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.

The Communion of Saints


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, May 24th, 2009

            And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honour of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses that they may remain in the river only.”   (Exodus 8:9[5])

Our text is taken from the story of the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh as recorded in the book of Exodus. We remember that although Jacob and his sons were welcomed into Egypt and invited to live there as Pharaoh’s guests when Joseph was in favour, in the years that followed, Joseph’s wise leadership that saved Egypt from a terrible famine was forgotten. After a time, the Hebrews were no longer seen as guests, but as foreigners – enemies.  Without the protection of Pharaoh they were soon made into slaves.

Hundreds of years later, God spoke to Moses from the burning bush and sent him to challenge the authority of the most powerful king on earth; to lead the children of Israel out of their Egyptian slavery. Pharaoh was difficult to convince, a stubborn man representing evils that are difficult to remove requiring 10 states of vastation before they are removed – the 10 plagues of Egypt which broke Pharaoh and resulted in freedom for the Hebrews.

Our text is taken from a portion of what Moses said to Pharaoh after Pharaoh asked that the second plague of frogs be removed, and was selected because of the image of the king standing at the head of his servants, his people, his nation; for through the science of correspondences, this brief passage gives us the key to understanding many things about the Lord’s Kingdom in the Heavens, the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, and their relationship to each other.

We read in our third lesson that the universal heaven represents one man, and the societies therein his members (AC 7396). This doctrine is known as that of the Grand Man, and receives a full treatment in the inter-chapter material of the Arcana Coelestia. But more to the point, we found in the lesson that the Lord’s kingdom also exists on the earth with those who are in love to the Lord and in charity toward the neighbour, and these people do not belong to any particular church or organization, but are scattered throughout the whole world. And finally, our lesson told us that all those in heaven, and those in love to the Lord and the life of charity, taken together are called a “communion.”

It is this doctrine that forms the basis of that brief and frequently misunderstood statement in our creed where we confess our belief in the “communion of angels and people.” If this idea is important enough to be included in such a brief statement as the creed, it should be clearly understood. It is our intention today to look into the doctrine of the communion of angels and men, and to see what are its implications to our daily life. In order to do so, it is necessary to take a moment to define our terms, to discover what is meant by “communion” and other closely related terms.

The word “communion” has to do with sharing thoughts and emotions, and is often used to refer to a group of persons having a common religious faith. It was interesting to discover that the “Communion of Saints” is defined as “The spiritual fellowship existing among all faithful Christians, both living and dead.” It was interesting because of the use of the word “saint,” and because the definition was very close to that which we would use to explain the New Church concept of the communion of angels and men.

Further investigation showed that although we of the New Church seem to avoid speaking or thinking about saints, the Heavenly Doctrines frequently teach and speak about saints in a very positive way! Usage in the Old and New Testaments always has to do with being “Kind,” “Pious,” “Set apart,” and “Holy.” The Heavenly doctrines use the word in a number of different ways, but with the common theme that the saints are those who acknowledge God and live the life of charity.

A few examples will make the point clear:

“Men of holiness” are those who are led by the Lord; for the Divine which proceeds from Him is the Holy itself. Hence, they who receive it in faith and also in love are called ‘saints.’ (AC 9229)

They are called ‘saints’ who live according to the truths of the Word; not that they are saints, but that the truths in them are holy;

(AR 586:3) ‘The saints’ are those who from the Lord through the Word are in Divine truths; and, abstractedly, the Divine truths of the Lord, of the Word, and thence of the Church. (AR 730)

(The saints are) those who are in truths of doctrine from the Word, and in a life according to them. (AE 695)

From this we should be able to see that although the word “saint” has been flavoured by its usage in other churches, it is in fact a word commonly used in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in the Heavenly Doctrines, and in each Testament, it carries the meaning of something or someone who is holy, someone who loves the Lord, and each day strives to live a life of charity towards the neighbour. If we think “regenerating man,” or “angel” when we hear the word “saint” we can perhaps get around the problem and arrive at the intended meaning.

In the creed, we say that we believe in the “communion of angels and people,” which is just another way of saying the “Communion of Saints” without saying the word “saint.” It was said earlier that the dictionary definition of “communion” was the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions. If we change one word from “emotions” to “affections,” we arrive at the same definition that the Heavenly doctrines would use, and most people would understand and agree with this definition:  an intimate sharing of thoughts, experiences, and affections.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there are many, many levels of communion, and that such communication exists both between people on earth, and also between men and spirits. To lay the foundation, let us first reflect on a communion that is possible for us to experience in this world, the special communication that exists between a husband and wife.

There is a certain communion between married partners which is implanted in both from the first covenant of marriage … as a communion of possession, in many things a communion of uses, of various necessaries of the house, and thence also of thoughts, and sometimes of secrets; there is also a communion of bed, and a communion of the love of little children (CL 277:2).

Marriage causes a miraculous transformation in people. A man and a woman begin their life together through mutual consent. With their love as a basis they get down to the business of making a home and a life together. They begin to build up a collection of common memories and experiences of trips taken, projects done, decisions made. Slowly, because of their communion, their common life, they become no longer man and woman, but husband and wife. And when new life enters the picture, when the children are born and bring with them all their tender states of celestial innocence, feedings in the middle of the night, sickness and laughter, the husband and wife slowly but surely become not only husband and wife, but also father and mother, sharing things in their marriage that no one else would ever understand or appreciate – and it binds them together. This is communion. This is an intimate sharing of thoughts and affections where through years of common experience a personal language is formed so that all that is needed is a word or a glance to communicate a whole world of meaning. This is a bond between people that is cemented by common interests, delights, and uses.

Now if that can happen between two people in the world, what kind of communion might be possible between the angels in heaven, between heaven and earth, and between the church in the heavens and the church on earth?

