In Six Days Jehovah Made Heaven and Earth and the Sea

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth and the sea. That this signifies the regeneration and vivification of those things which are in the internal and in the external man, is evident from the signification of “six days,” as being states of combat, and when predicated of Jehovah, that is, the Lord, they signify His labor with man before he is regenerated; and from the signification of “heaven and earth,” as being the church or kingdom of the Lord in man, “heaven” in the internal man, and “earth” in the external man, thus the regenerate man, that is, one who has found the new life and has thus been made alive; and from the signification of “the sea,” as being the sensuous of man adhering to the corporeal.

In this verse the subject treated of is the hallowing of the seventh day, or the institution of the Sabbath, and it is described by the words, In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested in the seventh day; wherefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. They who do not think beyond the sense of the letter cannot believe otherwise than that the creation which is described in the first and second chapters of Genesis, is the creation of the universe, and that there were six days within which were created the heaven, the earth, the sea and all things which are therein, and finally man in the likeness of God.  But who that takes into consideration the particulars of the description cannot see that the creation of the universe is not there meant; for such things are there described as may be known from common sense not to have been so; as that there were days before the sun and the moon, as well as light and darkness, and that herbage and trees sprang up; and yet that the light was furnished by these luminaries, and a distinction was made between the light and the darkness, and thus days were made.

In what follows in the history there are also like things, which are hardly acknowledged to be possible by anyone who thinks interiorly, as that the woman was built from the rib of the man; also that two trees were set in paradise, of the fruit of one of which it was forbidden to eat; and that a serpent from one of them spoke with the wife of the man who had been the wisest of mortal creatures, and by his speech, which was from the mouth of the serpent, deceived them both; and that the whole human race, composed of so many millions, was in consequence condemned to hell.  The moment that these and other such things in that history are thought of, they must needs appear paradoxical to those who entertain any doubt concerning the holiness of the Word, and must afterward lead them to deny the Divine therein.  Nevertheless be it known that each and all things in that history, down to the smallest iota, are Divine, and contain within them arcana which before the angels in the heavens are plain as in clear day. The reason of this is that the angels do not see the sense of the Word according to the letter, but according to what is within, namely, what is spiritual and celestial, and within these, things Divine.  When the first chapter of Genesis is read, the angels do not perceive any other creation than the new creation of man, which is called regeneration. This regeneration is described in that history; by paradise the wisdom of the man who has been created anew; by the two trees in the midst thereof, the two faculties of that man, namely, the will of good by the tree of life, and the understanding of truth by the tree of knowledge.  And that it was forbidden to eat of this latter tree, was because the man who is regenerated, or created anew, must no longer be led by the understanding of truth, but by the will of good, and if otherwise, the new life within him perishes. Consequently by Adam, or man, and by Eve his wife, was there meant a new church, and by the eating of the tree of knowledge, the fall of that church from good to truth, consequently from love to the Lord and toward the neighbor to faith without these loves, and this by reasoning from their own intellectual, which reasoning is the serpent.

From all this it is evident that the historic narrative of the creation and the first man, and of paradise, is a history so framed as to contain within it heavenly and Divine things, and this according to the received method in the Ancient Churches. This method of writing extended thence also to many who were outside of that Church, who in like manner devised histories and wrapped up arcana within them, as is plain from the writers of the most ancient times. For in the Ancient Churches it was known what such things as are in the world signified in heaven, nor to those people were events of so much importance as to be described; but the things which were of heaven. These latter things occupied their minds, for the reason that they thought more interiorly than men at this day, and thus had communication with angels, and therefore it was delightful to them to connect such things together. But they were led by the Lord to those things which should be held sacred in the churches, consequently such things were composed as were in full correspondence.

From all this it can be seen what is meant by “heaven and earth” in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, namely, the church internal and external.  That these are signified by “heaven and earth” is evident also from passages in the prophets, where mention is made of “a new heaven and a new earth,” by which a new church is meant.  From all this it is now plain that by, “In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth and the sea,” is signified the regeneration and vivification of those things which are in the internal and in the external man.

(Arcana Coelestia 8891)
May 14, 2017

Putting the “squeeze” on Jesus

The Lord’s life on earth represented the ultimate Valentine’s Day message and gift. He came into the world and assumed a human body because he loved us all.

However, the need for God to take on a human body for the sake of salvation is not clearly understood. Theologically, the current central Christian belief is that God the Father sent to earth and sacrificed His beloved Son. While the Father was touched by this sacrifice there were still contingencies—Jehovah God would only save those individuals whom Jesus gave the nod to (called the “elect”).

This means that only one of the Gods of the Holy Trinity loves us while another has serious misgivings—or at least, whose love is conditional. There is something anti-intuitive about any Divine quality of love being conditional and therefore, not embracing Infinite Mercy.

Emanuel Swedenborg had another idea about all this. He boldly claimed that Jesus was Jehovah in the flesh! Before your head explodes consider this—even in the current elaboration of Trinitarian doctrine, Jesus is considered equally a God with Jehovah. If this is true why does Jesus show signs of human fearfulness towards His impending crucifixion at Gethsemane?

The Lord knew ahead of time not only of the crucifixion but also of the triumphant outcome and glorification. Why would someone who was equally a God in the Trinitarian scheme be frightened or lack any confidence from a sure thing? An easy answer might be that because the Lord had a physical body he was susceptible to pain and human fear.

I can buy into that.

However, at Gethsemane, when Jesus was sweating blood because of the intensity of his impending crucifixion, why would the Lord need to pray for the Father’s help? And why would the Lord need an angel to give Him confidence to move forward? Could Jesus not tap into His own divine powers?

Swedenborg says He did! Since Jesus and Jehovah were actually one and the same Deity, the Lord praying among the olive trees was simply a communication between His imperfect human nature (the flesh) and His perfect Divine Nature (Jehovah). Jehovah represented the Lord’s Divine Soul but having taken on a physical body, Divine and Holy things were mixed into the human gene pool (from Mary). This was the means by which the Lord could take on humanity’s sins and conquer them. Jesus made His flesh comply perfectly to the dictates of the Father’s will (the Lord’s Divine Soul) through a life of victories over human temptations and compulsions. The word “Gethsemane” means “olive press.” Which is a fitting term for someone who was being “squeezed” and feeling the cosmic “pressure” to succeed.

This is why there was an empty tomb—the Lord made His flesh equally holy with His Divine Essence (Jehovah). This process of glorification allowed the Lord to gain power over heaven and earth.

When we approach the Lord to guide our lives, we gain access to this holy power in overcoming our own temptations and compulsions. I like Swedenborg’s theology because it shows that Jehovah God has an eternal and endless love for the human race. He came into the world to make His Truth visible to the world of men and women. Divine Truth is the only begotten Son of Divine Love. Truth puts Love on display, just as Jesus’ life on earth put His Father’s (His divine spirit’s) infinite love and mercy on display.

The true message of our Lord’s life on earth is the world’s greatest Valentine’s Day message in history!

http://www.provinggod.com

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I Am Jehovah Your Healer

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, March 21, 2010

If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am Jehovah the Healer. (EXO 15:26)

I.       Each of today’s readings focused on a different aspect of the Lord as a Healer

A.   In the first lesson from Jeremiah.

1.     The prophet refers to the various forms of idolatry that the people follow.

2.     He says that there is no physician, no healer, because they have rejected God and the idols do not have real power to heal because they are dead in themselves.

