Bearing Witness To Truth

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Bearing Witness To Truth A Palm Sunday Sermon by Rev Kurt H. Asplundh

“You say rightly that I am a king. 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). When the Lord rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He was received as a king. A great multitude took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him. They cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13). It was a royal welcome. Not everyone was pleased. The chief priests and Pharisees hated the Lord. They cried out from the crowd while the multitude of disciples praised Him saying, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” He answered that the “stones would immediately cry out” if the people were silenced (Luke 9:38-40). The very rocks and stones of creation would bear witness to the sovereignty of the Lord. It was less than a week later that the Lord’s enemies would bring Him to the court of Pilate where this issue of kingship would be argued again. The chief priests and scribes had condemned the Lord before their own religious council with the charge of blasphemy in His claim that He was the Son of God. For this they wanted to put Him to death. Being a subject people, however, the Jews could not impose the death sentence. They needed the permission of the Roman governor, Pilate. Since the Romans had no interest in the religious laws of the Jews or their theological disputes, the Jews brought a different charge. Bringing the Lord to Pilate they said: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2). It was on this charge that Pilate questioned the Lord in the Praetorium. The question was: Did the Lord pose a threat to the authority of the Roman government? Was He seeking a following to overthrow those in power? Pilate needed to determine if the Lord was indeed the King of the Jews. In answer to Pilate’s question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” the Lord plainly said: “It is as you say” (Mark 15:2). But He added: “My kingdom is not of this world…. My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). This was a puzzling statement for the Roman administrator. What did Pilate know of other worlds? What kind of king could he be that had no temporal power? So he asked again, “Are you a king then?” The Lord answered: “You say rightly that I am a king. 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 is the meaning of the Lord’s answer to Pilate? It is clear to us now. What He said was that truth is a king and that He Himself had come to present the truth to the mind of man. So He added: “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Ibid.). Pilate was not a religious or philosophical man, but neither was he unintelligent. He understood from this testimony that the Lord’s purpose was to bear witness to a truth that would rule the minds of men. While he understood this, he was skeptical of it. The Word records his well known response. Pilate said: “What is truth?” (John 18:38) “What is truth?” The Heavenly Doctrine comments on this. From the question of Pilate “it is clear,” we are told, “that he understood that truth was called ‘king’ by the Lord… ” (Apocalypse Explained 31:3). What he doubted was whether truth was, indeed, king. His words pose the crucial question: “Is truth a king?” (Apocalypse Explained 27:4, Apocalypse Revealed 20) The rest of the account of the Lord’s trial is a sad confirmation of Pilate’s skeptical attitude about the power of truth. The truth did not rule the decisions that were soon to be made. Neither truth nor justice held sway in the tumultuous events that followed. From the moment Pilate appeared before the Lord’s accusers with the verdict: “I find no fault in Him at all,” hatreds, fears, angry emotions, and selfish ambitions took over. The rulers of the Jews did not want the truth from Pilate. They wanted their will. Time and again, they demonstrated the rejection of the rule of truth. This first happened in the matter of Barabbas. It was customary at their feast that one of the prisoners should be released. Pilate offered them “the King of the Jews” or Barabbas. As we know from exposition, this is a choice between the rule of truth or the rule of principles of murder and theft embodied by Barabbas. The crowd cried out vehemently: “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” “Not this Man!” What could be more clear? Later the Lord stood before the people wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe after He had been whipped and mocked by the soldiers. “Behold the Man!” He said. He was inviting them to see how the truth had been violated, mocked and rejected. There was no remorse, no sense of loss. Impelled by another king, the spirit of self-love they had welcomed in their hearts, they cried out unmercifully, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Pilate asked: “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Imagine what that really means! The inner sense of what they shouted was that they were ruled by nothing but practical expediency. The Lord’s truth was of no importance to them. After the priests had cried out, spiritually denying the Lord, Pilate gave Him up to their will. He was crucified with two thieves at the place called Golgotha. The accusation affixed to the cross by Pilate read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Even in His condemnation, the