The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory” (John 1:14).

The Lord loves each of us and wants us to be as happy as we
can be to eternity. He loves us. He has loved every human being who
has lived in the past. He loves all the people who have yet to be born.
Love that is genuine has three qualities. We read in the Writings of
the New Church: “It is the essence of Love to love others outside of
one self, to desire to be one with them, and to render them blessed
from oneself.” (True Christian Religion 43)

God has this love in perfection at the very core of who He is. He
loves us so much that we’re told that no matter what we have done,
He cannot even look at us with a stern countenance. (True Christian
Religion 56e) There is a part of human nature that cannot possibly
believe that this is the case. Since it isn’t the way we react to people
when they’ve been destructive or just frustrating, it doesn’t make
sense to us that the Lord would have such a different reaction. The
only way we can easily imagine this perspective, before we’ve grown
spiritually to feel something of it ourselves, is to picture God as being
like a foolishly doting parent who will overlook or not recognize any
fault, forgive any transgression, and give in eventually to any request.
Such a parent is viewed by a child as a pushover and the child will
hold him or her in very low respect. A child who is unfortunate to grow
up with parenting like this will face a huge number of unnecessary
problems as he or she gets older. The child will tend to become adept
at being manipulative. He or she will tend to have trouble recognizing
that one’s own needs and wants need to be balanced or tempered by
those of people around oneself. If the child runs into an adult who
does present obstacles or boundaries to the child’s wishes, that child
can be furious or hurt by this intrusion. To the extent that the child
continues to believe that the foolish parent’s responses are the ways
things are supposed to be, he or she will be a danger to self and
others.

The Lord loves us perfectly and this love is expressed through
perfect wisdom. Wisdom is what gives form to love. A woman can
have a deep desire to bake a delicious meal for a friend, but if she is
too ignorant, too inexperienced in the kitchen she may instead
produce food that is nearly inedible. Desire or love by itself is blind.
The woman needs to know how to cook and what to cook if she
wants to achieve her goal of a delicious meal for a friend. When she
succeeds, at the core of her efforts will be her love, and this will be
guided each step of the way by an understanding of how to reach the
goal she seeks.

The opening sentences of the Gospel of John describe the
relationship of love and wisdom within the Lord, the infinite God from
eternity, the creator and sustainer of all life. These sentences use the
term “the Word.” It is a translation of the original Greek, logos. It
means the word by which inner thought is expressed or the inner
thought and reason itself. The Logos spoken of in the Gospel of John
is the infinite wisdom that gives form to the Divine Love. It is both one
with this love and can be thought of as a separate quality. All of
creation, whose goal is an expression of Divine love was guided by
this Logos or perfect wisdom.

So we read in the opening of this gospel: “In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He
was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John1:1-3)
The goal of creation was and is the fulfillment of the Divine love.
The first quality of which is that true love must have another or others
outside of self to love. Concerning this quality of the Lord we are told:
The first essential, which is to love others outside of one’s self, is
recognized in God’s love for the whole human race; and for its sake
God loves all things that He has created because they are means; for
when the end is loved the means also are loved. All human beings
and things in the universe are outside of God, because they are finite
and God is infinite. The love of God goes forth and extends not only
to good people and good things, but also to evil people and evil
things; consequently not only to the people and things in heaven but
also in hell, thus not only to Michael and Gabriel but also to the devil
and satan; for God is everywhere, and is from eternity to eternity the
same. He says also that “He makes the sun to rise on the good and
on the evil, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew
5:45)

But the reason why evil people continue to be evil, and evil
things continue to be evil, lies in the subjects and objects themselves,
in that they do not receive the love of God as it is, and as it is in
mostly in them, but as they themselves are; in the same way as
thorns and thistles receive the heat of the sun and the rain of heaven.
(True Christian Religion 43)

Each of us is a focus of the Lord’s love. He has created us with
the goal and intention of serving us and bringing us joy. When we
think of the billions of human beings alive today in this world, it is
almost impossible to envision that the Lord views each of us as
individuals. We look at a forest of trees and can say I love every one
of the leaves in this forest, but we are speaking abstractly. But the
Lord is very different. He is our loving heavenly Father. Just as an
attentive parent sees each of his children as wonderfully unique
individuals, beloved each in their own right, needing a special kind of
parenting and guidance, experiencing his or her own joys and
challenges, so the Lord loves each of us as individuals. In fact, He
knows infinitely more about each of us than the most attentive parent
could ever know about a child. It is His joy to share in our lives.
But just having created “others” in existence isn’t enough to
fulfill true Love. The second quality of this love is described with these
words:

The second essential of the love of God, which is a desire to be
one with others, is recognized in His conjunction with the angelic
heaven, with the church on earth, with every one there, and with
every thing good and true that enters into and constitutes each
person and the church. Moreover, love viewed in itself is nothing but
an endeavor towards conjunction; therefore that this aim of the
essence of love might be realized each and every human being was
created by God into His own image and likeness, with which a
conjunction is possible. That the Divine love continually seeks
conjunction is evident from the Lord’s own words: That He wishes
them to be one, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God
might be in them. (John 17:21-23, 26 and True Christian Religion 43)

“Love viewed in itself is nothing but an endeavor towards
conjunction.” What do these words mean? Specifically, what does
“conjunction” mean? It is a desire to share in common goals and
common understandings. It is a desire for a deep relationship of trust
and mutual goodwill. Conjunction or a deep relationship of love is
impossible without freedom to choose that relationship. Imagine the
child of very wealthy parents who feels lonely and is told, “Don’t
worry, we’ll pay someone to be your friend.” Or consider the boss
who suspects that the only reason an employee is so solicitous of his
ideas and welfare is the fear of being fired if they expressed their real
opinion. What kind of relationships would these be? Would they be
anything more than very superficial? Would there be anything more
than a temporary “oneness of purpose” so long as there was
payment or continuing fear of consequences for not going along.
There could be no real love or real conjunction in these cases. So
likewise, it is essential to the Lord that we be free to choose to love
what He loves, to accept His wisdom, or to reject them both. We can
choose to be with Him or choose to distance ourselves from His life.
But for us to choose a relationship of love with the Lord we
have to know of Him, His goals, and His thoughts. Otherwise we
would not know what we were choosing and not choosing. For this
reason, the Lord has made sure that everyone has the essential
knowledge of His qualities. Concerning this we read the following
from the book the Divine Providence, “Everyone acknowledges God
and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life. All can have
a knowledge of God who know anything from religion….The general
principles of all religions by which everyone can be saved are: To
acknowledge God; and to refrain from doing evil because it is against
God. These are the two things which make religion to be religion. If
one of them is wanting it cannot be called religion, since to
acknowledge God and to do evil is a contradiction; so also is to do
good and yet not acknowledge God, for one is not possible without
the other. It has been provided by the Lord that almost everywhere
there should be some form of religion, and that in every religion there
should be these two principles; and it has also been provided by the
Lord that everyone who acknowledges God and refrains from doing
evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven.” (Divine
Providence 326:6,9)