B.   2nd lesson from Luke.

1.     The Lord goes into the house of a publican — and is criticized because He is a leader, and important person. He should not be associating Himself with such low people and commoners.

2.     He responds by pointing out that it is the sinners who need Him, and draws a parallel between the way a physician helps one with a disease, and the way the Lord helps one who’s life is afflicted by evil.

3.     In the third lesson we read in several places that in the internal sense a “physician” is one who leads people out of evil, and those who are “ill” are sinners.

II.    This leads us to consider how we in the New Church ought to respond to “disease” for the disorders that we see in the world are the symptoms of diseases of the spirit.

A.   The world is full of disorder, evils, outright sins – and instead of being ashamed of their behaviour, the sinners seem proud of their sins, and criticize us for “being judgmental” and not accepting of a standard of behaviour that is contrary to the 10 Commandments.

1.     (That whole “judge not” thing only works if you ignore the second half of the sentence – not a good practice.)

B.   Other Church organizations take highly visible stands, even involve themselves directly in political issues.

1.     What part does the New Church take? What part should it take?

a.     The first of the church is the life of charity.

b.     The first of charity is to sun evils as sins.

c.      You cannot shun a sin unless you know what sins are.

2.     The Church is to instruct about good and truth.

a.     The Church condemns sin in the abstract.

b.     The Church is to warn about evils and falsities when it sees them.

i.       However, the Church does not condemn (or excommunicate) individuals when they fall into sin – except in certain circumstances which will be discussed shortly.

C.   We can learn about healing spiritual ills by thinking about healing physical ills. For example a hospital has a dual role as a centre of physical healing in the community.

1.     For example, it is common today for people who are at high risk for certain types of diseases such as heart disease, to attend programs at local hospitals to learn how to manage their risk of heart attack through exercise and diet.

a.     But what would happen in a person in such a program had a heart attack anyhow? Can you imagine the doctor in the emergency room turning him away and refusing to treat him because he hadn’t lost as much weight as the doctor thought he should have? Of course not.

b.     If, in spite of a sincere effort to take part in the health program, a patient has a heart attack anyhow, the patient takes advantage of the other aspect of a community hospital, the systematic and professional attempt to cure diseases.

2.     There is another aspect that needs to be touched upon. Sometimes patients come to the hospital when they are infected with highly contagious diseases. Then, for the sake of the greater good of the entire hospital community – doctors, nurses, and patients – the contagious patient is kept isolated from the other patients until the danger is passed.

a.     The analogy extends to the church when individual members find themselves in states of active evil that are disturbing to the other members. For the sake of the greater good the church needs to help these people apart from rest of the congregation for the sake of the spiritual health of all concerned, and with the prayer that the member will soon be returned to health and can return to take his place in the congregation.

i.       One of the things that distinguishes the aboriginal world view from the Western European world view is the different view of “harmony.”

ii.     Aboriginal people see sin as a sickness that affects the harmony, wholeness, and happiness of the whole group. Their goal is to make the person well so they can be a part of the whole once again. Westerners tend to isolate and punish sinners.

D.   The Lord’s highest love is the salvation of souls

1.     That there be people in heaven is the end of the creation of the universe.

2.     The Church’s highest goal is also the salvation of souls because the church seeks to help the Lord implement the goals that He has revealed in the Word, to assist the Lord in His work.

a.     Thus the Priest’s highest love is (or should be) the salvation of souls.

b.     These loves must govern the church.

c.      The success of the church can should only be judged by the Lord’s own criteria:  how many enter heaven – not how many contribute how much to the church, or any other external measure.

E.    The Church must do whatever it can to lead people out of sin and into order.

1.     Accepting of people as fallible and repentant, it can also stand firm against sin in the abstract.

2.     It is not the purpose of the church to punish people for their sins, but to lead them out of their sins and back into order, and to offer them comfort and support as they struggle with their sins and seek to bring their lives back into order.

3.     The church is a hospital for the spiritually sick, and we do not turn patients away.

III. Let’s look at the way the book Conjugial Love is organized for guidance.

A.   It is a collection of teachings on the most important aspect of earthly life, the marriage of one husband to one wife representing the marriage of Divine Love to Divine Wisdom in the Divine Itself.

1.     The first half is incredibly idealistic.

2.     The second half is startlingly frank.

a.     Somehow we have to see that the Church incorporates both positions.

B.   The purpose is twofold:

1.     On the one hand the Lord wants to show us that there is a beautiful, wonderful thing called “love truly conjugial,” and that it is possible for people who live in this world to attain it if they will only shun wandering lusts and pray to the Lord for a lovely partner.[1]

2.     On the other hand, the Lord is also infinite mercy. He wants to show us that if we fall into terrible disorders through weakness, ignorance, or foolishness, we can still choose lesser and lesser evils until He can lift us into heaven.

a.     Remember the conclusion of the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a powerful illustration of how one who is spiritually sick, with the Lord’s careful loving guidance, can be healed.

1)    His self-examination and repentance are represented by his disgust when he found himself eating the pig’s food

2)    His reformation is represented by the long journey to his father’s home.

3)    And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.[2]

C.   As mentioned earlier, the first use of the church is instruction, and this use can be met in many ways, including sin and the consequent failure and pain. But our heavenly Father is ready to reach out to us in mercy and love, no matter how sick we may have been, to heal us, and to welcome us home again, no matter how long our journey. Amen.

 

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

First Lesson:  JER 8:18-22

I would comfort myself in sorrow; my heart is faint in me.

Listen! The voice, the cry of the daughter of my people from a far country: “Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her?” “Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images, and with foreign idols?”

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!”

For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?

Second Lesson:  LUK 5:27-32

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.”

And he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.

But their scribes and the Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Third Lesson:

AC 2661:2

The Lord did not come into the world to save those who are celestial, but to save those who are spiritual. …the people who belonged to the spiritual church could not have been saved unless the Lord had come into the world.

AC 8365

For I am Jehovah your healer. That this signifies that the Lord alone preserves from evils, is evident from the signification ‘to heal,’ as being to cure, and also to preserve from evils, for when ‘diseases’ signify evils, ‘to heal’ signifies a remedy and a preservation from them. …As ‘healing’ has this signification, the Lord also calls Himself a ‘physician.’

AC 6502:3

The Lord calls Himself ‘a Physician’ as in LUK 5:31, 32, where a ‘physician’ stands for a preserver from evils; for ‘those who are healthy’ is used to mean the righteous, and ‘those who are ill’ sinners.

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


[1]Conjugial Love 49:e

[2]LUK 15:21-24

The Tent of Meeting

The Tent of Meeting

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. (Exodus 33:9)

Our text for today refers to a time when the children of Israel had just arrived in the wilderness and Moses was meeting with Jehovah on Mt. Sinai. Moses received the Ten Commandments, rules instituting the priesthood, and the design for the ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle to house it. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he told the people all the things he had heard, and set them on the task of collecting the materials to build the Tabernacle and the ark. In the meantime, it was essential that there be some kind of symbolic center of worship and government, so Moses set up an ordinary tent outside the camp and called it the tent (or tabernacle) of meeting. There he met “face to face” with Jehovah, and he also met with there with the leaders of the people to pass on Jehovah s commands, and settle disputes.

