in this world they begin the process of becoming one angel. As this new spiritual being is created, it brings delights unknown to the purely natural, and it takes on a life of its own, this angel-to-be, for it is made up of the common loves of each of the married partners. In such a case, when the marriage is brought under attack from without, that union of loves is threatened, and it draws on the power of both partners to defend its life.

It is a paradox that within every love is a fear, the fear that it may perish. The young father tenderly holding his newborn child for the first time feels both tremendous love, and tremendous fear that through his clumsy strength he may do something to harm this fragile new life. The married couple that tenderly loves one another also fear that their love may perish or be harmed, and if something does happen to cause their love to diminish they feel as much grief as if a human being had died. The fear that love may be harmed is called jealousy, but it is a just and sound zeal with partners who love each other, because it is a fear of the loss of eternal heavenly joy, and it is also just and proper because it acts as a guard and protection against the temptations of adultery. (See CL 371) From conjugial love comes the blessedness of their souls, the happiness of their minds, and the pleasure of their bodies; and because these remain with them to eternity, there is fear for each other’s eternal happiness.

While with people who love each other dearly, jealousy is both an expression and protection of their love for each other, with married partners who do not love each other, jealousy is caused by many different circumstances, some of which are actually forms of mental illness. (See CL 373) The main reason why people who do not love each other are yet jealous is that their personal feelings are tied up with the image that they present to their family, friends, and business associates. Specifically, men identify sexual activity with their self-image of manliness, and if a man’s wife is committing adultery, he may be jealous not for the sake of his marriage, but for the sake of his own reputation of manliness, his anger is from the implied criticism of his sexual ability. There are other, similar, reasons, such as the fear of bringing dishonor to the family name through scandal, and the fear of having ones domestic financial arrangements destroyed. With some people, both men and women, their jealousy arises from a tendency to be suspicious and to believe that their fantasies are reality. (See CL 374) They believe their partners to be unfaithful when they do no more than to speak with others of the opposite sex. If such fantasies are cherished for very long, they have the affect of inviting spirits of a like nature into the mind, and once invited in this way, they can be removed only with difficulty. This means, of course, that the hells have made a home in the mind, and that is a strong indication of what kind of spiritual company such a person will keep once he or she reaches the spiritual world.

On the opposite extreme is the equally sad case of the person who has no jealousy at all, no fire to protect what is good in his marriage. This, like inappropriate jealousy, is also from a variety of causes, for example the belief that marriage is nothing more than an arrangement to establish legal heirs which may be produced through the expression of natural desire, that in itself marriage is nothing more than a way of having sexual activity sanctioned by society. Those who have no regard for marriage, or their partner, cannot feel jealousy if either is threatened.

Another reason why some feel no jealousy is that they have come to the belief that since everyone eventually commits adultery, it only increases the hurt to watch the partner for signs of indiscretion; that it is better not to know. And so, such a person allows the love for the partner to die so that it cannot be threatened.

There are many other reasons why some people have no desire to protect their marriages enumerated in the work Conjugial Love, but the essential element in all of them is that such people do not wish to protect their marriages because they do not see that there is anything valuable or eternal in marriage, but they believe that marriage is entirely a matter of civil law.

We all experience the flame of anger from time to time. We are angry with our partners, our children, our friends, our business associates. We attack with words, or perhaps even strike out. And more often than not we regret our actions. We feel guilt and humiliation that we have lost control.

The teachings about zeal and jealousy that have been presented last Sunday and today may help us in such times, because we may be able to look at our anger and see if it is just or unjust, to see if we were in fact acting properly in defense of something good, or if we actually have done something wrong that must be set right. We do this by applying the two principles of zeal to the individual situation.

First of all, we have to ask ourselves if we struck out first, or if we were defending ourselves, for the first principle is that a good love never attacks, but only defends what is good. And if we pass the first test, we can then ask ourselves the second question: Did the anger die as soon as defense was no longer needed? Was there concern and charity towards the other? Or did the feeling continue to burn and smolder within for a long time? If it did, then the feeling was unjustified, and was from selfish motives that need to be sought out, repented of, and put off.

So let us be aware that the Lord has given us powerful tools to protect what is most precious to human life, the mutual, spiritual love of one man with one woman. Let us use the knowledge that He has given us in the Word to use these tools correctly, and to valiantly defend and protect that precious jewel of life, conjugial love. AMEN


First Lesson: Josh 24:14-28

“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” {16} So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} “for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} “And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” {19} But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. {20} “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” {21} And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” {22} So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” {23} “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” {24} And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” {25} So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. {26} Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. {27} And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” {28} So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance. Amen.

Second Lesson: John 2:13-22

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {14} And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. {15} When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. {16} And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” {17} Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” {18} So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” {19} Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” {20} Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” {21} But He was speaking of the temple of His body. {22} Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. Amen.

Third Lesson: Conjugial Love 375

There are, in addition, regional ethnic groups which suffer a jealous morbidity more than others. They imprison their wives, despotically keeping them from any converse with men, closing them off from the sight of men through the windows by covering these with hanging lattices, and terrifying them with threats of death if they should detect a reason for the suspicion they harbor. Likewise other hard things, which the wives there endure at the hands of their jealous husbands.

2) The reasons for this kind of jealousness, however, are of two types. One is an imprisonment and suffocation of their thoughts in regard to spiritual matters connected with the church. The other is an inbred lust for exercising vengeance.

As regards the first reason, namely, an imprisonment and suffocation of their thoughts in regard to spiritual matters connected with the church, what effect this has may be concluded from what we have shown previously, that everyone’s conjugial love depends on the state of the church in him (no. 130), and because the church comes from the Lord, that that love comes solely from the Lord (no. 131). Consequently, when, instead of the Lord, people turn to men living and dead and call on them, it follows that their state is not a state of the church with which conjugial love can be allied; and still less so when their minds are terrorized into that worship by threats of a horrible incarceration. So it is that their thoughts are forcibly imprisoned and suffocated, and at the same time their speech; and when these are suffocated, ideas flow in that are either contrary to the church or imaginary substitutes for the church. These in turn give rise to nothing else but a state of heat for loose women and icy coldness towards having a partner. And when these two exist in the same person, from them flows such an ungoverned fire of jealousness as described.

3) As regards the second reason, namely, an inbred lust for exercising vengeance, this completely halts any influx of conjugial love, absorbs it and swallows it up, and turns its delight, which is a heavenly delight, into a delight in vengeance, which is hellish, and which is directed first of all at the wife. Amen.


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