Jews objected: “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’” they said. Inwardly they were rejecting the Divine truth that should be king. Write “He said, I am the King of the Jews.'” But Pilate would not acquiesce to this. “What I have written, I have written” ( John 19:21, 22). And so the title stood in spite of their objection, the very truth of the matter is written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It is not coincidental that the testaments which have borne witness to the Lord’s sovereign power also are written in these three sacred languages: the Old Testament in Hebrew, which declares the creative power of the one God of heaven and earth; the New Testament in Greek, which records His incarnation and redemption of the race; and the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem in Latin, which reveals the living Essence of His Divine Humanity. “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world,” the Lord declared, “that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Let us ask ourselves on this Palm Sunday if we can be numbered among those who are “of the truth” who hear the Lord’s voice. Pilate was not among these. As he was a Gentile and knew nothing from the Word, he could not be taught that Divine truth is from the Lord or that the Lord Himself bore witness to Divine truth (see Apocalypse Explained 31:3). Pilate was not only skeptical of the power of truth but unaware that there was any source of authoritative truth. The Jews who wanted to crucify the Lord were not numbered among those who were of the truth. They had rejected the truth. We are told that “they desired a king who would exalt them over all in the whole earth. And as the Lord’s kingdom was not earthly but heavenly, they perverted everything that was said respecting Him in the Word, and mocked at what was foretold of Him. This is what was represented by their placing a crown of thorns upon His head, and smiting His head” (Apocalypse Explained 577:4). What of us? Are we “of the truth” and willing to hear the Lord’s voice? Do we welcome the King with joy and a willing heart? The greeting of the Lord with palms and Hosannas on that first Palm Sunday pictures a ready acceptance of the truth of the Word, an acknowledgment and confession of the Lord as our king. Is this our welcome or do we share the rejection of the Jews or the skepticism of Pilate, asking, “What is truth?” Is truth a king? Pilate recognized that the Lord was not a direct threat to the empire. Had He not said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews … ” (John 18:36)? What Pilate had not learned and did not know was the Lord’s teaching that the kingdom of God is within. “The kingdom of God does not come with observation,” He had said to the Pharisees; “nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). Here was a new concept to the Jews. Until now they had only an idea of kingdoms of this world, of nations and rulers and subjects under them. The Lord taught of a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom within us that is organized and developed by the spirit of truth. It is this “inner” kingdom that truth can rule. And when the spirit of man is ruled by truth, his actions in the world are also ruled by truth from within. By creation every man is free. He can be compelled outwardly and be forced to live according to certain laws, but he cannot be compelled to think or believe against his will. We choose the king of our inner life. And this is our real life. The convictions, the principles, the ideals we choose to live by, are the essentials of our true character. Is there power in these? The greatest power possible, far greater than the power of any dictator or outward force. The human spirit has proven indomitable. Tyranny’s rule is always short-lived. The desire for freedom that is deeply implanted in human hearts cannot be denied or forcibly suppressed. The issue is not whether we have spiritual freedom, but what spirit will rule within us. Will it be the spirit of Divine truth or the spirit of the world? Will we choose the Lord for our king or Caesar? The Lord has revealed Himself anew for the New Church, bearing witness to the truth as never before in the Heavenly Doctrine of the church. The Palm Sunday account is prophetic of a new and conscious reception of the Lord now possible for us. The New Church is named the New Jerusalem. While we have established organizations for the promotion of the Lord’s church among men, the New Jerusalem is really in the individual heart. How does the Lord enter this New Jerusalem? His approach to us is symbolically pictured in the New Testament. There He rode upon the colt of a donkey with garments and branches strewed before Him. Thus He physically entered that city. To us this signifies something that can take place again and again in our personal life: the subordination and guidance of our rational mind by the Lord’s teachings and the acknowledgment that Divine truths from the Word are the truths that should rule in our life. Palm Sunday takes place in the hidden kingdom of our spirit every time we are ready to receive the Lord. Let us pray for His promised coming. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). “You say rightly that I am a king …Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice!” (John 18:37). Amen. Lessons: John 18:28-40; 19:1-22; Apocalypse Explained 31:1, 3, 7.