The tent that he set up was in itself unremarkable. What is important about it is where it was placed, and the things that happened within its walls, for these details tell us many things about the state of the Jewish church at that time, and by analogy and study of the regenerative series in the internal sense, we can see that the things that occurred at the tent of meeting can tell us some important things about our own development from historical faith to a true, saving faith in the Lord.

In the Word, a tent represents the things that are holy in worship, in the church, and in the Word itself. The reason that tents have this meaning is because the people of the Most Ancient Church lived and worshipped in tents. Because this church was, more than any other church that followed it, in love to the Lord, and because the Lord dwelt with them in tents, therefore in memory of all these things the Tabernacle, or Tent of meeting was constructed with the children of Israel to represent the holiness of worship with them (See AC 10545).

While the tent of meeting signified the most holy things of worship, in contrast the camp of the children of Israel represented quite the opposite, for by “the sons of Israel,” who formed the camp, are signified all truths and goods in the complex. But when they were in a state of disorder, as when they worshipped the calf instead of Jehovah, then by their “camp” was signified the opposite, thus infernal order, and also the containant of falsity and evil, which make hell.

The children of Israel had the external form of a church, but they were unable or unwilling to look within for the spirit of charity that characterizes a true church, thus they had the external shell, but the heart was missing. Whether you say “the external of worship and of the church without the internal,” or “hell,” it is the same thing; for they who are in the external of worship without the internal are in the loves of self and the world, and the loves of self and of the world are from hell (See AC 10546). Since the tent of meeting itself represented the Lord s presence, and the camp represented the disorder of hell, the tent had to be placed far outside the camp.

At the same time, it was to be a place of meeting, for by “meeting” is meant where the external forms of the church, the truths, meet with the internal forms, the good loves that enliven them and give them meaning. We all know that at times we follow the ritual of the church without thought or feeling because our attention is focused elsewhere and when that happens, we do not feel any affectional response to the service. But when our affections are stirred, when we feel the service is particularly suited to our states, when it is the baptism of a sweet baby, or the marriage of a handsome young couple, then there is in us a meeting of the goods and truths of worship, there is a meeting of the internals and externals of the church.

Once the tent was set up distant from the camp, we are told that everyone who wished to inquire of Jehovah went out to the tent. This was a privilege unique to that nation permitted only for the sake of the representation. Today if we wish to inquire of the Lord we must go to that which corresponds to the tent of meeting, that is, we must approach the Word, for to inquire of the Lord is to consult the Word; for in the Word the Lord is present (See AC 10548).

When Moses when out to the tent, the people stayed in their places and watched until he entered into the tent of meeting and disappeared from their sight. This represents the limited interest they had in the things of the church, for when Moses went into the tent and the cloud descended, it stood for the dense obscurity about the things of the church of those who are only in the externals of the Word, of the church, and of doctrine.

But while most were in dense obscurity, Moses was in the tent speaking to God, face to face, thereby representing that for some it was possible to have a clear internal perception of the truth. This clear perception comes to those who acknowledge that the Word is Divine because it is from God Himself, and who go to the letter of the Word seeking to find the Divine truth itself in a form suitable to the particular circumstances of their own life. This happens through enlightenment, which comes when someone who loves to know truth for the sake of truth and for the sake of the good of life, reads the Word; for to live according to Divine truths from the Word is to love the Lord, and all enlightenment comes from the Lord when He is loved. When anyone looks to the Word as the source of truth, there is an internal acknowledgment of the Lord and His Divine authority which opens the internal degrees of the mind, and when the internal is open, the light of heaven itself shines in and illuminates the truths that had been hidden in the sense of the letter which then shine forth like hidden jewels when light shines upon them (See AC 10551).

As we have now seen in the historical series, the main idea focuses around the fact that the children of Israel were totally external, and could not tolerate knowing anything internal about the Word, thus the tent was placed outside the camp to represent this state with them, and there was a thick cloud to obscure their view even further. On the other hand, we have to remember that the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night stood as a sign that the Lord could be present with them, even though they were an external people, if only they would keep themselves in a state of reasonable obedience which leads us into the main idea of the regenerative series of these passages, for it is dealing with the early states in a person s spiritual development, a time when there is awe and respect for the things that are holy and from the church, but as yet there is no understanding as to why they are holy, or how they should then affect the daily life. It is a time of “historical faith,” that faith which every one has at first from his parents and teachers, but is useful because it forms the foundation for the genuine or “saving” faith which is to follow.

We all begin with a very simple faith in the Lord, perhaps believing only that the Lord is the Creator of the universe, and able to do great miracles of Himself. We notice Him at first because of His power, His miracles, the stories of the Old Testament where He protects His friends and destroys His enemies. These stories make us want to be on His side, even if we do not know anything more about Him.

Such worship is purely external, and it contains elements of fear, but it is acceptable in the Lord s eyes because such a belief can serve as the foundation of a genuine faith which can follow when a person, because of his external awe and fear of the Lord, learns a few truths from the Word, and begins to guide his life by them (See AE 8153,4). It could be so simple as to begin to obey the Ten Commandments in the letter simply because there is the fear of hell!

Perhaps we feel that we should be moved to worship and to true faith by something more elevated and spiritual, but we must deal with the simple fact that we all begin as external people who can only see the internal, spiritual things of life with great difficulty. And since we are external people, we must then further deal with the revealed truth that external people are moved to Divine worship only by the things of the external world, for example, by the stories of the great miracles that were performed by Jehovah in the presence of the children of Israel.

The Heavenly Doctrines also reveal that the Christian church was also begun and based upon a “miraculous” faith, a faith in Jesus based not on the spiritual power that came from the application of His teachings to life, but rather on the power that He showed over disease, over storms, and over the evil spirits who plagued the men of that time. In fact, because these stories and miracles are the basis of the New Testament, and since children and others are first introduced to Jesus Christ through these stories, it is still true that the miraculous faith is the basis for faith among all those who are Christians even to this day.

But the big question is, “how do we turn our miraculous or historical faith into saving faith?” The first thing we have to do is to be rational that means that we cannot have a “saving” faith until we have entered the adult state. Then, once we have become rational, we have to use our rationality to collect spiritual truths from many sources, to weigh them in our minds, to think about what the consequences would be if we were live according to these truths, and then to make decisions to keep the truths that we believe will lead to a good life, and throw away the others. In the last analysis, this is the only way that anyone can discover what “truth” is. To weigh it with other truths, and to live it. If in the living, it brings good to self and to the neighbor, then we can safely say that it is true.

This process can take many years, and usually at the same time that we are just beginning our adult lives, finding married partners, getting established in our careers, beginning our families. It is a very busy time. The pressure of life in the world distracts from spiritual things, and some externals, such as church attendance, fall away for a time. But if the rational is working, the simple, external truths of religion which were learned in childhood are for the first time applied to life situations in freedom, that is, not because of what parents or teachers say, but because they are for the first time seen to be actually just what is needed to bring satisfaction and happiness in life.

When the truths of the Word are brought into life freely, and lived, then for the first time, they begin to have life in themselves, for the internal degree of the mind is opened to heaven, and the spiritual power within the external truth can enter the mind. When the spiritual is conjoined to the external in the mind, the Lord is present, and brings genuine, “saving” faith. “To believe in the Lord” signifies not only to adore and worship Him, but also to live from Him, and one lives from Him when he lives according to the Word which is from Him; therefore “to believe in Him” is to believe that He regenerates man, and gives eternal life to those who are regenerated by Him (AE 81512).