The Heavenly Doctrine tells us that in the Heavens there is a communion of all goods; the peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness of all are communicated to everyone there, and those of each are communicated to all. (AC 10723) And they teach further that there is such a conjunction of each with all in Heaven, that everyone speaks from the communion, although an Angel is not conscious of it. (AR 5)

The Heavenly Doctrine also speaks of the Communion between Earth and Heaven:

He who in faith acknowledges and in heart worships one God, is in the communion of saints on earth, and in the communion of Angels in the Heavens; they are called communions, and are so, because they are in one God, and one God is in them. (TCR 15)

            Every person is in communion with angels of heaven or with spirits of hell because he is born to become spiritual; and this is not possible unless he is in some kind of conjunction with those who are spiritual. Every person, as to his mind, is in both worlds, the natural and the spiritual; but men, angels and spirits do not know of this conjunction because men, during their life in the world, are in a natural state, and angels and spirits in a spiritual state. On account of the distinction between the natural and the spiritual they are invisible to each other. The conjunction of men with angels and spirits by means of their love’s affections is so close that without it, people on earth would no longer have conscious though – and in fact would soon die. As everyone lives continually in communion with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, therefore, when he dies, he is immediately received by those like himself, with whom he has been associated while in the world; for he then enters the company of those who are ruled by the same loves. These he greets in the same way as relatives and kinsfolk greet each other in the world. This is the meaning of what is said in the Word concerning those who die, that they are gathered to their own. It should be evident from this that a regenerate man is in communion with angels of heaven, and an unregenerate man with spirits of hell. (TCR 607)

If a husband and wife can build such a tender and powerful bond as marriage based on the common experience of the joys and sorrows of life in this world, how much deeper, how much more powerful must be the bond that is based on a common love and understanding of God – or as it is sometimes called, a “similitude of religion.”

There is peace and happiness in a home when there is agreement. That peace may actually only be a temporary truce resting on the surface of a unresolved difference, but the peace and happiness of heaven rest on agreement that reaches to the very depths of the mind, to the farthest resources of character. Such profound agreement or communion in the most essential areas of life is the basis for the foundation of heavenly societies which are organized first of all according to their understanding of and belief in God. This is why the Heavenly Doctrines teach that your place in heaven is determined by your belief in God.

While we live in the natural world, even though we are not conscious of it, we attract those spirits who are in the same spiritual state as ourselves. Our spiritual state creates a sphere that is perceived in the spiritual world, that attracts those of a like spirit who then strengthen our state. This means that if we are in an evil state, we attract more of the same evil which strengthens and encourages that evil. If we are doing good, we then attract good spirits who then strengthen that state. Everything we say, do, think, or feel has its effect in the spiritual world – which in turn has its effect on us.

But there is one essential difference between us and the spirits with us that we must remember and use to our advantage. We can be of two minds. We can want to do something evil and yet not do it because we know we should not. We are free in spiritual things. We are free to choose our spiritual companions. We can freely choose to do what is right, to attract the spheres of heaven, to feel heaven’s joy, and gain strength and resolve from the angels. We are free to begin a communion with the angels of heaven right now which will endure forever. AMEN.

First Lesson:  Exodus 8:1-15

And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. {2} “But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. {3} “So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. {4} “And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.”’ “ {5} Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.’” {6} So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. {7} And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt. {8} Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” {9} And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honour of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” {10} So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. {11} “And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.” {12} Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh. And Moses cried out to the LORD concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharaoh. {13} So the LORD did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields. {14} They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. {15} But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said. Amen.

Second Lesson:  Rev. 13:1-10

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. {2} Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. {3} And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. {4} So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” {5} And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. {6} Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. {7} It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. {8} All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. {9} If anyone has an ear, let him hear. {10} He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Amen.

Third Lesson:  Heavenly Secrets (Arcana Coelestia) 7396

7396 ….Empires and kingdoms are represented in heaven as a person, and the communities within them are represented as the parts of that person’s body, the monarch being so to speak its head. The reason why they are represented in that way traces back to this: The whole of heaven represents one human being, and the communities there represent the parts of his body, in accordance with the functions they perform.

From this one may see how beautiful and delightful the representation in heaven of an empire, kingdom, or community would be if its citizens were linked to one another by charity and faith to form a body like that. Whenever possible the Lord also links communities together into that kind of body; for Divine Truth itself, which emanates from the Lord, introduces that state of order wherever that order is accepted. This is the origin of the state of order that exists in heaven. It exists on earth took, but the communities constituting it are scattered all over the earth and are made up of those who are governed by love to Him and charity towards the neighbour. But those scattered communities have been drawn together by the Lord in order that they too, like communities in heaven, may represent one human being.

These communities exist not only within the Church but also outside it; and when taken all together they are called the Lord’s Church, drawn together from the good scattered throughout all the earth. That Church is also called a communion. This communion or Church is the Lord’s kingdom on earth linked to the Lord’s kingdom in heaven, and so to the Lord Himself. Amen.


A Sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Kline
Preached in Bryn Athyn August 9, 1992

“Thus says the lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand, because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:4,5).

What a beautiful picture this is: old men and old women filling the streets of Jerusalem. Because of their great age it says they are carrying staffs in their hands. And then the picture goes on: alongside of these old men and women are boys and girls playing in the streets elderly people and young children together in the streets of Jerusalem. And the Lord looks at this picture and says it is marvelous in His sight. It is marvelous in His sight because it is a picture of a community that is whole and well, a community that is alive. And why? Because all ages are present and valued.

This morning we want to talk about the blessings of old age, the fact that the period of human life known as old age is a crowning step for our lives, the fact that old age is a state of life to be valued for its wisdom and enlightenment, the fact that old age is an essential part of a healthy community, church or society.

It is interesting that the Writings of the New Church divide our lives into four stages: our childhood, our youth, adult age, and finally, the last step is said to be old age. Our childhood is said to be a time of instruction (that’s when we learn); adulthood is said to be a time of intelligence; but old age is said to be a time of wisdom. Old age is a time of wisdom, a wisdom that comes from innocence. It is a willingness to be led by the Lord.

But why is wisdom associated with the final years of our lives? First of all, we are told that true wisdom is not just a matter of learning, but a matter of life. True wisdom is not up here (in our head), but wisdom is down here (in our heart). True wisdom comes from the life-long journey of walking hand in hand with the Lord. It is the life-long journey of discovering who the Lord is the journey of finding that we can trust Him to be with us every step of the way. That’s the wisdom of old age.