The Lord has worked to make sure that the essential
knowledge for salvation has been available to all people. But He also
wants more than just the essential. He has provided that there be
specific revelation to form a church of human beings that could know
Him more clearly and worship Him as He truly is. For this reason the
Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings of the New
Church have been revealed. By itself written revelation describing
what we are to do would not have been enough. It was essential that
the Lord, the infinite God and Creator, be born into this world and
make His essential Humanity visible and knowable to us. Mere words
would not have done it. And so we read in the Gospel of John: “And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory.” (John 1:14) The Advent of the otherwise invisible and
unknowable Infinite Creator into this world is the event that we will
celebrate on December 25th. Christmas is the celebration of the
Lord’s birth into this world as a human being who we can see in our
mind’s eye. We can read of how He taught, healed, lived, allowed
Himself to be put to death, and rose as our Savior and Redeemer.
Without this clear example we would not be able to freely follow Him
and freely love Him. He would be too distant and unknowable to us.
The final fulfillment of true love is shown in its third quality.
The third essential of the love of God, which is to render others
blessed from Himself, is recognized in eternal life, which Is the
endless blessedness, happiness, and joy that God gives to those who
receive into themselves His love. For as God is love itself, so is He
blessedness itself; for all love breathes forth delight from itself, and
the Divine love breathes forth blessedness itself, happiness, and joy
to eternity. Thus God from Himself renders the angels blessed, and
people after death; and this He does by conjunction with them. (True
Christian Religion 43)

If we are to receive these blessings of happiness and peace,
we must be joined in a deep relationship of love with the Lord. We
must freely choose to turn to His Word, learn what it teaches, and
consciously compel ourselves to think, speak, and live better than we
naturally incline to. We must turn to the Lord in prayer asking for His
help and guidance. Gradually He will help us to recognize His love
and His order more and more clearly. Gradually He will help us to
think and will more and more as He does. Gradually He will bring us
into a oneness with Him. If we cooperate with the Lord He will conjoin
us in heart, mind, and life with Him and from this conjunction comes
true happiness for us and for Him. This is the most wonderful gift
anyone could ever receive.
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 40:9-11, John 1:1-5, 14, 13:15, True Christian
Religion 339:1-2

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Loving the truth is intending and doing it.”

Heaven and Hell 15 

Love and Judgment

Love and Judgment

A Sermon By Rev. Mike Gladish

A Big Spiritual Dilemma

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As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ each year we are confronted with the age old problem of reconciling two apparently contradictory principles: love and judgment. “For God so loved the world,” we read, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yet Jesus Himself said “For judgment I have come into the world…” (John 9:39). “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

What a curious fact. We normally think of God Himself as somehow requiring judgment, and Jesus as the loving Savior. But truth is the standard of judgment, and it does tend to condemn, since no one is perfect, indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So if Jesus came to teach the truth and to judge, how are we saved?

Most Christians say that we are saved by faith in the “fact” that He suffered and died on our behalf, offering Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole human race (past, present and future). The idea is that in confronting the evils and falsities of the world He became a “lightning rod” for all the hatred of the world, and that by suffering on our behalf He relieved us of any need to suffer. In classic Christian theology this is called the “vicarious atonement.”

But this makes the love of God rather demanding, don’t you think? – that He should require a Divinely human sacrifice to move Him to pity and forgiveness? Indeed, it seems rather pagan, doesn’t it? One gets the sense of an angry, jealous God demanding payment for the sins of the world and being appeased only by the brutal murder of His own Son. What kind of love is this, and what kind of judgment?

Unconditional Love?

What a contrast this is from all the talk we hear today about “unconditional love,” that is, love that requires nothing but accepts all

people without qualification. We hear it everywhere! “God loves me just as I am.” And it’s TRUE! But does He love the WAY we are? Note the Gospel is ALL about the need to change, beginning with the first words of Jesus’ public ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

So how can we understand God’s love? And how can we reconcile that love with what He does require?

Here’s a simple answer: God’s love is such that He wants to make us happy to eternity (True Christian Religion 43). You can’t ask for much more than that.

But in order to be happy we have to live in harmony and co-operation with the laws of order. Who could possibly imagine that God would love our misery or our mistakes, our selfishness or our stupidity? No, it is because He loves us that He wants us NOT to be miserable, selfish or stupid. And this love is unconditional, but it requires wisdom, or judgment to be effective.

So getting back to Christmas, we can think of it this way: – God in His Infinite love says to Himself, “My people are miserable, what can I do to make them happy?” And from His infinite wisdom He replies, “I must go down there and show them how to find happiness; I must not force them, but teach them, and show them, so that they have a choice and can turn their lives around.”

The Real Nature of Judgment, or Conditions for Salvation

There are two words in the Gospels for judgment. One refers to condemnation and the other to the concept of discernment, or prudence. The Lord in the Gospels clearly spoke of both, but when He taught He did not do so with any intention to condemn but rather “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). And here’s the key: – not saved by His sacrificial death on the cross, but saved by the freedom that His teaching and a proper discernment of the truth provides (John 8:32) so that we can enjoy an orderly, fulfilling spiritual life.

And this freedom implies decisions, judgments that we must make. For example, there is no doubt that we should love all people, even as our heavenly Father loves all people, “making His sun to shine on the evil and on the good… sending rain on the just and on the unjust”

(Matthew 5:45), but we cannot love their evil or their falsity or their confusion or their grief. We cannot love it and we cannot confirm it or support it. Thus we cannot show our love for all people in the same way. Neither could the Lord, which is why He condemned the scribes and Pharisees even though presumably He loved them too.

And He said, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Note, “If he repents.” The same message is clear in the parable of the prodigal son: his father had compassion on him when he repented and came home (Luke 15:11-32). To do otherwise would be to support the disorder, and that is NOT truly loving. So we have the teaching that “Christian prudence demands that a person’s life should be carefully checked, and charity exercised accordingly” (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 85).

But again, back to Christmas.

There is an appearance in the literal stories in the Gospels that God sent His Son as someone separate from Himself into the world, “that the world through Him [not the Father] might be saved.” But the truth is that God, being pure, unconditional love in its very essence, provided for the salvation of the world by clothing HIMSELF in the human form AS Jesus Christ so that He could teach the truth with love and so remove all the obstacles to a life of faith.