When adult saving faith takes hold in the mind and heart through living experience, then it reaches out and begins to reorder the externals of life so that they correspond to the genuine, spiritual loves within. Just as one cannot imagine being in love without embracing the loved one, the person who is becoming spiritual looks for ways to show his love to God through acts of worship and charity to the neighbor. Faith is no longer borrowed and external like the tent outside the camp, instead our faith is genuine and internal, a sign of the Lord s intimate presence in our lives. This relationship is better described by the passage in Revelation And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 213). Amen.

1st Lesson EXO 337-11

Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. {8} So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. {9} And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. {10} All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshipped, each man in his tent door. {11} So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

2nd Lesson REV 211-7

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. {2} Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. {3} And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. {4} “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” {5} Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” {6} And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. {7} “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

3rd Lesson AC 105515

[5] It shall also be briefly stated how the influx from which comes enlightenment is effected. Equally with men, the angels also perceive the Word when it is read; but the angels perceive it spiritually, and men perceive it naturally. The man whose internal is open also perceives the Word spiritually; but while he lives in the world he is unaware of this, because his spiritual thought flows into the natural thought in the external man, and there presents itself to view. Nevertheless it is this interior thought which enlightens, and by means of which the influx from the Lord is effected. By looking into their thoughts, and by reflections thereon, some of the learned have noticed that there is in man an interior thought which does not appear, and therefore they have called the ideas of this thought immaterial and intellectual, and they have made a distinction between these ideas and those of the exterior thought which appear; and they have called these latter natural and material. But they have not known that the ideas of the interior thought are spiritual; and that when these flow down they are turned into natural ideas, and appear under a different shape, and under a different condition. From all this it can in some measure be seen how the influx through which comes enlightenment is effected.

Opening Prayer

O Lord, our Strength, help us to go forward in the path which you have established for us, inspire us by Your Holy Spirit to learn from the Word continually; and as we come more and more into the understanding of the truth, fill us, O Lord, with the spirit of heavenly life; make us worthy to be Your children who walk in the light of Your truth; for You are our Father, our Guide, and our Savior. AMEN.

Closing Prayer

O Lord our Savior, forgive the infirmities of Your children and help us overcome them. Help us to learn Your truth, put evil aside through strenuous resistance, and to do good by daily effort in the uses of charity; looking not for reward nor honor, but only for the right to be called Your servants, and to do Your will. AMEN.

Two Kinds of Disobedience

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, January 23, 2011

And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were opened. (1SA14:24,27)

Today we are going to consider the story of two men. Father and son, one is a King and the other a Prince. Historically, each is a brave and capable fighter, and each delighted in serving the Lord by fighting and killing the enemies of the children of Israel. Each of them disobeys a command and does what is evil, but one of them is forgiven, the other is not. Our challenge for today is to study the story of these two men so that we can see the difference in their behaviour and then apply these principles to our own relationship with the Lord to make ourselves deserving of forgiveness. We can also apply these truths to our relationships with others and learn when to forgive them as well.

Saul became the king of Israel when the people rejected the Lord’s leadership and demanded a king so that they could be like all the other nations. The Lord accepted their rejection of Him, and gave them the king they wanted. The people were delighted with Saul. He was tall, good looking, a great warrior—everything they wanted in a king. He ruled them well for many years and fought many great battles against the Philistines. When his son Jonathan was old enough he joined the army and soon became something of a hero himself. The scriptures record how he, accompanied only by his armour bearer, attacked a Philistine garrison of 20 men and killed them all; a feat he was able to accomplish because he had received a sign that the Lord was with him. This little victory struck terror in the hearts of the Philistines, which, we are told, was then amplified by an earthquake sent by the Lord.

Saul, seeing that the Philistines were in confusion and fear, attacked. Filled with the desire to totally destroy his enemy, Saul commanded that no one would be permitted to rest from the killing for any reason, even to eat bread. He says “bread” but by it means all food of any kind (See HD 218, AC 2165). He wanted complete and utter vengeance upon his enemies.

During the course of the day’s battle, Jonathan and his men found themselves in an area where there were many honeycombs and being quite hungry Jonathan ate some not knowing of his father’s order. The men with him had heard it, though, and they did not eat. It was then that they told him about the order. But Jonathan already knew something was wrong, for we are told by the internal sense of the words “his eyes were opened” which mean that he had an inner sense that what he had just done was evil, “he saw what he knew not” (AC212). “Jonathan’s eyes were opened by tasting the honey” because “honey” corresponds to natural good and its delight, and this good gives life experience, a kind of enlightenment or “sixth sense” from which Jonathan knew that he had done evil.… (AE 619:8) However, in spite of the fact that he suddenly knew that he had done something wrong, he still criticized the order to the other men, saying that the soldiers would have been able to do a much better job fighting if they had taken a little time to refresh themselves.

The battle ends as night falls, and Saul, flushed with his day’s victory, seeks counsel from the Lord about how to proceed the next day. But because the Lord does not answer, Saul immediately knows that something is wrong, that someone has committed some evil that has closed off communication with Jehovah. Saul is both enraged and afraid, for he knows that his success in war has been due to the Lord’s constant presence with the army. He knows that he must find and punish the evil-doer or the Philistines will return and destroy them. In order to find the guilty one, Saul draws lots. He puts the whole of the army on one side, and Jonathan and himself on the other. The lot shows that the guilty party is either Jonathan or Saul. He then draws lots with his son, and discovers that Jonathan is the one who must be put to death because he has broken the king’s law.

Something very unusual happens next: the army and people intercede on Jonathan’s behalf. They believe that since it is obvious that the Lord is with Jonathan, as shown by what he did to the Philistine garrison, that it would be wrong for him to be put to death, and the implication is that if Saul were to follow through on his threat, the people would cease following him, and perhaps even overthrow him as king. The scripture does not give the details, but it is clear that Jonathan was pardoned by Saul under intense pressure from the elders of the people and the army.

It is important to note that no one questioned the fact that Jonathan had committed a crime. He had broken the king’s law and deserved to be punished. What the people introduced was an element of mercy based on their judgement of Jonathan’s intent, and so properly demanded that the punishment be moderated to fit the intent. Our sympathies properly lie with Jonathan, and we are satisfied that justice has been done when he escapes the death penalty even though he is guilty.

Our attention now turns to Saul, and the quality of his disobedience. Sometime after the incident just mentioned, the prophet Samuel commanded Saul to attack and utterly destroy the Amalekites, specifically ordering him to destroy men, women, children, and animals. In the sense of the letter, this was commanded because the Amalekites had cruelly ambushed the children of Israel when they were first struggling in the desert after leaving Egypt. In the spiritual sense, the Lord commanded the complete and utter destruction of this Canaanite tribe because it represented interior evils of the will.

In the subsequent battle, Saul makes some changes in the orders. He captures Agag, king of the Amalekites, instead of killing him. He slaughters the women and children, but keeps the animals as spoil. And then, when Samuel comes to confront him with his disobedience he repeatedly lies, first telling Samuel that he had obeyed the Lord completely, and then when Samuel called his attention to all the animals in the camp, Saul claimed that the animals had been kept “for sacrifice” to the Lord. Finally Saul tries to blames others for the crime, saying that the people made him do it, but he was never able to see or admit his own guilt.