True wisdom is the life-long journey of seeing the truths of the Lord’s Word down here in the uses and activities of our lives. In that process of bringing truth into our lives, over a lifetime we make that truth our own.

Finally, the wisdom of old age is the magnificent realization that we can’t do it alone, the realization that without the Lord we are nothing. In old age we look back over our life and see that the Lord has been there all the while.

What do the Writings of the New Church teach us about old age? Just listen to this passage from the Writings: “Old age is the last age, when earthly and corporeal things begin to be put off and the interiors of a man begin to be enlightened” (AC 3492). So in the last stage of our life the Lord allows the things of our body to wane gradually and grow dim. We find that our physical bodies are not what they used to be. The Lord does this on purpose, so that during the last stages of our lives our minds can be elevated toward more interior things. The Lord, in His wisdom, provides a gradual giving up of the things of this world as a preparation for the eternity of heaven.

It is interesting to ask elderly people what things they value most. How often they respond with memories of friends, family, and human relationships. In old age a transition is taking place. It is a time of uplifting our lives toward heaven.

Another beautiful teaching in the Heavenly Doctrines: We are told that the body grows old but the spirit itself does not age. The body grows old, but if anything the spirit grows younger. This is why we all find ourselves in the unusual situation where as years are put on, we still feel the same. The body may feel older, but the person inside that body is still the same. We still feel just as young as we ever did. And in this sense we are all young. It is the timelessness of the human spirit.

The Writings teach us: “To grow old in heaven is to grow young” (HH 414). In relation to eternity we are all in our spiritual infancy.

A final teaching from the Writings of the New Church (an unusual teaching): The Writings say that old age begins at the year sixty. This is an unusual teaching because we don’t often think of ourselves as being old as we approach sixty. At sixty we are often still involved in our day-to-day uses. The events of our natural life don’t suddenly change at sixty. But still the Writings suggest that this is the beginning of old age because it is a time when subtle changes are taking place in our spiritual attitudes toward life. At age sixty, even though we are still involved in our life-long occupations, we see those uses in a new light. Gradually we are willing to accept the limitations of the human spirit. We begin to have the humility that we may not accomplish everything we set out to accomplish in life. We begin to see the reality that this life is not forever. We begin to face the reality of the next life. The things of this world are not as important as they once seemed. Our values change and are uplifted. We not only believe but we actually feel and see that there are higher realities worth reaching for. It is the beginning of an uplifting in the growth of our spirit.

Old age need not be a time of decreasing usefulness. If anything, as age advances, the uses of life can become higher and more heavenly in their form. Retirement sometimes can be feared and seen as a time of uselessness. But retirement can also be a new opportunity to pursue the real loves of the heart. So often, because of life’s circumstances we are forced into careers and occupations that we do not truly love. Yet in the autumn of our lives, the opportunity is there to find our ruling loves, to pursue those dreams we always held to, to find those uses that more match our eternal character.

Old age is also a time of reflection reflection on life in the light of the Lord’s Word. Those approaching old age may not think of themselves as theologians or scholars, but they need to realize that even a simple understanding and reflection on the Lord’s Word in the light of that period of life known as old age can bring about a wisdom not known in any other period of life. A person reading the Word in the wisdom of old age brings about a conjunction with the heavens that is essential both to the individual and to society as a whole. The power of the heavens to one reading the Word in the light of a lifetime of experiences is the very heart of the church on earth.

Every age has blessings and it also has its challenges and hardships. And this can be especially true with old age. It can be a time of physical decline, a time of extreme loneliness. It can be a time of seeing lifelong friends pass on and apparently leave. It can be a time of loneliness when a spouse has already gone to the other world. It can be a time of depression, physical pain, a time of wondering, “What is my use in this world? Am I merely a burden on society?”

We may not fully understand the working of the Lord’s providence and permission. At times we may have to trust that uses are being performed in old age that are greater than we can see and understand. We may have to trust that at times the uses accomplished by prolonging life in this world are greater than the individual.

The Lord may extend life in this world to provide a plane of innocence here on earth innocence that is more far-reaching than the individual can consciously know. Or the Lord may be secretly implanting heavenly remains and memories as a final blessing on a long life of use. We need sensitivity, love and care for those in the hardships of old age the courage to trust in the Lord’s will. The Psalmist said, “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength fails” (Psalm 71:9).

I would like to end with a picture of Moses. This picture is from the 34th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. It is that beautiful picture of Moses, in the last hours of his life on earth, standing on the top of Mount Nebo, looking over the promised land of Canaan. For forty years Moses had led the people through the wilderness. He had led them out of their captivity in Egypt, and now he had led them up to the very border of the promised land. And now we see that glorious moment when Moses, now an old man 120 years old, is ready to die. The Lord allows him to see the promised land before He dies.

That picture of Moses’ viewing the expanse of the promised land, the land where the Children of Israel would now live, is a picture of true wisdom, the wisdom that comes in old age, that wisdom that comes when we have walked long enough through the journey of lives to really know and see that the Lord is with us. The wisdom of old age: it is a wisdom that comes when we begin to put off the captivity of earthly and corporeal things and are truly willing to see and accept the reality of heaven and the next life. That picture of Moses viewing the promised land before him and at the same time remembering the long journey that was behind him (both sides of the mountain) is a picture of true spiritual enlightenment.

In the book of Zechariah we have a picture of old men and women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem with the streets of the city full of boys and girls playing. It is a picture of the spiritual ages of our lives from childhood to old age. And the Lord looks at this picture, and His response is that it is marvelous in His eyes. Amen.