This is why, in perhaps the most famous Advent prophecy of all, we read, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Note, He is all of these in ONE person.

This is why Jesus Himself said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30); “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

But how could the Infinite be contained in a finite body? And who looked after the rest of the universe while it was so contained? We might as well ask how the mind can look after the body while its thoughts are focused on one small thing. The fact is, the infinite is not contained or limited in any way, but it does manifest itself in a focused way in the love and wisdom of Christ.

The Dilemma Solved

So we see that the story of Christmas is not the story of God demanding any thing, least of all a human sacrifice. It is the story of love providing the wisdom necessary for us to take responsibility, to make good judgments, and to keep His commandments for our own sake, indeed, for our eternal welfare.

So it is the story of love and wisdom working together, as they always do, and working in this case in a human form for all to see and understand.

“I have come,” Jesus said, “as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). And “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

So, may this and “all your Christmases be bright” with the light of His love and wisdom!

https://newchurch.org/

Daily Inspiration

“A person is entirely the same character as their love.”

Arcana Coelestia 6872

The Lord God Jesus Christ

The Lord God Jesus Christ
A Sermon by Rev. Grant R. Schnarr

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Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have.
Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny,
including our homes in the other world, are formed by our view of
God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our
understanding and our relationship with our Maker.
Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be
a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to
this image. Historically humans have perverted or destroyed the
picture of God over and over again, and used a twisted
understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The
Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord,
and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can
make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the
true God.

Culture and times can be biased against a true picture of God.
For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, the punisher,
the warrior, or a remote and uncaring Ruler. Or the opposite kind of
God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling,
anything goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the
world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example
of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a
struggle to understand Revelation.

In the past history of the Christian church, truth has certainly
taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith alone
world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A
natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s
world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing,
so were women treated the same. In a faith alone culture, male
attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that
even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past
quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather
than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, not to be
taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception,
gentleness, nurturing are looked upon as second rate feelings, many
of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the
constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not
count. From a truth dominated culture a false concept of God is
created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules
seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor
limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct
set of ideas, and punishes those who do not. God can seem to
become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on
Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday
morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with
this God and be told that this is the true God and you must worship
Him?

Cultural bias not only affects our view of God, but our lives, and
the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.
And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring
back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in
their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible
image of God in a Divinely Human form for what actually is the first
time in religious history. (Read True Christian Religion #787 and
following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture
of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically
different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and
in life. The Writings say no to a truth alone world and firmly present
the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection
(DLW 28-33).

However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false
doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord,
which reflects all of humanity, without bias from past or present
cultures? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by
cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more
wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God
through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God
with our own hands, in our own image?

Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there
are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings
are called the leaves of the Tree of Life, for the healing of the nations.
Revelation from God is the source of healing, if one can approach it
and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever growing
understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord,
a living picture, and through this Window into eternity we can behold
the face of our Creator, and see our own face reflected therein.

What does Revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime.
Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and
apply them to this issue, to begin to build a healthy and genuine
concept of God. First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our
Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This
is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker.
“Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings
say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person
who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is
thinking materially…

Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do
not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of
His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also;
but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His
person” (Apocalypse Revealed 611:7).

Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us.
Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view,
and translating that into the essence of God, is not helpful. In modern
terms, getting hung up on the physical form of the Lord while He was
on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we
think of the essence is not helpful. An example of this would be
statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is
thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM, while the
origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute
qualities of creation to the uncreated is like calling the Potter clay.
But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are
not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human
being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged,
disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with
the Lord.

But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence
to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all
loving, all wise, ever creating, ever nurturing Force, from whom all
people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these
infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this,
we allow the invisible to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on
the sea, with His arms opened inviting you into His embrace (True
Christian Religion 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place,
through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ,
as revealed in His Word.

But we are to worship Him as the Lord as Jesus Christ and no
other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God
invisible. The Writings tell us, “In respect of His Divine Human the
Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself
within the Lord, called the Father, except though the Son, that is, the
Divine Human… Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual
joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought how can they
be joined to the Divine itself in love.” (Arcana Coelestia 6804:4)
The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself
human form, and this to allow people to approach Him … It is this
Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates…
This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God…is called
the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation.” (True
Christian Religion 135:4)

And so the Lord said, “I am the way the truth, and the Life. No
one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me,
you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know
Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7)

The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made
manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word, and
proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus
Christ. Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we
allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine
Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be
conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer of the church once said, “When
I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He
clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the
lightening flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in
the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who Himself
called a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so
many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did for me.” The
question might be asked,

“What does it do for you?”
The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels
and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines, is given to the
human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and
with that — healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because
of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, to approach this image as
presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed
from essence to person can be in filled with a variety of descriptions
from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus
does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry
mouths, cries for His people, and calls each of us to arms of love and
compassion. He says,

“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He cries out to a church that has
gone astray in faith alone, He says, and listen to His words,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and
stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but
you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say
to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who
comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39 )

Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as
all encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and
Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His
own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full
hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
What is the essential message of the New Church? Is the
message of the New Church that God is inaccessible to some people,
for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time
picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The
answer is NO! Is the message of the New Church that anything
goes? You can make up your own God here, in any fashion you
choose? The answer is NO! The message of the New Church is clear
in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and
held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background
or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This
message is for everyone, to be in filled by every individual in a way
that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them.
The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ Reigns, and His
Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the
marriage supper of the Lamb (True Christian Religion 791). The Lord
promises us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me
to give to everyone according to their work” (Rev. 22:12). May
ourresponse be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips,
“Even so,come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; Arcana Coelestia 8705

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love wants to love and it wants to be loved.”

True Christian Religion 99

The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Grace Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
By the Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen”
(Revelation 22:21).
At the end of many New Church services the minister’s final
words are the benediction, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you all. Amen.” Other than this you would probably hear only
rare reference to the word “grace” within the New Church.
The terms, grace, mercy, and forgiveness are interconnected,
but not the same. One of the appealing ideas associated with the
Lord’s message in the New Testament is the concept of Divine
forgiveness. We don’t have to live a perfect life to make it to heaven,
and indeed we are incapable of being perfect. We all fall far short of
perfection. Even the most loving and wise angel doesn’t remotely
approach perfection. We are not perfect because our understanding
is always limited and our motivations are never completely pure.
Sometimes these qualities have only faint effects on our actions and
sometimes we, as human beings, knowingly, and with intention
choose to think, say, and do evil things. In the words of Revelation, all
that we do is written in our book of life. By the measure of perfect
truth, then each of our book of life would keep us from heaven. But
the Lord isn’t just perfect truth. He is perfect love and this love lifts all
to heaven, as it were overcoming the evil loves and false ideas that
we have attached to our lives.