“Being able to provide arguments to support whatever you want is not intelligence; intelligence is being able to see that what is true is true.”

True Christian Religion 334

I Shall See Him, But Not Now

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, 11 December, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Lesson: GEN 3:1-15

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

Second Lesson: ISA 7:1-17

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

Third Lesson: AE 422:20

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


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

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


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

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


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

Filling the Vessels to the Brim


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Sept. 16, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Lesson: 2KI 4:1-7

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

Second Lesson: JOH 2:1-12

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

Third Lesson:

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

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

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

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

2 See AR 610:2

3 See AC 2189:2


Motherhood: Preparation for Heaven

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

Nurturing, protecting, preparing for heaven

Angel mothers


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

The Lord is the source of all good and truth

But the Lord does not act apart from means

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

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

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


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

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

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

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




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

1st Lesson: GEN 1715-21

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

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

2nd Lesson: MAT 1246-50

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

3rd Lesson: TCR 585

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

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

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

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

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


In the Midst of the Storm

Olivet Society

Church of the New Jerusalem

In the Midst of the Storm

July 25, 2010


First Lesson: 1KI 19:1-10

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

Second Lesson:  AC 2708:2

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


In the Midst of the Storm

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Promises of Baptism

The Promises of Baptism
A Sermon by James P. Cooper
Toronto, January 17, 2010

The sphere of the love of infants is a sphere of protection and support of those who cannot protect and support themselves. This sphere of innocence flows into infants, and through them into their parents and affects them. (CL 385)

A baptism is a wonderful thing, whether you are taking part, or just observing. We have all experienced the beautiful sphere that little children have around them, and that sphere seems to be multiplied and expanded when a young family comes before the Lord in the presence of their friends and family to take upon themselves the responsibility for their part in the spiritual growth and welfare of their child. That sphere is given by the Lord through the celestial angels who have been present with the child since conception. It is particularly received by the mother, who then (unconsciously) passes it on to her husband as part of her sphere of conjugial love.1 The result is that through the Lord’s auspices, the young parents are inspired to love and protect and nurture their little child in spite of the fact that from themselves they may find the whole business time consuming, inconvenient, and messy.

We are told that “from the Lord proceed two universal spheres for the preservation of the universe in the state created, of which the one is the sphere of procreating, and the other the sphere of protecting the things procreated. These two universal spheres make one with the sphere of conjugial love and the sphere of the love of infants.”2 God created the universe for the sole purpose that there should be a heaven from the human race. In order for that to happen and for it to continue to grow to eternity, there must be marriages on earth which produce children who are then taught by their parents and teachers how to grow up and marry and produce their own children who in turn can be taught the way to heaven. This is the purpose of human existence in the world of nature, and the Lord especially watches over and guides this part of our lives because it is so dear to Him.

It is of the Lord’s Divine Providence that each child is born into the world. From the moment of conception, the Lord watches over that new life, and from the moment of birth He is constantly guiding and gently leading that new human being to eternal life in heaven. And when, in his freedom, that new person makes a choice to turn away from what is good and true, still the Lord does all He can to lead to milder evils, and only permits those which can, at some time for somebody, be turned to good.

But even though everyone’s life is under the care and guidance of the Lord, especially little children, yet He has organized the world so that His government and leading of children is by means of their parents. The reason for this is that by co-operating with each other and the Lord in the uses of producing and preparing children to become useful adults in their own right, a husband and wife advance their own states of regeneration, and thus their states of conjugial love. It’s a common saying that you never really understand something until you try to teach it to someone else. That’s especially true when that someone else is a child you are trying to prepare for life in a dangerous and complicated world. We also find that the need to be a good example for the children helps us get rid of some of our bad habits and more external disorders.

The Heavenly Doctrines, when speaking about the various offices that men and women are each particularly suited for, teach that “the main office which confederates and consociates the souls and lives of two partners, and gathers them into a one, is their common concern in the education of their children.”3

From a purely natural point of view, it is obvious that mothers and fathers have different roles to play in the upbringing of their children. Generally, the majority of the care of little children falls to the mother, but as they grow older they require an ever widening variety of experiences and guidance, the father has more and more to contribute. While it may seem that the parents have widely different roles, yet their parts are brought together and made as one as they look to the Lord and consult with each other as to what is the wisest course to follow with a particular child, and through the mutual support that they provide for each other.