Samuel responds to Saul with the words that served to condemn not only Saul’s action but the actions of all those who believed that the life of religion consisted in merely following the rituals of the Jewish church and yet harboured all kinds of evil loves in their hearts; Samuel said to Saul, “to obey is better than to sacrifice, to hearken better than the fat of rams” (1SA 15:22), and as Samuel turned to leave, Saul fell on his face on the ground, and grabbed at the hem of his garment, imploring Samuel not to leave him. In so doing he tore the prophet’s garment and was further told that “the Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today” (1SA15:28), and it had been given to another who would be more worthy. As a final gesture of displeasure with Saul’s response to the Divine leading, Samuel took a sword and killed Agag, the Amalekite King, himself.

Both Saul and Jonathan disobeyed. Jonathan disobeyed the king, Saul disobeyed the Lord. Jonathan disobeyed through ignorance and without an evil intent, and was forgiven. Saul disobeyed knowingly, deliberately, and then lied to Samuel about it, trying to put the blame on others. He was not forgiven, but instead lost his kingdom for himself and his family forever.

The story of these two men, their evils, and their subsequent forgiveness revolves around the distinction between what is evil, and what is a sin. Jonathan’s experience illustrates what evil is. It is always evil to break a commandment, even if you don’t know about it, or even if you were trying to do something good. If something is forbidden by God, it is evil to do it—but it is not necessarily a sin. An evil act becomes a sin only when the person knows that it is evil, and deliberately goes about it anyhow, planning ways to hide it from others, pretend that it is not an evil at all, or to make it appear that others have done it. This is what Saul did.

A little child may take something that belongs to another. That is wrong, it is an evil. But we all instinctively and immediately recognize that he cannot be blamed for it, because he does not know any better. In other words, the act in and of itself may have been evil, but because the little child could not have intended harm we forgive him, the child is free from sin in the matter.

Sin is a matter of the will, and person cannot be blamed for an evil and until he is of an age where he can and does act solely from his own will. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that such a state begins “about the twentieth year,” (AC 10225:5) although it is obvious from the context and from common sense that it is the spiritual state of the person, not the number of birthdays, that is the essential here.

The way we distinguish between evils and sins is by judging, as best we can, as to the thought, intent, and will of the person who is in disorder, whether it be another, or ourselves.

Jonathan’s first reaction was to belittle the command, to say it was not really important, but he knew that he had done wrong, and would have to pay for it. Our immediate reaction when we do something wrong is to try to justify it, and that’s normal. It often happens that even as we hear ourselves arguing and protesting about something, we can feel ourselves internally recognizing the truth of the very things we are denying. Even though we are fighting for the right to do something, we have already decided in our hearts that we know that it is wrong, and will not ever do it again. In the eyes of the Lord, what really counts is what happens in the long run. Do we try make our mistakes and our evils appear to be good, or do we honestly admit when we are wrong and try to amend our lives.

When people die and enter the world of spirits, they soon find that the spiritual world is so much like the natural world that they forget that they are spirits, and soon slip back into the old, familiar ways of life. In other words, while they are in the state of their exterior life, they return to the same mistakes and habits they were subject to while in the world. The big difference is that the angels who are in charge of keeping order in the world of spirits are unlike judges in the natural world, for the spirits can see into the interiors of the mind, and so immediately know what the intention behind the act is. When spirits commit evils in the world of spirits from ignorance, from thoughtlessness, or in the course of trying to do something nice, they are excused and forgiven. It is the intention behind the act that counts.

Saul’s evil, on the other hand, was evil of the will, evil deliberately and consciously done in the full knowledge that it is evil. This is sin, pure and simple, and as it contaminates the will itself, it destroys spiritual life and cannot be removed except with great difficulty through the most grievous of temptations. The reason it is so difficult to remove is because by its very nature it is difficult to discover because it hides itself in falsity, in self-justification, in lies. It makes every attempt to appear as good—the mass-murderer who believes that he is doing the world a service by removing certain people from it; the adulterer who believes he is doing his wife and marriage a favour by taking his perversions elsewhere; the thief who believes that he can put the money to better use than its proper owner—but when such things are seen in the light of truth, we see how insane sin really is.

We all commit evils all the time—knowingly and not—but they are not sins, and we are not responsible for them unless we knew they were evil at the time, and consciously choose to do them from will. This is the Lord’s mercy towards us. He judges according to the heart, not according to the act, for who of us could stand against the judgement of Divine Truth alone untempered by the mercy of the Divine Love?

But there is something that we must do to earn this mercy. We must first be in charity, we must treat others as we wish to be treated, that is, if we wish others to assume our good intentions, we must also assume their good intentions towards us. After all, which one of us actually plans to say or do something unkind to another? But how often do we assume that something said to us was intended to be unkind? We must recognize that most things that offend and annoy were not intended that way at all, but were thoughtless or accidental.

If we wish the Lord to forgive and excuse us for our thoughtlessness and accidental evils, then we must also forgive others who offend us, for the Lord said, If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (MAT6:14-15).

But if we wish the Lord to forgive us for our sins, we must also search our hearts in the light of His Divine truth, discover the sin that is there, and flee from it as if from hell itself. Amen.

1st Lesson: 1SA 14:24-30, 15:13-19

(1 Sam 14:24-30) And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. {25} Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. {26} And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. {27} But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened. {28} Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed is the man who eats food this day.’ ” And the people were faint. {29} But Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. {30} “How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”

(1 Sam 15:13-19) Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” {14} But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” {15} And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” {16} Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.” {17} So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? {18} “Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ {19} “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” Amen.

2nd Lesson: AC 6559.

How the case is with returning evil, or with penalties, in the spiritual world, must be told, because from this the internal sense of these words is plain. If evil spirits do any evil in the world of spirits beyond what they have imbued themselves with by their life in the world, punishers are instantly at hand and chastise them in exact accordance with the degree in which they pass these limits; for it is a law in the other life that no one must become worse than he had been in this world.

They who are being punished cannot tell how these chastisers know that the evil is beyond what they had imbued themselves with; but they are informed that there is such an order in the other life that the very evil is attended with its penalty, so that the evil of the deed is wholly conjoined with the evil of the penalty, that is to say, its penalty is in the evil itself; and therefore that it is according to order for the avengers to be instantly at hand.

[2] This is what happens when evil spirits do evil in the world of spirits; but in their own hell they chastise one another according to the evil which they had by act imbued themselves with in this world; for this evil they bring with them into the other life.

But as regards good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but pardoned, and also excused; for their end is not to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them by hell, so that they have not come to pass by their fault; and the same is also observed from their resistance, and afterward from their grief. Amen.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (they) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (John 12:12-13)

For two thousand years, the prophets had promised the children of Israel that the Messiah would come to save them. Jehovah had established a covenant with Abraham that if he and his family would worship Jehovah, then Jehovah would make him the father of a great nation. The Historical books of the Old Testament tell the story of how Jehovah fulfilled His promise to Abraham; how through Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons they became a great nation; and how through Moses and Joshua He gave them their own land to rule. Under David they reached their spiritual height, and under Solomon they achieved their greatest wealth.