The Lord as King governs each and all things in the universe
from Divine truth; and as Priest, from Divine good. Divine truth is the
very order of His universal kingdom, all the laws of which are truths,
or eternal verities Divine good is the very essential of order, all things
of which are of mercy. Both of these are predicated of the Lord. If
Divine truth alone were His, no mortal could be saved, for truths
condemn every one to hell; but Divine good, which is of mercy, uplifts
from hell to heaven (Arcana Caelestia 1728).

It is very important that each of us thinks of ourselves as being
capable of learning what is true and good and becoming better and
better able to do what is truly useful. Sometimes a person’s thoughts
can so focus on his flaws and ignorance that he feels incapable of
being useful or is encouraged into feeling irresponsible about even
trying to become a better person. But if we overcome these false
ideas, and become better and better at living a truly useful life, it is
important for us to know and acknowledge that we will always need
the Lord’s help.

Every one believes at the present day that the evil loves and
false ideas in a person are entirely separated and abolished during
regeneration, so that when he becomes regenerate, nothing of this
evil or falsity remains, but he is clean and righteous, like one washed
and purified with water. This notion is, however, utterly false; for not a
single evil love or false idea can be so shaken off as to be abolished;
but whatever has been hereditarily derived from infancy, and
acquired by act and deed, remains; so that a person, notwithstanding
his being regenerate, is nothing but evil and falsity, as is shown in a
living way to souls after death. The truth of this may be sufficiently
manifest from the consideration, that there is nothing of good and
nothing of truth in a person except from the Lord, and that all evil and
falsity are the person’s from those things that are his own; and that a
person, spirit, and even angel, if left in the least to himself, would rush
of himself into hell; wherefore also it is said in the Word that heaven
is not pure. This is acknowledged by angels, and he who does not
acknowledge it cannot be among angels. It is the Lord’s mercy alone
that frees them, and even draws them out of hell and keeps them
from rushing thither of themselves.

That they are kept by the Lord from rushing into hell, is clearly
perceived by the angels, and even in a measure by good spirits. Evil
spirits however, like people, do not believe this; but it has often been
shown them (Arcana Caelestia 868:1).

This passage states that it is the Lord’s mercy that frees us.
There are actually three distinct concepts of how the Lord’s
forgiveness is received by a person. The first is a dangerous falsity
that has led people away from following the Lord and trying to live a
good life. This is the belief that a person is forgiven and receives the
benefits of the Lord’s mercy purely by means of faith or an
acknowledgment of Christ’s death on the cross. This idea of
forgiveness and mercy, together with other supporting ideas, has led
some to assert that how a person lives his life makes no difference,
as is spoken of in the following passages:

“From this one error [that truth is the essential of the church, and so
essential that truth, which people call faith, has power to save without
the good which is of charity], very many other errors have been
derived, which have infected not only doctrine, but also life; as for
instance that no matter how a person lives, provided he has faith he
is saved; that even the most wicked are received into heaven if in the
hour of death they make profession of such things as are of faith; and
that every one can be received into heaven merely from grace,
whatever his life has been. In consequence of holding this doctrine
they at last do not know what charity is, nor do they care for it; and
finally they do not believe there is such a thing, nor consequently that
there is a heaven or a hell (Arcana Caelestia 4925:2).

“[A false principle of religion] is the doctrinal idea of a church
which acknowledges faith alone as a principle, as that a person is
justified by faith alone, that then all sins are wiped away from him,
that he may be saved by faith alone even in the last hour of his life,
that salvation is merely admission into heaven through grace, …
These and the like are the special things belonging to the principle of
faith alone. But if the church would acknowledge as its principle the
life of faith, it would acknowledge charity toward the neighbor and
love to the Lord, consequently the works of charity and of love, and
then all these special things would fall to pieces; and instead of
justification it would acknowledge regeneration” (Arcana Caelestia
4721).

Both of these passages mention the word “grace” and it might
be concluded from its association with a clearly false idea, that it
perhaps makes one with a false idea of forgiveness and salvation, but
this is not the case.

The Writings of the New Church distinguish a fundamental
difference between grace and mercy that has to do with the
recognition a person has of his or her need for the Lord’s help. Those
people whose approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they
know and acknowledge to be true are called spiritual. Those people
approach to the Lord is more dominated by what they love and
acknowledge to good are called are called heavenly, or “celestial.”
Those who, at the core of their life, are led by their understanding (or
I believe by simple obedience) acknowledge in their thoughts that
they are not perfect and that they need the Lord’s help. They
nevertheless are not so aware of their faults and flaws other than
intellectually. Consequently their humility is affected by the fact that
they sense that they see their faults and flaws with their own
intellectual ability.

A person can acknowledge, from his own reflection that he has
trouble telling the truth and the whole truth about a situation, can
acknowledge that this evil, feel remorse for this fault, and still have it
all be significantly a matter of thought. Such a person may have a
genuine humility in his approach to the Lord, but it is limited. Such a
person knows that he needs the Lord’s help in fighting this evil
tendency, knows that he needs the Lord’s forgiveness for the times
that he has lied to himself and others, and knows that as he fights this
tendency he will receive the Lord’s help and forgiveness. This state of
mind seeks what the Writings would call the Lord’s grace.

But if a person, at the core of his life, is led by a love of what is
good, he will sense the presence of evil loves and false ideas in his
life with a horrifying and saddening clarity. He will sense at a very
deep level of his life that he is absolutely dependent on the Lord’s
help. His humility before the Lord will be from his heart and far, far
surpass that of the person who is led more by his understanding.
Such people are the ones that the Writings state really understand
the Lord’s mercy.

This distinction is indicated in the following passages: “The
mercy of the Lord involves and looks to the salvation of the human
race; and so does His grace. In the Word however a distinction is
made between mercy and grace, a distinction which depends in fact
on the difference in those who are their recipients. Mercy applies to
those who are heavenly, but grace to those who are spiritual, for
heavenly people acknowledge nothing other than mercy, while
spiritual people acknowledge hardly anything other than grace.
Heavenly people do not know that grace is, while the spiritual
scarcely know what mercy is, for they make mercy and grace to be
one and the same. The reason for the difference springs from each
one’s humility. People in whom there is humility of heart plead for the
Lord’s mercy, but those in whom there is humility of mind seek His
grace. Or if the latter do plead for mercy they do so in a state of
temptation or with the lips only and not with the heart”
(Arcana Caelestia 598:2).

“People governed by an affection for truth are not able to
humble themselves sufficiently so as to acknowledge from the heart
that all things are attributable to mercy; and this being so, instead of
mercy they speak of grace. Indeed the less affection for truth is in
them, the less humility there is within their speaking of grace. On the
other hand the more affection for good exists with someone the more
humility there is within his speaking of mercy” (Arcana Caelestia
2423).