We know that it is a spiritual law that in heaven those who have similar loves live together in societies, because people are drawn to other people who love the same things. We see this illustrated in the natural world by the many kinds of clubs that are formed to provide for people who have similar loves to come together and enjoy what they share in common. Does it not follow then, that because a mother and father share a common love of their offspring, that that love, and the expression of it in the offices and duties of child rearing, should draw them ever closer together in their marriage? As it says in Conjugial Love, “It is also well known that these offices, regarded in their separation and in their conjunction, make one home.”4

While it is relatively easy to make promises to care for and guide a little child, we must remember that the later states are not always so sweet. Fortunately, the Lord has provided that we would have many pleasant memories of the child’s infancy to draw on when things become more complicated and difficult later on. What we need to remember in preparation for these states is that the promises made at baptism are principles for life, Divinely provided to guide and help throughout the time your children are with you.

The first of the five spiritual obligations that we incur by producing a child and having it baptized is that we must first and foremost seek enlightenment from the Word so we can be guided by the Lord in our part of the work. This has benefit for the child, the individual parent, and the marriage, for, as said before, you never really learn something until you try to teach it to someone else. Going to the Word to seek out the answers to your child’s questions forces you to do that which you knew you should do, but never found the time to do for yourself.

Every parent faces difficult questions about how best to handle different situations in their child’s life, and it is valuable to speak with other parents, and read articles that relate to the subject. However, we soon find that the more people we speak to, and the more articles we read, the more different answers we get to the same question. How do we determine what is right? How do we find our way through all these conflicting opinions? By looking to what the Lord has taught in the Word about the various states of life and the principles that apply. If we hold the Word as the standard, we will then be able to judge the value of the other sources of help that we have, and will be able to choose a wise course.

There is not time to do more than suggest the bare outline of the doctrine in the Word that serves to help parents understand and meet the spiritual and natural needs of their children, for there are series within series so that the more one studies the Word for guidance, the more one will find.

In the Old Testament, the early states of infancy and childhood, as the child moves from the pure innocence of the new-born into states where he is capable of wilful disobedience, are represented by the stories of the Ancient Word, the stories of Creation, the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, and the Tower of Babel.

As the child moves into the states where he is capable of wide movement and exploration, the early states of learning, his spiritual states and needs are described by the stories of Genesis and Exodus, particularly the giving of the Ten Commandments which must be obeyed without question or they will suffer dire consequences.

As they begin to go to school and become more and more self-confident and independent, they experience states which are described by the children of Israel establishing themselves in the land of Israel, and how they repeatedly cycle through states of disobedience, despair and punishment, and finally rescue when they turn back to the Lord who sends a Judge to guide them. The wise parent sees in these stories that it is impossible for a child to be happy all the time, that in fact the changes of state from happiness to despair are an important stage in the development of the independent and capable adult.

Eventually the child becomes a youth, and is no longer satisfied to accept orders from others, but feels the need to understand and perceive the justice and morality behind various decisions that affect his life. These are the states that are particularly addressed by the New Testament, especially in the parables which teach about heaven and the moral life which leads to it.

Finally, as the rational begins to awaken, and the young adult needs to see the spiritual truth behind the strict rules of the Old Testament and the spirit of morality in the New Testament, he can turn to the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church. The doctrines of the Church have sufficient depth that they will become a source of information and comfort throughout adult life.

The second obligation of parents is to do whatever they can to lead their children to the Lord, and by that is meant to teach children that the Lord is their Heavenly Father, and that He came to earth as Jesus Christ. It is extremely important that they learn many truths about the Lord, for we cannot love that which we do not know or understand.

The third obligation is to teach the Lord’s Prayer, for by so doing, the child is introduced into the basics of worship to the Lord:  through prayer they are taught that to humble self before God, through the words of the Lord’s prayer they are taught that there is a God, that He is One, that He alone is to be worshipped, that He is the source of all life, and that He punishes the guilty and rewards the good with eternal life. Through daily repetition of the Lord’s prayer with his parents, the child is brought into the sphere of worship and an acceptance of God which will serve to support him in times of physical and spiritual crisis throughout his life in this world.