The Prophetic books of the Old Testament describe how easily the children of Israel fell into disobedience, how they continually turned away from Jehovah to worship idols, and how He allowed the other nations to punish them for their sins. And when they were being punished, when they were in slavery to the nations, Jehovah sent prophets to give them a message of hope. He promised a savior, a Messiah to come to lift them up once again, to save them from their oppression, to return them to the days of power and glory like those when David and Solomon ruled.

The dream of the coming of the Messiah burned in the heart of every true son and daughter of Abraham, for it meant freedom from their oppressors, and the righting of ancient wrongs. The coming of the Messiah meant (as they understood it) that they would finally be restored to their rightful position as rulers over the nations of the world, fulfilling the original promise made to Abraham and reaffirmed so many times to his descendants.

And then, at a time in history when what was left of the Jewish nation was chafing under the total control of the rich, powerful, and idolatrous Romans, there began to be rumors of a particularly powerful prophet. We must remember that even though Israel is a very small nation (even smaller than Delaware), news still traveled very slowly in those days. Very few people living at the time of the Lord’s ministry would have known very much about Him at first. Of course, this was part of the reason He spent three years traveling around Israel, so that as many people as possible could hear His teachings for themselves. He spoke as a prophet. He did miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead.

The name “Christ” itself meant “the Anointed One,” “the King,” “the Messiah.” What else were a simple, uninformed, and enslaved people to think except that the Lord had come to use His great power to drive the Romans out and become the ruler of the New Kingdom of Israel. What else could all those parables about the heavenly kingdom be but a promise of the kind of life they would expect when the Messiah was king? After all, nothing in the Old Testament or in Jewish tradition had prepared them for the idea of a life after death, so for them there could be no other idea of a kingdom for the Messiah than an earthly one. Both the Gospels and the Heavenly Doctrines tell us that even the disciples themselves didn’t really begin to understand the nature of the Lord’s Divinity until He appeared to them after the Resurrection and the concept of a life after death began to dawn in them (See AC2553).

So why did the Lord let them continue to believe in a false idea? Why didn’t He tell them in plain words who He was and what He was about? Because they simply would not have believed Him if He had told them about heaven in plain words. It would be like trying to explain a nuclear power station to a 5 year old child. You might be able to do it using only the few simple words in the child’s vocabulary, but the idea would not get through, there would not be a foundation of concepts to build on.

During His earthly ministry, the Lord was laying the foundation for all those who were to come after. Everything He did in the world was for the sake of the correspondence. He rode into Jerusalem that day so many years ago not because He wanted those people to believe that He was going to be their earthly king, but so that we would know that He was to be our spiritual king. He was doing things so that we could use internal sense to understand His mission and life on earth more deeply and more fully than even His own disciples did.

Remembering that everything He did was for the sake of the spiritual sense and so that all people might know about His Divinity and His Heavenly Kingdom, let us look at some of the things He did on that Palm Sunday to teach us about Himself and Heaven.

Our text tells us that when the multitude saw the Lord approaching Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (text). “Hosanna” means “save, we pray thee!”, and it only occurs 5 times in scripture, all in conjunction with Palm Sunday. The Heavenly Doctrines teach that “the children’s crying ‘Hosanna to the son of David’ was to represent that only innocence acknowledges and receives the Lord, that is, they in whom there is innocence” (AC52364). So by derivation, Hosanna means the acknowledgment and reception of the Lord by those who are innocent through repentance and amendment of life.

Even though many people thought of Him as a teacher (or Rabbi) or as a prophet, yet, as He approached the city, they all called Him “Lord.” Among the hidden causes of their calling Jehovah “the Lord,” were the following

If at that time it had been said that the Lord was the Jehovah so often named in the Old testament, men would not have accepted it, for they would not have believed it. . Also the Lord did not become Jehovah as to the Human also until He had completely united the Divine Essence to the Human Essence, and the Human to the Divine. The full unition was only accomplished after the last temptation, which was that of the cross. He is called “Christ” as the Messiah, the Anointed, King; and “Lord” as Jehovah; “Christ” in respect to truth, and “Lord” in respect to good. Many who have not studied the Word closely believe that Jesus was called “Lord” by His disciples and others out of common reverence. But this is not the case He is called “Lord” for the sake of the internal sense known to the angles, for when they called Him “Lord” it signified the acknowledgment that He was actually Jehovah Himself. (SeeAC29216)

The Lord was willing to be tempted, even to the passion of the cross, because He was The Prophet; and prophets formerly signified the doctrine of the church from the Word, and therefore they represented the state of the Church by various means, even by some that were unjust, hard, and also vile, which were enjoined upon them by God. But because the Lord was the Word itself, He, as The Prophet, represented, by the passion of the cross, how the Jewish Church profaned the Word (TCR 129).

By the disciples putting their garments on the ass and her colt, was represented that truths in the whole complex were submitted to the Lord as the Highest Judge and King; for the disciples represented the church of the Lord in respect to its truths and goods, and their garments represented the truths themselves. . The same thing was represented by the multitude putting their garments in the way, and also branches of palm trees. The reason why they put them in the way was that by “a way” is signified the truth whereby the man of the church is led. The reason why they put branches of trees, was that trees signified the perceptions and also the knowledges of truth and good, consequently “the branches” signify the truths themselves. This was done according to a customary rite; for when the highest judges and kings rode in their solemn procession, the princes of the people then put their garments on the asses and mules, and the people themselves put their garments on the way, or in their place the branches of trees; for the judicial function in heaven is the Divine truth from the Divine good, and the regal one is the Divine truth (AC92126)

As we can see, everything the Lord did while He was in the world was done for many reasons on many levels. He did things for the sakes of those who were with Him in the world, those who believed that He was the promised earthly Messiah, to lead them to a new understanding of their world. He did them also for the sake of what the gospels would record and what those who came after the disciples would be able to learn from the record, knowing, as they did, that He was not just a man or a prophet in the usual sense. Those who were to form the Christian Church would be able to build from a knowledge and a confidence that there was a life after death. These men could look back on all the things that Jesus taught, and seeing them from the totally new perspective of the resurrection, build the first coherent doctrine concerning spiritual life as a reward for obedience to God’s laws in this world.

He also did all these things for the sake of the internal sense which was written for the angels in heaven, and for those men who have the science of correspondences. By entering Jerusalem as a king, He showed all men for all time who seek to truly understand Him that He was not just an influential man, not just a prophet, but actually God with us!

What is our part in this? It is for us to see that Jerusalem, because it is a city, represents our mind. That the Lord is approaching Jerusalem stands for the fact that the Lord is constantly approaching us through His influx, constantly reaching out to us. It remains for us to decide how we are going to respond to His approach. Will we lay palms in the way? Will we put our garments in the path? To do this is to say that we will submit the material and natural pleasures of our lives to His Divine rule. Will we receive Him with joy and gladness? Will we accept Him as our God and King? Will we accept Him for a time, but when the hard times come and He doesn’t respond to our prayers as we think He should, will we turn on Him and shout for His crucifixion?

The Lord has done His part by offering Himself to us as the king of our lives. Now it is up to us to decide if we are willing to give up our natural, worldly values and happiness and replace them with the eternal values and eternal happiness that will come if we receive the Lord as our king. He is making this offer to each of us, today, this moment. Each of us must search our hearts and minds for the answer. It is up to us. No one will make these decisions for us. These few days before the sacrament of the Holy Supper on Good Friday would be a good time to reflect deeply and honestly about how we receive the Lord in our own lives, and how His presence with us is shown by the things we do to our fellow men. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (they) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (John 1212-13) AMEN.