The Holy Supper is the act of worship that most clearly reflects
our need for the Lord’s help. In it we turn to the Lord, seeking to
receive more of His life within our own. The bread represents the
Lord’s love that we need within our own hearts, fundamentally
changing what we care about and make most important. The wine
represents the Lord’s wisdom that we need in our thoughts,
fundamentally changing how we see ourselves, others, and the life
we are to lead. Each of us, if we are to approach the Holy Supper
worthily, need to be actively acknowledging that we have specific
faults and flaws that harm us, others, and the uses we seek to
achieve. We need to acknowledge these evil loves and false
ideas to ourselves and to the Lord. We are to pray for His help in
fighting their influence and we are to be doing the best we can to
change the quality of the thoughts, words, and deeds that have been
tainted by them in the past.

To begin with this effort will be more a matter of intellectual
acknowledgment and we will in reality be seeking the Lord’s grace.
As the miracle of regeneration occurs we will come more and more to
recognize and acknowledge on a progressively deeper level that we
can not be the person we want to be or accomplish the things we
hope to without the Lord’s constant presence and help. From an ever
greater humility we will turn to the Lord for this help. More and more
we will truly know what His mercy is.

We cannot instantly change who we are. In fact, by ourselves,
we cannot change at all. With the Lord’s help we can gradually
become better and better human beings. Where ever we are in
spiritual growth, may we turn to the Lord, acknowledging as best we
can our need for His help. May we do our part to receive His life, His
love and wisdom more and more within our lives. And from this we
will become more and more useful human beings, all who our lives
touch will be blessed by this growing ability, and we ourselves will
grow in fulfillment and blessedness.
AMEN.
Lessons: Revelation 22:12-21, Arcana Caelestia 598:2, Arcana
Caelestia 242

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“To acquire a heavenly selfhood a person needs to do good from themself and to think truth from themself, but still must know that all the good and all the truth are from the Lord. ”

Arcana Coelestia 2883

The Transfiguration Of The Lord

The Transfiguration Of The Lord
A Sermon by Rev Kurt H. Asplundh

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“A bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice
came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased. Hear Him!'” (Matt. 17:5)
Our subject is the Transfiguration of the Lord, that amazing
event recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, when the
Lord was transformed before the eyes of Peter, James and John. We
will consider this in four parts, each answering a question: First, what
took place and how did it actually happen? Second, what did it teach
about Jesus? Third, what is its representative meaning? And fourth,
What does it mean for us? What did happen?

The Lord, with His disciples, had come into the region of
Caesarea Philippi, a city north of the land of Israel situated at the
headwaters of the Jordan River. Nearby were the slopes of Mount
Hermon rising to snowcapped peaks. We can remember this
mountain from the 133rd Psalm which speaks of the delightful “dew of
Hermon” descending on the mountains of Zion. Choosing Peter,
James and John who accompanied Him on other intimate occasions,
the Lord went up onto this mountain to pray. The disciples, seemingly
dozing off after their climb, suddenly became fully awake to observe
that their Lord’s face was altered as He prayed, now shining like the
sun; and His clothing glistened with whiteness, like the snow, beyond
any imaginable whiteness of clean linen. Also, the disciples saw two
men whom they recognized as Moses, their ancient lawgiver, and
Elijah the prophet, who appeared in glory and spoke with the Lord of
His forthcoming death in Jerusalem.

Peter, overwhelmed at this wondrous sight, said, “Lord, … let us
make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one
for Elijah.” (Matt. 17:4) As he said this, a bright cloud overshadowed
them, and from the cloud a voice saying, “This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5). All three disciples
heard this and fell on their faces, greatly afraid. When the Lord came
to touch them and raise them up, the vision had ended. He was
alone, no longer surrounded by flaming glory and glistening light.
What happened on this occasion was a real experience, not a
dream or hallucination. The three disciples were introduced briefly
into conscious life in the spiritual world. Their spiritual eyes were
opened and, for a few moments, they saw as the angels see:
beholding the deeper spiritual qualities of their Lord that are visible in
that superior realm. Indeed, the disciples saw the face of the Lord like
the sun because His Divine love shines forth in the spiritual world as
a sun. The doctrine of the New Church teaches that He is seen by the
angels above the heavens, encompassed by the flaming brilliance of
His own Divine love.

Spiritual visions are common in Scripture, especially with the
prophets, and these took place through an opening of spiritual senses
latent in us all but now opened only rarely. For example, John
experienced visions when banished to the Isle of Patmos. Again, “in
the spirit,” as at the time of the transfiguration, having his spiritual
eyes opened, He saw the Lord as a Divine Man, “His eyes like a
flame of fire,” His hair “as white as snow.”

Having considered so far what actually happened at the
transfiguration, let us now ask what it teaches about Jesus. The voice
from the cloud which put the disciples into a state of such profound
humility and fear identified him as the “Son of God.” “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5)
Who is this “beloved Son”? The doctrine of the New Church
describes Him as the “Divine Human,” God in Human form. “Before
the Lord came into the world He was present with men of the church
but only medially through angels who represented Him; but since His
coming He is present with men of the church immediately, and this
because in the world He put on also a Divine Natural [form] in which
He is present with men.” (TCR 109) Jehovah God put on a degree of
life called the Natural, “thereby becoming Man, like a man in the
world,” we are told, “but with the difference that in the Lord this
degree … is infinite and uncreated … ” (DLW 233, emphasis added)
He made His Natural Divine.

We are told that while the Lord “was indeed born as is another
man, … this human the Lord entirely cast out, so that He was no
longer the son of Mary, and made the Human in Himself Divine …
and He also showed to Peter, James, and John, when He was
transfigured, that He was a Divine Man.” (AC 4692:5) “It was plainly
the Divine Human of the Lord that was thus seen” and identified by
the voice heard from the cloud as the “beloved Son” (AE 64:3). Many
gospel teachings show the importance of this recognition of the
Divinity of Jesus; from John, for example, where it says that “No one
has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son … He has declared
Him.” (John 1:18) Again, “Jesus said … I am the way, the truth, and
the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
In another instance, when the disciple Philip said to Jesus: “Lord,
show us the Father … ” He answered: “He who has seen Me has
seen the Father… ” (John 14:9) “I and My Father are one,” He said.
(John 10:30)

“They who are truly men of the church … are acquainted with
and acknowledge a Trine” we are told in the Writings of the New
Church. “But still they humble themselves before the Lord and adore
Him alone, for the reason that they know that there is no access to
the Divine Itself which is called the Father’ except through the Son,
and that all the holy which is of the Holy Spirit proceeds from Him.
When they are in this idea they adore no other than Him through
whom and from whom all things are, thus One.” (Arcana Coelestia
2329:4)

We turn now to the third question of our consideration. What
was the representative meaning of the transfiguration? We must
preface this by pointing out that every account in Scripture has a
representative or parable-like sense. This is illustrated by the Lord’s
parables which contained a deeper meaning. In some places, the
prophets “acted out” a style of life that demonstrated the state of the
nation. What they did had symbolic meaning.