The fourth obligation is to teach the Ten Commandments, that is, to give the child a reasonable structure of rules against which he may test himself and so learn right from wrong, and thus prepare himself to live and work in the community of men. As the child learns to keep the commandments for himself through self-discipline, he is learning to shun evils as sins, and thus is putting himself on the road to repentance, reformation, and regeneration. Also, by a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Ten Commandments, the child is given a standard by which he may judge his own and other’s behaviour throughout his life. If he knows the Ten Laws thoroughly, all he need do is ask himself, “Would the Lord want me to be doing this?” and his conscience will speak truly to him, leading him away from the paths of evil.

The fifth and final obligation is teach the child from the Word, by instruction and example. We must always remember the trust that parents are given when they receive children from the Lord. Children look to their parents as the final authority on all subjects. We read from Conjugial Love, “Everything which they receive they ascribe to their parents. They love their parents, their nurses, and their infant companions with whom they play in innocence. They suffer themselves to be led. They listen and obey”5 – unless the parents abuse their responsibility and fail to teach their children about the Lord, thinking that somehow they are “leaving them free to make their own choice.”

To this we can only answer that the only free choice is a rational choice, and a rational choice can only be made when there are many truths to select from. The less truth a person has, the less free he is. And so, it is our moral and spiritual obligation to teach our children as much about the Lord and the Church as we can, and when we do not know the answer, teach our children that we are willing to go to the Word to search for it there. By so doing, we will be protecting their freedom of choice in spiritual things, and at the same time bringing ourselves closer to God.

Children are only loaned to us. From the moment they are born they begin learning things about the world around them, and the more they learn for themselves, the less they depend on their parents. This is in order, for in this way from being sensual, they become natural, then rational, and eventually spiritual and are prepared for a life in the Lord’s spiritual kingdom. So parents must understand from the very first that it is their job to prepare their children to leave the home and begin a new home on their own. However, the Lord has also provided that as children recede from their initial states of innocence, so does the parent’s love of the children.6

It is nevertheless useful for us to remember that by meeting the five obligations of baptism

to seek enlightenment,

to lead to the Lord,

to teach the Lord’s prayer,

to teach the Ten Commandments,

and to teach from the Word

we will promote the child’s happiness and eternal welfare both in this world, and in the world to come. And, at the same time, by working together and looking to the Lord for help we will be working through our own states of regeneration and developing our states of conjugial love.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward. Like arrows from the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Amen.

First Lesson:  PSA 127

Unless the LORD builds the house, They labour in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. {2} It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. {3} Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. {4} Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. {5} Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. Amen.

Second Lesson:  LUK 18:9-23

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: {10} “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. {11} “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. {12} ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ {13} “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ {14} “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” {15} Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. {16} But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. {17} “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” {18} Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” {19} So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. {20} “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother.'” {21} And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” {22} So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” {23} But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. Amen.

Third Lesson:  CL 385

There are evidences which show that conjugial love and a love of little children which is called storgé are conjoined; and there are evidences as well which may induce a belief that they are not conjoined. For a love of little children is found in married partners who love each other from the heart, and it is found in partners who are discordant in heart; and also in partners who have separated, and sometimes tenderer and stronger in them than in others. But it can be seen from the origin from which it flows that a love of little children is still forever conjoined with conjugial love. Even though the origin varies in its recipients, still these loves remain undivided, just as any first end in the last end, which is the effect. The first end of conjugial love is the procreation of offspring, and the last end, which is the effect, is the offspring produced. The first end enters into the effect and exists in it as it was in its inception, and does not depart from it, as can be seen from a rational consideration of the progression of ends and causes in their series to effects. Amen.

The Use of Recreation

The Use of Recreation

A Sermon by James P. Cooper

Toronto, July 27, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Lesson: GEN 18:1-8

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

2nd Lesson: Mat 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: Charity 190 – 191

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

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

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