1st Lesson Psa 11819-26

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the LORD. {20} This is the gate of the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter. {21} I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. {22} The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. {23} This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. Amen.

2nd Lesson John 1212-19

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, {13} took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out “Hosanna !’Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” {14} Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written {15} “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” {16} His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. {17} Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. {18} For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. {19} The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” Amen.

3rd Lesson AC 29216

Among the hidden reasons why people called Jehovah the Lord were the following If when the Lord was in the world they had been told that He was the Jehovah mentioned so many times in the Old Testament, . they would not have accepted it because they would not have believed it. And there is the further reason that as regards the Human the Lord did not become Jehovah until He had in every respect united the Divine Essence to the Human Essence, and the Human Essence to the Divine Essence. . These became fully united after the final temptation, which was that of the Cross; and it was for this reason that after the Resurrection the disciples always called Him Lord, . and Thomas said, My Lord and my God. (John 2028)

And as the Lord was the Jehovah mentioned so many times in the Old Testament, therefore He also told the disciples, You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If therefore I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 1313, 14, 16)

These words mean that He was Jehovah God, for in this instance He is called ‘Lord’ as regards good, but ‘Master’ as regards truth. That the Lord was Jehovah is also meant by the angel’s words to the shepherds, To you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 211)

‘Christ’ is used instead of ‘Messiah’, ‘Anointed One’, and ‘King’, ‘the Lord, instead of ‘Jehovah’ – ‘Christ’ having regard to truth, ‘the Lord’ to good. Anyone who does not examine the Word carefully cannot know this, for he believes that our Savior was called Lord because this was an everyday expression that was used to offer respect to Him, as to others, when in reality He was so called by virtue of His being Jehovah. Amen.

Dwelling with the Lord

Sermon: Dwelling with the Lord

I delivered this sermon on August 15, 2010, at the Olivet New Church in Toronto.

DWELLING WITH THE LORD

A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn

15 August 2010

Olivet New Church, Toronto

Sometimes the Word is hard to read.  In the books of Moses, we find histories that might seem irrelevant to our modern times.  In the prophets, we see predictions of events that never seem to have come to pass.  In Revelation, we are confronted with cryptic imagery that defies comprehension.   In these cases, finding meaning in the Word takes work.  But there are other places in the Word that are different.  There are places in the Word where we see plain truth, plain and simple statements of who the Lord is and how He can draw us into heaven.  The psalm we read earlier – and that you can read in your handout – is one of these places.  In simple terms, the psalm lays out a path to the Lord’s tabernacle, to the mountain of Jehovah, to a life of heaven.  Let me read the psalm again, and notice how much simple, literal truth we find here.

1. O Jehovah, who will sojourn in Your tabernacle? Who will dwell on the mountain of Your holiness?

2. He who walks in wholeness, and does righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.

3. Who does not slander with his tongue, and does not do evil to his companion, and does not bear reproach for his neighbor.

4. The rejected is despised in his eyes, and those who fear Jehovah he honors. He swears to afflict himself and does not change.

5. His silver he does not give at interest, and he takes no gift against the innocent. He who does these things will not be moved to eternity.

Who will live with the Lord?  Those who do good things to their neighbor and who do not do evil things to their neighbor.  It’s simple.  It’s powerful.  It’s true.

But there’s more to this psalm than first meets the eye.  This psalm, in fact, lays out a path for us.  It is a path that can take us to heaven; and not only heaven as a place that we will go after we die, but heaven as a state in our lives.  This psalm lays out the path to true peace in our lives.

The psalm begins by describing our intended destination: the tabernacle of Jehovah, and the mountain of His holiness.  The psalmist asks, “Who will sojourn in Your tabernacle?”  Picture the Children of Israel in the wilderness journeying from place to place, setting up their tents, and in the middle of them all is Jehovah’s tent, the tabernacle.  We are asking how to live in that tabernacle, to walk with the Lord.  The tabernacle represents the Lord’s goodness and love; and we are asking how to walk with the Lord, how to bring his love into the actions of our lives.  “Who will sojourn in Your tabernacle?”  But we are not only looking to sojourn in the tabernacle; the psalmist asks, “Who will dwell on the mountain of Your holiness?”  Now picture Mount Zion, the seat of Jerusalem, the site of Jehovah’s temple.  Picture this rock, this foundation of worship for all the land of Israel.  This rock, this foundation, is the Lord’s truth, His wisdom; and with this question, we’re asking to dwell in wisdom from the Lord; to have our minds and thoughts ordered by the Lord from love.  And so with our destination firmly in mind, we set out on our journey in answer to these questions.

In verse two, the psalmist begins to describe the person who can reach this destination.  If we think of the psalm as a story, this hypothetical person is our hero.  Also in this verse, the general roadmap is laid out for our responsibilities.  What do we have to do to dwell with the Lord?  We have to walk in wholeness.  This word is also translated as “perfection” or “integrity.”  What does this mean?  We have to walk in a harmony of good and truth.  We have to live by what we know; we have to learn how to express our love.  Goodness needs truth, and truth needs goodness.  We have to do righteousness – that is, act out love for other people – and we have to speak truth in our hearts – that is, to learn what is true and live by it so that we can better express that love.  So far, this is still a pretty general picture.  We know where we want to go, and we have a general idea of how to get there.  But how do we live in love?  How do we put truth into our lives?

Now we come to verse three.  We have a destination in mind, we have a roadmap; the rest of the psalm gives us the details of walking in the path.  So what do we do to set out on our journey to the Lord’s kingdom?  Three things: we must not “slander with our tongues,” we must not “do evil to our companions,” and we must not “bear a reproach for our neighbor.”  The first thing we have to avoid is slander.  Think about this literally.  The Writings for our church tell us that there are many literal truths in the Old and New Testaments.  This is one of them.  This is a powerful tool, and next time you are thinking about talking about someone behind his back, think of this passage.  But this extends to beyond just literally badmouthing someone.  What are the states of mind that lead to this?  If we’re talking badly about someone, chances are we have some idea of them as being bad, or evil, or stupid.  We construct an image of them in our head, and we want to spread it.  We think we know who they are at heart.  And we think that it is somehow okay to talk about this person, that this person isn’t in the image of God.  And this is a falsity.  We often think about falsity in abstract terms, as theological misconceptions.  And this is a part of falsity.  But the more pernicious falsities are the falsities that disguise themselves as truths.  Slandering with our tongues is the same thing as bearing false witness; because even if the facts of our slander are true, we present them in such a way that we hope to distort the image of our victim.  And so this description of the heaven-bound person as not slandering means that he rejects falsity anywhere it shows up in his life.