In a similar way, the transfiguration of the Lord represents the
transformation of the Word. In fact, everything that is said in this
account about the Lord can be understood as referring to the Word
and our reception of it.

Consider these parallels. Jesus was present in an external
body. So, too, the Word of Scripture is an external body of history,
laws and prophecy. Jesus revealed a Divine spirit within His body.
So, too, the Word of Scripture has a spirit of truth. When the disciples
went up onto the mountain, their vision was opened to see Jesus in a
new way. When we climb above mundane thoughts and concerns,
we elevate our mind to a state in which we can be given a new vision
of the meaning of the Word.

“The Word in its glory was represented in the Lord when He
was transfigured” (True Christian Religion 222; Doctrine Concerning
the Sacred Scripture 48). We are told in different words that “when
the Lord was transfigured, He presented Himself in the form in which
the Divine truth is in heaven” (Apocalypse Explained 624e). In other
words, He caused Himself “to be seen as the Word” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24).

It is significant that the two men seen talking with Jesus were
Moses and Elijah, both closely linked with the Word of Scripture.
Moses obviously represents that part of the Old Testament we call
“the Law,” while Elijah represents the Prophets (see also Apocalypse
Explained 624e).

Moses and Elijah, when talking to Jesus “spoke of His
decease.” (Luke 9:31) The parallel representation is that the Law and
the Prophets of Scripture treat of the Messiah, some prophecies
specifically foretelling His death.

An important representation or parallel is to be found in the fact
that a cloud overshadowed the disciples during the transfiguration.
Matthew’s gospel describes this as a “bright cloud.” We think of a puff
of cloud momentarily enveloping a group of climbers on a mountain
slope, a cloud penetrated by the sun’s rays, bright but obscuring the
sight of nearby objects. It was from such a passing cloud that the
voice was heard saying: “This is My beloved Son.” (Mark 9:7; Luke
9:35)

We are reminded here of other instances in Scripture where
clouds are mentioned: how Mount Sinai was covered by clouds when
Moses went up to receive the Commandments; the promise that the
second coming of the Lord would be “in the clouds of heaven” (Matt.
24), as it is said:

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him
… ” (Revelations 1:7)

While the transfiguration of the Lord represents the Word in its
glory, the overshadowing cloud represents a particular aspect of the
Word called in New Church doctrine the “sense of the letter”
(Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 48), or Divine truth in its
outmost or literal meaning. (Apocalypse Revealed 24)

When we read of anything in Scripture, as we read here of
clouds, we can interpret the meaning on different levels literal or
symbolic. For example, to believe that Christ will return to earth
surrounded by clouds when the Last Judgment is at hand is to think
literally. We can also think of the same statement symbolically.
The Writings of the New Church have much to say about the
symbolic or representative meaning of clouds. This comes from the
fact that clouds appear in the spiritual world as well as in the natural
world, “but the clouds in the spiritual world appear beneath the
heavens, with those who are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
darker or brighter according to their understanding and reception of
the Word …consequently bright clouds’ are the Divine truth veiled in
appearances of truth … and dark clouds’ are the Divine truths
covered with fallacies and confirmed appearances … ” (Apocalypse
Revealed 24)

When the Word is read according to this spiritual
representation, we can see new meaning in the account of the
overshadowing cloud. It refers to an obscure understanding of Divine
teachings. It represents truth veiled over with appearances drawn
from a literalistic understanding of the Word. Here is an illustration:
When the Lord spoke to Nicodemus about being “born again,”
Nicodemus wondered how it would be possible to enter again into his
mother’s womb (John 3:4). He took the statement literally. The Lord
intended it symbolically.

Consider another example: The Lord once said He would raise
up the temple in three days if it were destroyed. Many took His words
literally, wondering how He could do this when the temple had taken
46 years to build. But He spoke of the temple of His body and His
resurrection in three days. (see John 2:19-21)

Now when the bright cloud overshadowed the disciples, the
symbolic meaning is that the church at that time (which the disciples
represented) “was only in truths from the sense of the letter” of the
Word (Apocalypse Explained 594a).

The remarkable thing to note, however, is that the voice which
identified Jesus as the “beloved Son” came from the cloud. This
revelation, so crucial to Christian belief, is powerfully given in the
sense of the letter of the Word rightly understood. The Writings give
this explanation: “The bright cloud’ which overshadowed the disciples’
represented the Word in the sense of the letter; so from it a voice was
heard, saying, This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him,’ for no
announcements or responses are ever made from heaven except
through outmosts such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word,
for they are made by the Lord in fullness.” (Doctrine Concerning the
Sacred Scripture 48, emphasis added; see Arcana Coelestia 9905)

This teaching that Divine revelations must be made in the
statements of Scripture is illustrated in the parable of Lazarus and the
beggar. Lazarus, the rich man who went to hell, pleaded with Father
Abraham to send someone to his brothers on earth to warn them of
this fate. The answer was: “They have Moses and the Prophets …. If
they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31). Unless
revelations are stated in and confirmed by truths in external form,
they have no power. When presented in that form they have
awesome power and effect. Thus, it was that Peter, James and John
humbled themselves profoundly when the voice came out of the
cloud. It was not only the voice that affected them, but the message:
that their Lord was Divine Man God in Human form!

What, then, does all of this mean for us? What spiritual benefits
come from reading about and understanding the transfiguration of the
Lord? There is a sense in which we can put ourselves in the place of
Peter, James and John and be witness to, and profoundly moved as
they were by, a miraculous transformation of our understanding of the
Word. The transformation for us is in the mind. First it is seeing the
glory flaming in the cloud seeing the spiritual sense of the Word
within the letter which gives it Divine life; for as the apostle Paul said
to the Corinthians, “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2
Corinthians 3:6)

There is a wonder here a miraculous transformation of
Scriptural teachings that have meant little or nothing to us now
suddenly glowing with Divine love and enlightening our minds with
Divine wisdom. Second, it is sensing a holy fear at the presence of
the Lord in His Word. It is humbling ourselves before Him, being
willing to serve and obey Him. It is saying to the Lord and really
meaning it, “Not my will but Thine be done!”