Lessons: Zechariah 8:1-11; Luke 2:22-38; AC 10225:1,5,6

Arcana Coelestia 10225:1,5,6

“From a son of twenty years and upward.” That this signifies the state of the intelligence of truth and good is evident from the signification of “twenty,” when said of a man’s age, as being a state of the intelligence of truth and good. That “twenty” denotes a state of the intelligence of truth and good is because when a man attains the age of twenty years, he begins to think from himself; for from earliest infancy to extreme old age a man passes through a number of states in respect to his interiors that belong to intelligence and wisdom. The first state is from birth to his fifth year; this is a state of ignorance and of innocence in ignorance, and is called infancy. The second state is from the fifth year to the twentieth; this is a state of instruction and of memory-knowledge, and is called childhood and youth. The third state is from the twentieth year to the sixtieth, which is a state of intelligence, and is called adolescence, young manhood, and manhood. The fourth or last state is from the sixtieth year upward, which is a state of wisdom, and of innocence in wisdom …

[5] But the third is called a state of intelligence, because the man then thinks from himself, and discriminates and forms conclusions; and that which he then concludes is his own and not another’s. At this time faith begins, for faith is not the faith of the man himself until he has confirmed what he believes by the ideas of his own thought. Previous to this, faith was not his but another’s in him, for his belief was in the person, not in the thing. From this it can be seen that the state of intelligence commences with man when he no longer thinks from a teacher but from himself, which is not the case until the interiors are opened toward heaven. Be it known that the exteriors with man are in the world and the interiors in heaven; and that in proportion as light flows in from heaven into what is from the world, the man is intelligent and wise; and this according to the degree and quality of the opening of his interiors, which are so far opened as the man lives for heaven and not for the world.

[6] But the last state is a state of wisdom and of innocence in wisdom, which is when the person is no longer concerned about understanding truths and goods, but about willing and living them; for this is to be wise. And a person is able to will truths and goods, and to live them, just insofar as he is in innocence, that is, insofar as he believes that he has nothing of wisdom from himself but that whatever he has of wisdom is from the Lord; also insofar as he loves to have it so; hence it is that this state is also a state of innocence in wisdom.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see’; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9


A Sermon by A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida October 21, 1990

“And the people contended with Moses, and spoke, saying: `If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness that we and our animals should die here?” (Numbers 20:3,4).

Our text records one of the many instances of the Israelites’ adopting a negative attitude toward the leading of the Lord through His appointed leaders during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. In spite of the fact that they had frequently witnessed great miracles done by the Lord through them, such as the plagues in Egypt, and the dividing of the Red Sea, and had daily proof of His loving care in the manna given them from heaven each morning, they still persisted in doubting the power of the Lord and the wisdom of those chosen by Him to lead them.

As each hardship and inconvenience arose, they complained against the Lord and argued with Moses and Aaron. They were willing to accept these men as their leaders only as long as things were going well with them and were in accord with their wishes, but they had no steadfast confidence in the Lord’s promise of guidance and protection, nor in the judgment of Moses and Aaron the men appointed by the Lord to lead them out of bondage, to the land promised them by the Lord.

Their resentment at every hardship they suffered was so great that they forgot the cruelty of their slavery in Egypt, and mistakenly supposed that they would have been happier if they had remained there. Their attitude toward the leadership which the Lord had provided for them through Moses and Aaron was so negative that the Lord literally had to lead them with a “strong hand.” He had to perform open miracles continually in order that they might be persuaded to continue on their journey and not return to their former state of bondage.

It is obvious, if one stops to reflect, that no worthwhile achievement can ever be realized as long as a group of people adopts such a negative and distrustful attitude toward their leaders. If every apparent shortcoming or action or policy is called into question and criticized, then that unity which can lead to progress and achievement is lacking.

In the eyes of Israel everything that did not please them every hardship was the fault of Moses and Aaron. They kept asking themselves when things were not to their liking: “Why did we choose to follow them? Why did we accept their leadership? Things were better with us before they came into our lives.” “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? … Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, `Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11,12).

As one reads the record of Israel in the wilderness, as recorded in the Scriptures, it becomes obvious that the difficulties that they encountered and the hardships they suffered were not the result of Moses’ and Aaron’s poor leadership, but rather their failure to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to accept the leadership which the Lord provided. The history of Israel in the wilderness testifies to the fact that the success of any worthwhile endeavor can be achieved only where there is an affirmative attitude on the part of all toward the goal itself, and confidence in those whose responsibility it is to lead to that goal.

This is true spiritually as well as naturally. Our spiritual goal is heavenly life a life of charity and use. The Lord’s Divine Providence ever leads us toward this goal through the Word (Moses) and the teaching and leading of the priesthood (Aaron). If we wish to attain the goal of heavenly life, then we must trust in the Lord’s Divine Providence. We must believe in His Word and be obedient to its teachings. We must have confidence in the teaching and preaching from the Word, for these are the Divinely provided means leading to that goal. If we approach the means with a negative doubt, calling into question every teaching that does not agree with and harmonize with our preconceived ideas and proprial inclinations, we cannot reasonably expect to achieve the end in view a life of charity in the kingdom of the Lord.

It is important, therefore, that we approach the things pertaining to spiritual life with an affirmative attitude, with confidence that the Lord is actively guiding us along the way, and providing for us those circumstances and situations which will promote our happiness and success. If we approach our spiritual journey toward the heavenly Canaan in this spirit, then we are assured of reaching our destination, and we will experience ever-increasing delight in the way that leads to it.

The Writing tell us that there are two principles, one of which leads to all folly and insanity, and the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in one’s heart that we cannot believe before we are convinced by what we can grasp and feel. This principle leads to all folly and insanity, and is called the negative principle. The other principle is to affirm those things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within oneself that they are true because the Lord has said them. This principle leads to all intelligence and wisdom and is called the affirmative principle (see AC 2568).

This teaching makes it clear that our whole life, both here and hereafter, depends upon the principle from which we begin, and on our attitude toward life and its various problems. It is pertinent that we inquire into these things with ourselves. What is our basic attitude toward life? Do we tend to approach things with a negative, doubting attitude? Or do we approach things positively, with trust in the Divine Providence? As we focus our minds on these things, we should bear in mind the great importance of formative childhood states when the tender vessels of the mind are soft and pliable. The attitude which a child gradually develops toward parents, teachers, the Word and the church are the formative force in later attitudes in adult life.