The next statement in this verse is, “He does not do evil to his companion.”  Again, this is a plain, literal truth.  The word “evil” can also mean “harm” in Hebrew; so, in another translation, this could be rendered, “He does not hurt his companion.”  Think about all the ways that you can hurt someone.  You can subtly try to hurt them with your words.  You can steal something from them.  You can murder them.  The range of hurting is enormous, but the point is this: any desire to hurt is a desire to do evil.  So this statement means that we have to avoid doing evil.  We now have two counter-examples to the good man of verse two: instead of loving what is good, and loving what is true because it helps him be good, the bad person loves falsity and loves to do evil, to hurt the people around him.  These two negative qualities are summed up in the final line of the third verse: “he does not bear a reproach against his neighbor.”  A reproach is similar to slander; but in this case, it is said that he does not “bear it”, that is, lift it up or carry it.  A person who is carrying or lifting up a reproach isn’t simply harboring false ideas; he is living them.  And he is now carrying it for his neighbor.  A “neighbor” in the Word means love and goodness, whereas a “companion” mean truth.  So now this person is not only attacking truth, he is attacking also goodness and love, both in himself and others.  These are the things we must reject if we are to dwell in the tabernacle and on the mountain.

It is good to reject these evil things against the neighbor; but there is more to the psalm.  So far it has been about loving our neighbor.  But the two Great Commandments teach us that we are to love our neighbor and to love God.  So this verse tells us the final component for living a heavenly life: we have to reject these things not just for the sake of rejecting them, but because they are sins against the Lord.  Verse four begins “The rejected is despised in his eyes.”  This is often translated as “a vile person” or “a reprobate”; but in Hebrew, the word simply means something or someone that has been rejected.  The implication is that he despises the things that God has rejected.  And so in our own lives, we need to reject evil not just because it is harmful to society, not just because it makes us unhappy, but because it is a sin against the Lord.  What does this mean?  It means that it hurts the Lord when we sin.  Why is this?  Because the Lord is Love itself.  He is the most loving person you can imagine, only infinitely more loving.  And He wants nothing more than to make people happy.  When you break one of His commandments, you do two things: first, you make it so He cannot act through you to make another person happy.  In fact, you’ve twisted His life, which he gives you, to make it hurt someone else, which is the last thing He wants.  And second, in doing so, you’ve made it harder for Him to bring you into eternal happiness, which is what He wants.  This is why it is so important that we reject evil as a sin against God; because unless we acknowledge that sinning is never okay, we will allow ourselves to be turned away from His love, and this is contrary to everything He desires.  This is why we must despise the things that He rejects.

But this message is not all negative.  Not only does our hero despise what Jehovah rejects; he also honors those who fear Jehovah.  Again, start from the literal sense.  What does it mean to honor someone who fears the Lord?  We know from the Writings for our church that fearing the Lord in the truest sense is fearing to harm Him, to sin against Him.  We are to honor those who act from love to the Lord, who serve their neighbor in humility.  But what is it that we are really honoring?  We are honoring that person’s love, that person’s kindness, that person gentleness.  And all of these things are from the Lord.  To honor one who fears the Lord in fact means to honor the Lord Himself, since He is the source of all things good and true.  In this verse, we see the marriage of love to the Lord and love to the neighbor: we love the goodness in our neighbor, and that is the Lord’s.

We might expect the psalm to end here.  Our hero has done good, has loved truth, has shunned evil and falsity, and has turned to the Lord.  But instead of a conclusion, we have the puzzling next line: “He swears to afflict himself, and does not change.”  What could this mean?  It is even more puzzling in the Hebrew: it literally means “he swears to afflict” or “he swears to do evil, and does not change.”  Many translators take it to mean that he swears to do something and does not change even if it hurts him.  Other translators, however, take it to mean he swears to afflict himself, and this is how the Writings translate it.  However it is translated, it is clear that there is some kind of affliction going on here.  The Writings say that to afflict oneself does not mean that we should “plunge ourselves into poverty and wretchedness” (AC 1947).  It means that we have to fight against the evils and falsities that rise up in us.  And this is what is described here: a battle.  When a person tries to shun evils because they are sins and to love Lord and to love other people, this attempt is attacked by hell.  We need to be aware of this and ready for it.  Anytime you see an evil that you’ve been committing and resolve to stop because it is a sin, your resolve will be tested.  Evil spirits have a way of latching onto us, and they don’t like it when we try to get rid of them.  We need to pray to the Lord and fight against them.  It will feel like we’re fighting with our own power.  That is right and good; but we should know that in reality all the power we have, and all the fighting, really comes from the Lord.  The Lord will help us to conquer in these temptations; he will give us strength so that we “do not change”, that is, do not give in to these temptations.

And so we reach the final verse.  We are almost there.  And yet there is one thing that remains.  Our hero must do one more thing: he must not give silver at interest, and he must not take a gift, or a bribe, against the innocent.  Today, there is no law against giving our money out at interest; and in fact, interest is a vital part of our economy.  What’s important here is the idea and motivation, not the act of collecting interest.  We give out money at interest because we hope to get something back for it.  In the natural world, there is nothing wrong with this; but we cannot do this in our spiritual lives.  Our hero has conquered in temptation.  He has done good and loved the Lord.  But it means nothing if he asks for a reward for it.  If we’re doing good and teaching other people truth so that they will honor us, then the Lord cannot be connected with us.  The good is not really good.  We cannot take credit for the good we do, because it is from the Lord.  If we take credit for our good, all the progress we have made collapses.  We put ourselves above others and look down on them.  We stop serving our neighbor and believe that our neighbor should serve us.  And we “take a gift against the innocent” – that is, we allow our desire for honor, for praise, for repayment to destroy the innocence in us.  True innocence is acknowledging that all good is from the Lord; that He works through us, and that the ability to love others is a reward in itself.  After we’ve made spiritual progress, we need to thank the Lord, not demand a reward from Him or from other people.

Now the Lord does not expect us to overcome our desire for reward in a moment.  He works with it, and uses it as an intermediate good.  But we still must have the goal and intention of acting apart from that desire.

And so our hero has done all these things.  He has looked for the good and the true.  He has rejected evil and falsity.  He has rejected these as sins against the Lord, and He has turned to the Lord with love.  He has conquered in temptations, and he has humbly acknowledged that he does not deserve payment for it, and so he continues in love towards others and the Lord.  In the final line, he has reached the tabernacle of the Lord and His holy mountain.  He lives in love and in wisdom, and if he continues in these things, “he will not be moved” – he will be kept in these things to eternity.  I will read the psalm one more time.  Picture the things described in the literal sense.  Remember how they are raised up to mean something more.  Keep it with you as you leave the church today, and bring it to mind when you are tempted to slander, when you feel a desire for reward, when you are in doubt about the hope for eternal life.

1. O Jehovah, who will sojourn in Your tabernacle? Who will dwell on the mountain of Your holiness?

2. He who walks in wholeness, and does righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.

3. Who does not slander with his tongue, and does not do evil to his companion, and does not bear reproach for his neighbor.

4. The rejected is despised in his eyes, and those who fear Jehovah he honors. He swears to afflict himself and does not change.

5. His silver he does not give at interest, and he takes no gift against the innocent. He who does these things will not be moved to eternity.

Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 15; Mark 10:17-22; SS 55

SS 55. The doctrine of genuine truth can also be drawn in full from the sense of the letter of the Word, because in this sense the Word is like a man clothed whose face and hands are bare. All things that concern man’s life, and consequently his salvation, are bare; but the rest are clothed. In many places also where they are clothed they shine through their clothing, like a face through a thin veil of silk. The truths of the Word also appear and shine through their clothing more and more clearly in proportion as they are multiplied by a love for them, and are ranged in order by this love.

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