Lastly, it is being touched by Him and lifted in spirit by His
presence and His words. For He said, “Arise, and do not be afraid”
(Matthew 17:7). When we consider the entire sweep of the Lord’s
ministry and its impending conclusion, do we see a reason He
brought these disciples to the mountain for His transfiguration? Would
the experience strengthen them for the days ahead, for their lives as
apostles? Do not we need such strength for the days ahead? Do not
we need the same encouragement to learn and live our faith? We do!
What a comfort it must have been to Peter, James and John,
being greatly afraid during the transfiguration, to have Jesus
afterward touch them and say, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” They
lifted their eyes and saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:7, 8)
Here is a representative parallel for us. He is all we need. In our times
of fear and need the Lord Jesus Christ can touch and comfort us. He
extends His Divine mercy and love to us wherever we are spiritually
because He has drawn near by assuming our nature.
This is what the transfiguration can mean to us. It can mean a
renewal of our religious resolve and a rededication to the worship of
the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified Human.
Amen.
Lessons: Exodus 19:9-11, 16-20; Matthew 17:1-9; Apocalypse
Revealed 24

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nobody can be joined to the Lord except by means of love and charity. Love is spiritual conjunction itself.”

Arcana Coelestia 2349

Behold! The Lamb Of God!

Behold! The Lamb Of God!
A Sermon by Rev. Dr. Reuben P. Bell

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For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who
is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe
wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
Christmas–the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years
ago, and celebrated (by no accident) at the darkest time of the year.
There are many themes woven into the Christmas story. But of all the
themes in the Biblical narratives, we return most often, it seems, to the
theme of light–to the primeval archetypes of darkness and light. Is there
a more basic metaphor in the human experience?

With almost gnostic precision, the Apostle John tells us of the
Lord of light, who came into the world to bring us everlasting life, and to
make us “children of God”:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. In Him
was life, and the life was the light of men, that was the true light
which gives light to every man who comes into the world. And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-14].

The Lord was Divine truth incarnate, who said to us “I am the light
of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the
light of life.”

Our lesson from the Apocalypse Revealed has a lot to say about
light. It tells us that when we encounter images of light in the Word, we
are to think of Divine truth, streaming in from the spiritual sun of heaven.
Because light and truth are linked in use–they correspond–and the Lord
comes to us across discrete degrees of order from His abode above the
heavens by means of correspondence.

And truth? We know about truth in this church, if nothing else. We
love truth. The Writings for the New Church proclaim themselves to be
the Lord’s Second Advent by means of the internal sense of the Word–
Divine truths locked up for centuries–finally disclosed and taught in
those thirty volumes of doctrine… truths to lead us to the good of life.
And these truths are what make the New Church new. But what is truth?
Now this is an important question–not just an academic pursuit–
because if the Lord did come into the world as truth incarnate, we must
define this thing very closely. Why? To understand truth is to know more
about the Lord. And that is always good. Let’s see what the Writings can
tell us about truth:

All truth is from good, for it is the form of it, and all good is the
inmost being of truth. Good when it is formed, so as to appear to
the mind, in speech is called truth (Apocalypse Explained 136).
Truth is the form of good; that is, when good is formed so that it
can be intellectually perceived, then it is called truth (Arcana Coelestia
3049). In the Word the Lord is called Jehovah as to Divine good; for
Divine good is the very Divine. And the Lord is called the Son of God as
to Divine truth; for Divine truth proceeds from Divine good, as a son
from the Father, and also is said to be born (Arcana Coelestia 7499).
Divine good can in no way be and exist without Divine truth, nor
Divine truth without Divine good, but one in the other, mutually and
reciprocally…. The Divine good is the Father, and the Divine truth is the
Son (Arcana Coelestia 2803).

So truth, according to this series, is the very nature of Divine good
Itself. Since good is of the will, and thus not immediately available or
even apparent to us fallen humans, it needs a form; a shape, a skin, an
external aspect, or something we can see. And that is just what truth is.
Who was born on Christmas day? Jesus Christ, the form of Divine good
itself, “was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Someone we can see.
Now if we can see Him, we can strive to imitate Him. And that is called
regeneration. That’s the whole idea of truth: every building project needs
a set of instructions.

So we have truth… loads of it-in the Word itself, and in the internal
sense of the Word, revealed in the Writings for the New Church. And
that’s wonderful. But you know, like everything else in this world, there
can be complications.

There are some other teachings about Divine truth, that reveal the
great power in it, and also tell us what happens when we forget that
good and truth are supposed to go together. Truths serve as weapons
of destruction in spiritual warfare, and they are necessary if we are to
overcome the falsities that the hells use against us in the great battle for
our souls (Arcana Coelestia 2686). And truth is powerful stuff. It has to
be. In its pure form–the light that flows into heaven from the sun there
that is the Lord Himself–it would burn us to ashes, if it weren’t
accommodated–filtered a bit–into a less potent form, that we can use
(Divine Love & Wisdom 110). This filtered form is the Word, and the
Writings, but BEWARE: there is great power in these as well. Like any
weapon, truth must be handled very carefully, and it must be used in a
proper and responsible way. And we must also remember that using
truths to overcome the hells and using truths in our daily activities–in
discussions and conversations and all our interactions–are two different
things.

Truth, used alone, by itself–without the good that is supposed to
be there with it–can destroy the people around us by its ability to cut to
the heart–of their intentions, their expectations, and their motivations–
sometimes before they know what these really are. And it leaves no
room for negotiation–no room for improvement, or starting over. Truth
alone does not teach, or lead–it condemns, and it leaves no survivors.
The Arcana Coelestia tells us that “in the other life, truths separated
from goods appear as arrows” (Arcana Coelestia 2686:6). I guess they
would.

Now as a weapon in the war against the hells, this is great,
because this battle is for life or death. But for daily use, around the
house, in our jobs–around people who are not our enemies, but just
plain old regenerators like ourselves, we must be very careful that we 1)
use truths only in the presence of good, and 2) use them very cautiously
even then. Pick your weapons carefully. Truth can kill.

There is a beautiful flowering plant native to Europe, with flowers
like little purple thimbles. From the dried leaves of this plant, called
Digitalis purpurea we get a powerful drug called digitalis, that can
restore a failing heart to normal for a considerable period of time. It
remains an important drug, to this day. But the dosage is interesting–
and kind of scary: as little as a tenth of a milligram per day. And if you
get too much? It will stop your heart.

Save a life, or stop one; all from the proper, careful use of a
powerful agent for good. Truth is like digitalis: it must be used wisely,
and with great care, with the good of the person always in mind. And
there we have the good that goes with the truth.