From angelic remains every infant and small child begins with a completely affirmative attitude toward parents, and it is the responsibility of parents and later, teachers to foster and preserve this innocent trust and confidence of the child. As the child grows older and develops a greater independence of thought, his affirmative should be gradually bent away from the person of his parents and teachers to the office or use of the person, and ultimately to the Lord and the truth of His Word, which are the origin of all uses and the source of all authority.

This formative period has a profound effect upon a person’s development. We read: “Man is in a varying state, and thus in the world of spirits up to adult age; afterward, he is, as to his soul, either in heaven or hell, since his mind is then constant and rarely changed, although this does occur with some” (SD 5167).

The force of this passage is that when a person reaches adulthood, his basic character and attitude toward life has been established and is unlikely to be radically changed in later life, although it is admitted that this is possible. This surely indicates that we must make a serious effort during a child’s formative years to instill and establish an affirmative attitude toward the Lord, His Word and the church, an attitude which, if properly established, we can reasonably hope will remain throughout life.

The principles and attitudes that we as individuals have are essentially those which have been instilled in us by our parents and teachers, but they have yet to be made our own. Upon reaching adulthood a person either develops and enters interiorly into the good attitudes of childhood, so that they become part of his character, or rejects them and allows a spirit of self-centeredness and self-confidence to determine his general attitude and approach to life.

In early adult life there is a strong appearance that a person’s deepest thoughts and principles are the result of his own study, investigation and experience. A person regards them as rational conclusions based upon his experience and reflections upon it. Actually, however, within and guiding the person’s reasoning are the affections of his life’s love. And these affections, unknown to the person, turn his thoughts to favor that which is in agreement with them. Thus it is the affections of man’s love which are gradually developing within him an affirmative or negative attitude toward the authority of Divine truth.

We read: “Those who are in doubt before they deny are they who incline to a life of evil; and when this life carries them away, then insofar as they think of the matters in question, they deny them. But those who are in doubt before they affirm are they who incline to a life of good; and when they allow themselves to be bent to this by the Lord, then insofar as they think about these things, they affirm” (AC 2568, emphasis added).

A person whose affections are centered in self becomes, in time, interiorly arrogant. Such a person tends to think, in whatever situation, that his perceptions and views of things are right, and he is intolerant of those who see things differently. In this state it is very difficult for the person to see what is true, either in the Word or as manifested in life’s situations; for this requires humility and a willingness to be taught and led, which, in such a state, the person does not possess. This is especially the case in regard to those truths which disclose the person’s evils.

But when there is an effort in the will to place the neighbor’s good on the same plane as one’s own, that is, when there is an inclination to a life of charity and good will toward the neighbor, then there is a ready disposition to see and understand truth, even when it is contrary to one’s previous conception of things. It is this affection the affection of charity which makes it possible for one to confirm with oneself an affirmative attitude toward all that the Lord reveals, and which enables a person to see the truth in ever-increasing light, and to be willing to follow it into a life of charity toward his fellow men.

Let us hope that such a sound foundation has been laid during the early years of our lives. And let us always strive to adopt an affirmative attitude toward the truth of the Word and the leading of the Lord through His church Moses and Aaron for these are the Divinely provided means by which the Lord leads us away from slavery to our selfish loves, and the fallacious appearances engendered by them, represented by Israel’s slavery in Egypt. It is through persistent effort throughout life that the Lord can instill such an affirmation of truth that we willingly follow the Lord even when the way is difficult and things are not as we conceived that they should be in our former states of ignorance and self-centeredness.

When life does not unfold as we would have it, when our perceptions of truth differ from the way in which the Lord is apparently leading us, the spirit of negative doubt tends to raise its head. Like the Children of Israel in the wilderness, we are apt to chide with the Lord (Moses and Aaron), query the teaching of the Word and the leading of the church, and ask why following the truth should lead us into states of conflict and deprivation of joy. Confidence in the Lord’s leading is weak at such times, because our loves have not been made firm by a life of obedience to Divine law. When life’s situations confront us that are not to our liking, we are apt to rebel; we are tempted to depart from a spirit of affirmation to one of negative doubt.

We need to renew continually our hope and trust in the Lord’s Providence and leading. If we do not, then we, like the Children of Israel, are in danger of losing our spiritual heritage the happiness that comes from a life of charity toward the neighbor. We read: “The evil spirits who are with people during temptation and induce it, strongly inspire negation, but the good spirits and angels from the Lord in every possible way dispel this state of doubt, and keep the person in a state of hope, and at last confirm him in what is affirmative” (AC 2338).

If our hope is fixed in the Lord with confidence that He can and will lead us, then our faith in Him is so confirmed and interiorly implanted in our lives that the attacks of the hells, seeking to inspire negative doubt, cannot shake it. Just as the Lord miraculously gave His people water out of the rock, so may we have confidence that He will ever give us understanding and strength from the rock of Divine truth, that we may enter into the security and blessings of heavenly life.

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation” (Psalm 25:4,5). Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 20:1-11, Matt. 8:1-13, AC 2689:3,4

Arcana Coelestia 2689:3,4

That it may be known who those are that can be kept by the Lord in the affection of good and truth, and thus be reformed and become spiritual, and who those are that cannot, we will briefly state that during childhood, while being for the first time imbued with goods and truths, everyone is kept by the Lord in the affirmative idea that what he is told and taught by his parents and masters is true. With those who can become spiritual, this affirmative is confirmed by means of knowledges (scientifica et cognitiones); for whatever they afterwards learn that has an affinity with it insinuates itself into this affirmative and corroborates it, and this more and more, even to affection. These are they who become spiritual in accordance with the essence of the truth in which they have faith, and who conquer in temptations. But it is otherwise with those who cannot become spiritual. Although during their childhood these are in the affirmative, yet in the age that follows they admit doubts, and thus trench upon the affirmative of good and truth; and when they come to adult age, they admit negatives, even to the affection of falsity. If these should be brought into temptations, they would wholly yield; and on this account they are exempted from them.

But the real cause of their admitting doubts, and afterwards negatives, is to be found in their life of evil. They who are in a life of evil cannot possibly do otherwise; for as before said, the life of everyone is his affection or love; and such as is the affection or love, such is the thought. The affection of evil and the thought of truth never conjoin themselves together. With those in whom there is an appearance of this conjunction, there is really no such conjunction, but only the thought of truth without the affection of it; and therefore with such persons truth is not truth but only something of sound, or of the mouth, from which the heart is absent. Such truth even the worst can know, and sometimes better than others. With some also there is found a persuasion of truth, of such a nature that no one can know but that it is genuine; and yet it is not so if there is no life of good: it is an affection of the love of self or of the world, which induces such a persuasion that they defend it even with the vehemence of apparent zeal; nay, they will even go so far as to condemn those who do not receive it or believe in the same way. But this truth is of such a quality as is the principle with each person from which it starts, being strong in proportion as the love of self or of the world is strong. It indeed attaches itself to evil, but does not conjoin itself with it, and is therefore extirpated in the other life. Very different is it with those who are in the life of good. With these, truth itself has its own ground and heart, and has its life from the Lord.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida August 5, 1990

“And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacles of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above, all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies ” (Numbers 1: 1 – 3).

Numbers is the fourth of the books commonly known as the “Five Books of Moses.” It recounts a variety of things which befell the Children of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness. The second book of Moses, called Exodus, takes the Israelites as far as Mount Sinai and includes the giving of the Ten Commandments and many other laws and statutes which were given from Mount Sinai, concluding with the building of the Tabernacle. The third book, Leviticus, follows. It contains a collection of ritualistic and other laws, especially as they relate to the Levites and priests. It contains no historical events. The fourth book, Numbers, again takes up the history of Israel when they were about to leave the plains of Sinai.

Since the first thing mentioned in the book of Numbers, in preparation for their journeying in the wilderness, is a census of the people, and since a second census is recorded at the end of the book when they were encamped on the plains of Moab in preparation for entering the promised land, we have, in English translations, followed the Greek translations in calling the book “Numbers.”

The Hebrews, on the other hand, following their custom of designating the name of each book by the first word or words occurring in it, or by some distinguishing word in the first verse, call it Bemidhbar, meaning “in the wilderness.” This, too, is an appropriate name, since it is an account of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness. In the internal sense it is an account of the obscure groping of the human mind in its search for heaven.

The immediate purpose of this census was to determine the military strength of the Israelites – counting the males from twenty years old and above, all that were able to go to war. It was natural that they should do this before undertaking the hazardous journey in the wilderness, where they were likely to meet many enemies far more powerful than themselves. In addition, it would help them to determine the order of their marching, and the organization of their encampment around the tabernacle.

The number of men, not counting women and children, was 603,550. We would recall here the Lord’s promise to Abraham over 400 years earlier that his seed would be as the stars of the heaven for multitude. If the women and children were included in this census there would have been over a million people.

This census was permitted in the law given through Moses with the stipulation that each one numbered should give “an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and poor shall not give less, than half a shekel, when they give an offering to the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls” (Exodus 30:15).

In numbering the people who could go to war the Israelites were thinking of physical warfare and of their military power. In the spiritual sense it relates to spiritual combats, and the conquering of evil desires and false ideas which occupy the natural mind of man. The beginning of this long difficult journey in the wilderness represents the state of an adult beginning the spiritual journey along the pathway of regeneration.

The person knows, in a general way, the Lord’s commandments – the law had already been given from Mount Sinai – but many evil desires arising from selfish loves and many false ideas arising from proprial conceits must be removed before the person can be prepared to dwell in the heavenly Canaan. The particular states of good and truth which alone can conquer these evils and falsities are represented by the numbers of the various tribes recorded in this chapter.

The people were counted by their tribes before setting out on this journey. This means that the Lord, at the beginning of every person’s regeneration, orders the interiors of the mind – arranges it in heavenly order in preparation for the combats that the person will inevitably face along the way. The Lord foresees all the spiritual trials which will beset a person in the course of regeneration, and so disposes the interiors of the mind from earliest infancy that the person may have the ability to withstand every trial that he may encounter; and He provides that the person will not undergo any trial greater than he can bear. For to number is to bring into order – here to bring into heavenly order -the interior things of a person’s spirit.

By ordering the spiritual mind of man the Lord also provides that He may have a dwelling place within the person, so that by His presence He may sustain the person and overcome the evil spirits who attack. No one can conquer the forces of hell by and of himself; their malignant power is so great and their secret operation so subtle that a person has nothing of his own to withstand them. Left to himself, the person would be completely overwhelmed. But we can cooperate. We can order our external minds and lives according to Divine laws of order so that the Lord can form the interiors of our minds into a heavenly order, and then the presence of heaven within us can repel the attacks of the hells.

The acknowledgment that the order and arrangement of the goods and truths which a person receives are from the Lord alone is represented by the half shekel which every individual man, rich and poor alike, had to offer to the Lord at the time of the census. This acknowledgment is a prerequisite to regeneration, for the denial of it involves a person’s claiming for oneself the power to overcome the hells and to merit heaven from one’s own strength and goodness. Such an attitude obstructs the influx from heaven and leaves a person at the mercy of the hells.

This is what was involved in the sin of David. He numbered the people without the payment of the half shekel. He did this at the end of his reign when he had conquered all the surrounding nations and Israel occupied a prominent place among the nations. The implication in the literal sense is that in counting his valiant warriors and in wishing to enumerate the great strength of his army, he was taking credit for his victories rather than humbly acknowledging that it was the Lord’s presence with Israel which had made them a mighty nation. This is the sin into which we all may fall if we do not acknowledge in our worship and in our lives that we receive power from the Lord alone to overcome the hidden evils of our inheritance.

Such an acknowledgment, however, means nothing unless we, as of ourselves, use the power which the Lord freely gives us. That is, we must make a constant and continuing effort to live according to the Lord’s commandments so that our minds may be brought into harmony with Divine order. If we do this we will repel, reject and overcome those natural desires and thoughts which are contrary to Divine order.