So what does all this have to do with Christmas? Well, we found
that the Lord came to us as “the light of the world,” and we found that
light signifies truth, so we made that connection: The Lord was Divine
truth, come into the world in human form; Divine good Itself, but
accommodated to our reception in the form of truth. (That is why He
called Himself the Son.)

And we learned that Divine good can in no way be and exist
without Divine truth, nor Divine truth without Divine good, but one in the
other, mutually and reciprocally… and you don’t want to try to use truth
by itself, because it’s just too dangerous. You’ve got to combine truth
with good when you are using it around the house.

What does this have to do with Christmas? The Lord is Divine
truth Itself–infinitely powerful; more powerful than you or I can imagine,
and He decided to visit this planet and bring that truth to bear on the evil
that was about to engulf its people. It was an urgent situation, that
demanded such a drastic remedy. And so Divine good descended into
this world in the form of all truth; Jehovah bowed the heavens, we read
in Psalm 18, and thick darkness was under His feet. He made darkness
His hiding place, darkness of waters, clouds of the heavens. At the
brightness before Him His clouds passed, with hailstones and coals of
fire. That’s powerful.

So how did Divine truth come to us? How did the “light of the
world” make His entry into this world of darkness? What did John the
Baptist say, when he saw Him coming; walking toward him at the
Jordan River?

Behold! The lamb of God! Lamb??? All this power, in the form of
a man, and John calls Him a lamb? That’s right. And he knew just what
he was talking about. For there is born to you this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
A baby, wrapped in a blanket. The power of the most high, wrapped up
in the innocence of an infant. Divine truth, yes, but wrapped up in all the
good that the Lord could muster in this world. Of course! Can you
imagine that much truth, by itself, alone, to work its work of destruction?
Short work, at that. Imagine! No freedom; no second chance; no
reformation or regeneration; no process; no covenant; no Savior; and
worst of all, no Friend of the human race. Just judgment: in or out that
day, and the job is done. The Lord did not choose that kind of mission
on this earth 2000 years ago. He came to bring us life, not death: I am
the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but
have the light of life. Judgment tempered with mercy. Truth conjoined to
good. That is the way the Lord Himself operates, to leave us the room
(the freedom) to bring our lives into order and to follow Him to His
kingdom in heaven.

And we must do the same. We have lots of truths. The Lord has
decided that we should receive them at this time in history: the doctrines
of the New Jerusalem, to open up the infinite truths of the Word. But we
must handle His truths gently and carefully with one another, as we use
them, to correct and lead, and reform, and teach, but never to cut, or
tear, or kill.

We must always serve up His truths with equal measures with
good, to our families, to our friends, to people at work, to the people we
meet, to people we don’t even like very much. Because truth applied as
a weapon is a weapon.. and you’ll be sorry if you use it that way.
But will this work? Will anyone buy the strength of your truth if it’s all
wrapped up in “love your neighbor as yourself?” Can you make an
argument or take a stand while “doing unto others as you would have
them do unto you?” Can you still be strong, using truth all wrapped up in
good?

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in
darkness, but have the light of life.

Of course you can! It worked on the shepherds. They came and
saw the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and they helped spread
the news. It worked on the “Wisemen” from the East: they believed. It
will work for you. And it will transform the people around you. This is the
magic of Christmas: love, come down from heaven, in the form of truth,
but “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” AMEN
Lessons: Isaiah 11:1-6, Luke 2:1-20, Apocalypse Revealed n. 796

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nobody is able, from things that are lower, to grasp with their mind things that are higher.”

Arcana Coelestia 2568

Image result for Behold! The Lamb Of God!

The Church is Both Internal and External

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The Church is the Lord’s, and that from the spiritual marriage, which is that of good and truth, the Lord is called the Bridegroom and Husband, and the Church the bride and wife, is well known to Christians from the Word, especially from the following.

John said of the Lord:  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth because of the bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29).


Jesus said, The children of the bridechamber cannot mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them (Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35).


I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2).


The angel said to John:  Come, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb, and from a mountain he showed him the holy city Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10).


The time of the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. Blessed are they that have been called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9).


I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning Star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come, and he that willeth, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:16-17).


It is in accordance with Divine order that a new heaven should be formed before a new Church is established on earth, for the Church is both internal and external, and the internal Church makes one with the Church in heaven, thus with heaven itself; and what is internal must be formed before its external, what is external being formed afterwards by means of its internal. This is well known in the world among the clergy. Just so far as this new heaven, which constitutes the internal of the Church with man, increases, does the New Jerusalem, that is, the New Church, descend from it; consequently this cannot take place in a moment, but it takes place to the extent that the falsities of the former Church are set aside. For where falsities have already been implanted what is new cannot enter until the falsities have been rooted out, and this will take place with the clergy, and so with the laity; for the Lord said:  No one puts new wine into old wineskins, else the skins burst and the wine is spilled, but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved (Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38).


That these things take place only at the consummation of the age, by which is meant the end of the Church, can be seen from these words of the Lord:  Jesus said, The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away; but when the blade sprang up, then appeared the tares also. The servants came and said, Wilt thou that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest haply while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat with them; let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Collect first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into my barn. The harvest is the consummation of the age; as the tares are gathered and burned with fire, so shall it be in the consummation of the age (Matt. 13:24-30, 39-40).


“Wheat” means here the truths and goods of the New Church, and “tares” the falsities and evils of the former Church. … “the consummation of the age” means the end of the Church.


That there is in everything an internal and an external, and that the external depends on the internal as the body does on its soul, every single thing in the world shows when it is properly examined. In man this is manifest:-

As his entire body is from his mind, so in each thing that proceeds from man there is an internal and an external; in his every action there is the mind’s will, and in his every word the mind’s understanding, so also in his every sensation.

In every bird and beast, and even in every insect and worm, there is an internal and an external; and again in every tree, plant, and germ, and even in every stone and every particle of soil.

A few facts relating to the silk-worm, the bee, and dust, will suffice to make this clear. The internal of the silk-worm is that whereby its external is moved to weave its cocoon, and afterward to fly forth as a butterfly. The internal of the bee is that whereby its external is moved to suck honey from flowers, and to build its cells in wonderful forms. The internal of a particle of soil whereby its external is moved, is its endeavor to fecundate seed; it exhales from its little bosom something which introduces itself into the inmosts of the seed, and produces this effect; and this internal follows the growth of the seed even to new seed.


The same takes place in things of an opposite character, in which there is also an internal and an external; as in the spider, whose internal, whereby its external is moved, is the ability and consequent inclination to construct an ingenious web, at the center of which it lies in wait for the flies that fly into it, which it eats. It is the same with every noxious worm, every serpent, and every beast of the forest; as also with every impious, cunning, and treacherous man.

(True Christian Religion 783 – 785)
June 15, 2017