We see an illustration of this in the story of Gideon. He was not permitted to go against the Midianites with the 32,000 men who had been counted, lest Israel claim the victory for itself instead of attributing it to the Lord, saying: “My own hand has saved me” (Judges 7:2). Gideon finally had to reduce his force to 300 men, for the Lord said: “By the 300 men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand” (Judges 7:7, emphasis added). The Lord chose this spectacular way to conquer the far superior force of Midian in order to show the Israelites, and indeed us, that it was solely by His presence with them, and His power, that they were able to exist among the far more powerful nations surrounding them.

The spiritual lesson here is that if from our trust in the Lord we intelligently cooperate with Him by observing His laws of order, His church will prevail against all foes, both in the world and in the life of every individual member.

This Divine forming and ordering of the mind from within begins in infancy and continues throughout life. The heavenly states which the angels impress upon the infantile mind remain to mitigate and soften the hardness of selfish loves; it is these remains which are meant by census of those 20 years old and upward.

The fact that the first census took place in the wilderness means that this Divine work is done before we can have any consciousness of it. It is on a plane above our consciousness. This is a wonderful provision of the Divine Providence. It is the way in which the Lord provides that every person, prior to reaching adulthood, may be prepared for regeneration. Furthermore, because of this Divine work, the stubbornness and persistence of our selfish loves, which later become so active, are finally able to be overcome.

While acknowledging that regeneration is the Lord’s work, we must always bear in mind that He can accomplish it with us only by our complete willingness and active cooperation. We must as of ourselves bring our external minds and lives into a state harmonious with, and corresponding to, that inner order which the Lord has established within our spirit, for only then can this Divine operation descend to the plane of consciousness and be effective in our lives.

In this spirit we should humbly pray to the Lord that He will “number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 1: 1 – 3, 17 – 19, 44 – 46; 2 Samuel 24:1 – 17; AC 10219:5

Arcana Coelestia

10219:5 For by “famine’ is signified a lack and scarcity of the goods and truths of faith and love, because these are signified by bread, food, wheat, barley, oil, and wine, which are lacking while the famine lasts. By “fleeing before enemies” in the internal sense is meant to be pursued by evils and falsities, for those who attribute goods and truths to themselves cannot fight against the evils and falsities which are from hell (n. 9978), and which in the spiritual sense are the enemies before whom is the fleeing, and by whom they are pursued. But by “pestilence” is signified the vastation and consumption of the goods and truths which have been received from infancy (n. 7505). That David chose the pestilence, and that seventy thousand died of it, signified that every truth and good of faith and love would perish with the Israelitish and Jewish nation, which also came to pass, for they did not acknowledge the Lord, from whom nevertheless are all goods and truths. “Three days’ signified to the full, and the same was also signified by the “seventy thousand” men who died.


A Sermon by Rev. Frederick M. Chapin
Preached in Charlotte, North Carolina, March 24, 1996

“And God said to Moses, `I AM who I am.’ And He said, `Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”‘” (Exodus 3:14).

One of the most basic of human needs is to feel worthwhile. Our lives would become unbearable if we felt there was nothing we could accomplish. We need to be assured that we can make a difference. The more we recognize how we can benefit others, the more we will value ourselves and the services we can provide.

Many who are in a state of depression feel as if their lives are of no value. It is not clearly evident to them how they can be a positive influence toward others. They see more of their negative faults than their opportunities and abilities that are good. For example, many of the elderly today feel an isolation and low self-worth. They are not able to do the things they once were able to do. Because they don’t see anything they can offer, nor do they feel appreciated, they just linger and become lonely, without hope. It can easily be seen that the more we recognize what our abilities are, and whom we can have a positive influence upon, the more appreciation and enjoyment we will have about ourselves and the services we are able to perform.

The Lord intends for every person to feel a sense of self- worth. We need the assurance that we can make a positive contribution to our neighbor, country, the church, and even the Lord’s kingdom in the heavens. We are to have the confidence that the Lord has created us with unique gifts that can support the efforts of others and add to the effectiveness of the Lord’s church upon the earth. In short, all of us can do wonderful things for others. Our reading about the call to Moses gives us the teachings on how the Lord makes an individual call to each one of us. The more we are faithful to our call, the more we are able to display the loves and the wisdom that exists in heaven. When we are able to display heavenly states in our lives, we will appreciate what the Lord has enabled us to do.

The story begins with Moses watching the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro. One day Moses saw a bush burning with fire but not being consumed. He soon recognized that it was the Lord and had to take his shoes off his feet because he was standing upon holy ground. The Lord then revealed to Moses that he was to go to Egypt and lead the Israelites to the promised land. This seemed like an impossible task for Moses to accomplish. To assure Moses that he could do these things, the Lord spoke the words of our text that “I AM” has sent you. We do know that Moses did eventually lead the Israelites out of Egypt and he guided them to the promised land.

Like Moses, when we first hear what we are to do we may have doubts concerning our abilities to carry it out. We may feel unqualified to perform the task that the Lord has set out before us. How often do we convince ourselves that we are not able to perform a service when we are presented with an opportunity to do so? Quite often when we are confronted with an occasion to do something good there is a fear of taking a risk to do that good. We convince ourselves that we are hopelessly trapped in the results of our failures, with no hope of emerging out of them. Like Moses, we will remain stuck, watching sheep because of the murder he committed in Egypt, and Israel will forever remain in slavery in Egypt.

Nevertheless, we are given the same words as were given to Moses: I AM is with you. When the Lord referred to Himself as the I AM, He was alluding to His Divinity. He was telling Moses that His full infinite power would be with Moses as he set out upon his task. Likewise, the Lord gives us the same assurance. If we make the effort to take advantage of performing good services when the opportunities present themselves, the Lord will be with us in His full Divinity. The Lord’s infinite love and wisdom will be present with us as we perform our unique gifts.

The Writings for the New Church teach clearly that the Lord is in every detail of creation. This includes that the Lord is personally present with all of us. If all of a sudden you were the only person alive upon the earth, He would not be any closer to you than He is right now. The Lord is fully aware of our concerns and challenges. For the most part, we are not consciously aware of the Lord’s presence at every moment. This is so that we are in freedom which allows us to enjoy the life the Lord is providing for us. However, the Lord is intimately aware of our state, and how we can be of use to His kingdom. The Lord looks and regards each of us for what we can provide in making heaven more wonderful, more perfect, and more effective. While we are upon the earth, the Lord works in us so that we are able to manifest heaven and further establish heavenly principles. And the Lord unceasingly provides what we need to accomplish our task, which is so precious in His sight.

The Lord’s operation in our lives is the Holy Spirit. The teachings about the Holy Spirit reveal how the Lord works within us. It is because the Lord is unceasingly working within us that we can not only enter heaven, but make it better from our presence there. Everyone’s abilities and contribution are of equal value in the sight of the Lord.

Yet just having the Lord’s unceasing love and wisdom present with us does not automatically mean we will accomplish our God- given task. We also must cooperate with Him. The Writings teach that we cooperate with the Lord when our lives are in order. We have the proper loves and the proper priorities established in our lives when we simply comply with the teachings from the Word. As we obey the Word and remove the disorders in our lives that disagree with what the Word teaches, our lives are becoming more and more established in Divine order. This produces a living conjunction with the Lord. And the more our lives are in order, the stronger the bond with the Lord. It is then that we accomplish and enjoy the calling the Lord is leading us into. It is then that we escape from the consequences of our past evils and journey toward a state of freedom in the Lord’s kingdom.

There are three things to be aware of if we are to be motivated by a confidence that the Lord’s power is with us. First, we must recognize that it is the Divinity of the Lord that allows good services to be done. Just as Moses was powerless of himself to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, so too are we powerless to perform services that truly accomplish good and bring heaven to earth.

Secondly, we must be willing to face reality. If we are to have the discipline and the ability to perform services that help other people and bring heaven to the earth, we must be able to face reality. When we accept truth, we are dealing with realty. New Church doctrine teaches that the most fundamental reality is that all things are from the Lord. The more we are sincerely in that confession and cooperating with it, the more we are able to face and respond to what is real. The more we are able to face reality and not try to hide from it or cover it up, the more we are equipped to help others and provide services for them. Heaven is a state where we function in what is real. On the other hand, hell is a state where we fantasize what is real so that we can indulge in selfish desires or intentionally delude ourselves that a disorder is not really present. Facing reality prevents us from going through denial. Loving truth allows us to enjoy reality. The more we are content with what is real, the more we will find contentment with our lives on earth and what we will do in heaven.

And third, we must realize that it is the Lord that establishes the church. It was the Lord that led Israel out of Egypt. He accomplished it through Moses, but it was from the Lord’s power. Likewise, when we are able to display heavenly loves before others, the church is being established by the Lord through us. The good that we do is really the Lord’s work. We can make the church on earth more effective by our obeying the Lord’s commandments. However, it is the Lord that is making the church more prominent upon the earth. The Writings are clear that the Lord does not need the help of people or angels to bring good and peace upon the earth. However, he uses us so that we can find delight and fulfillment in this awesome work. The Lord can make our married partner happy and useful, but He works through us to make our partner content and spiritually effective. The Lord can guide our children to eternal life without our assistance, but He works through us to instruct each child in what is right and holy. The same is true of our friends, fellow workers, and others we come in contact with. The Lord has allowed us to have an integral part in bringing heavenly loves and truth to the world so that we can find heavenly contentment and peace in what the Lord is accomplishing on the earth.

When we receive the Lord, we can do marvelous things. When the Lord guides our lives, we can “cast the mountains into the sea.” A clear awareness is being developed of what is right and wrong, and we have the discipline and the strength to cast away that barrier to heaven. Also, we will have a sense of the Lord’s power present with us. We will be like Elisha’s servant who saw a host of fiery chariots surrounding him when a band of Syrian raiders was about to attack him. When we are confronted with the attacks from the hells, if we continue to look to the Lord our eyes will be open and we will see from within that we were always under the Lord’s protection and have the power to achieve great spiritual victories. Whenever we do something that is good and honorable from a desire and intent to obey the Lord, the Lord is conjoined to that good and can use it to bring heaven to the earth. For us to accomplish our calling, we must allow the Lord to establish in us a conscience of good. We must allow Him to establish in us a conviction that we want good and true principles to be accomplished within us and by us. Because the Lord is not limited to natural properties, He can be with us with His full and infinite Divinity in the minutest details of our lives. We can rejoice that when we are conjoined with the Lord, we are having an important and valuable role in the most important and wonderful work that we can be a part of. And we can rejoice in our opportunities where we can make the Lord’s church more visible upon the earth. We can do wonderful things in the name of the Lord. For the Lord tells each one of us: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Amen.

Lessons: Exodus 3:1-14, John 8:48-59, AC 6880

Arcana Coelestia 6880

I AM WHO I AM. That this signifies the Being and Coming- forth of all things in the universe is evident from the fact that “I am” is Being, and because He alone is Being, it is said in the nominative case. That it is twice said “I AM,” that is, “I AM who I AM,” is because the one signifies Being and the other Coming- forth; thus the one signifies the Divine Itself, which is called the “Father,” and the other the Divine Human, which is called the “Son”; for the Divine Human comes forth from the Divine Itself. But when the Lord as to the Human also was made the Divine Being (Esse) or Jehovah, then the Divine truth, which proceeds from the Lord’s Divine Human, is the Divine Coming-forth from the Divine Being. From this it can be seen that the Divine Being cannot communicate Itself to anyone except through the Divine Coming- forth; that is, the Divine Itself cannot communicate Itself except through the Divine Human, and the Divine Human cannot communicate itself except through the Divine truth, which is the Holy of the Spirit: this is meant by its being said that all things were made by the Word (John 1:3). It appears to man as if the Divine truth were not such that anything can come forth by means of it; for it is believed that it is like a voice, which being uttered with the lips, is dissipated. But it is altogether otherwise: the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord is the veriest reality, and such a reality that all things have come forth from it, and all things subsist from it; for whatever proceeds from the Lord is the veriest reality in the universe; and such is the Divine truth, which is called the “Word,” through which all things were made.