THE LORD AS A BRANCH
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinDecember 4, 1994
And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. (Isaiah 4:1 & 2)
The world was about to be destroyed, when the Lord was born upon the earth. This critical situation was not externally apparent. True, corruption and abuses were daily occurrences. But evil did not appear to be so prevalent that the entire human race was on the verge of becoming extinct.
However, internally or spiritually, the human race was in peril. The Writings for the New Church explain that our ability to understand and affirmatively respond to genuine truths from the Lord was on the verge of being destroyed. We came dangerously close to becoming alienated from Divine truth, without any hope of recognizing it in our lives.
However, when the Lord came to the earth, He came as Divine truth itself. By so coming, the Lord can directly effect our lives. Before the Lord’s coming, falsities had arisen to such an extent that the communication between heaven and the earth was severely threatened. When falsities were prevalent, it became impossible to understand truth. And when truth was not recognized, it became impossible to conceive of what was genuinely good.
There are four things that falsities do that make it impossible for us to recognize Divine truths. First, they make an evil life allowable. They justify our delights which hurt other people. They excuse our affections preventing Divine order from becoming established upon the earth. Second, falsities exclusively focus upon external things. If we examine falsities closely, we can see that they entice us to concentrate only upon external things with no consideration about spiritual things. The less we have spiritual things influence our lives, the more we are prone to live a life that just pleases our physical senses. Third, when falsities are believed to be truths, we will have a misconception about what is good. So long as we believe a falsity to be the truth, our image of good will be tainted and impure. And fourth, we will not be able to recognize the Lord fully. Falsities put limitations upon our belief in the Lord. This will prevent us from sincerely acknowledging the Lord’s infinity.
This is the reason the Lord came to the earth, namely, to restore our ability to know and to even apply genuine truths in our lives. This means that it is now possible to worship the Lord as He really is, and to live a life that fully manifests the Lord’s love and goodness.
This is why our text from Isaiah begins with “seven women holding unto one man.” This pictures the desperation of genuine good finding the truths so it could fully express itself. “Seven” represents what is holy, while women represents the affections that desire to do what is truly useful for others. That there was only one man shows that when the Lord was on the earth, what was generally regarded as good and true at the time had very little ability to express the Lord’s love.
However, the church that was set up by the Lord was pure and good. This is referred to by the fruit being described as “excellent and appealing”. Despite the spiritual depravity that surrounded the Lord’s coming, the church that He established was a beacon of light to anyone who sincerely desired to live a good life. The Church the Lord established on earth allows us to fulfill this prophecy in Isaiah:
For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Is 61:11)
The prophecy continues by describing the Lord’s coming as a Branch. Actually, the Hebrew word for Branch has the idea of being a shoot or a sprout. The Lord came as a branch or as genuine truth itself which gives a true teaching of the Lord and the life we are to lead. This branch of truth became more and more rooted in the earth as the Lord was overcoming temptations.
It is important that somewhere on the earth, some form of genuine worship is maintained. When we are given the means of knowing that the Lord is the one God of heaven and earth, and what a true life of charity entails, we have the highest form of spiritual nourishment. We are spiritually nourished when our external daily lives are directly influenced by spiritual principles. We are then living in the highest form of charity that we can possibly be in. This can only happen when we have an accurate understanding of what the Word is teaching us. And the Lord’s coming to the earth, which we are celebrating at this time of year, made it possible to genuinely understand what the Word is teaching.
Also when we know and live according to genuine truths, they activate the affections of good and truth that the Lord carefully preserves in all of us. These states of affections are referred to as remains. These wonderful states, which are formed especially during infancy, are the part in us that can respond to genuine truths without doing violence to them. In our text from Isaiah, these states of affection are referred to by those left in Israel.
When the Lord came to earth, the truths He revealed could activate these states of affection in us. The prevailing doctrine of life, that existed at the time of the Lord’s birth, was becoming more and more inadequate to activate these remains. It finally became necessary for the Lord Himself to come and reveal the truths that could stimulate our affection towards what is Divinely good. The truths that the Lord revealed are the Branch which the Lord was said to come as.
However, we must have good soil before we can accept genuine truths from the Lord without perverting them. This good soil is especially cultivated when we desire what is good and true not for our own sakes, but to be conjoined with the Lord. Our highest priority in life is that goods and truths are more firmly established upon the earth. When this happens, the Law is said to be written upon our hearts. We are affected with what is good for the sake of good, not just for the sake of self-interest. This can only transpire when iniquity is removed from our lives. Then our selfish conception of truth becomes a rationality that is open towards the Lord’s guidance and direction. (AC 2657)
As the Lord is the Branch, we can be an offshoot of this Branch. As we read in our second lesson from the Gospel of John, the Lord said,
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)
Every individual has a unique way of displaying the Lord’s truth in their lives. We are all equally dependant upon the Lord for knowing the truth and living according to it. We all draw from the same source. This is the Branch that was referred to in Isaiah. However, all the varieties of expression and manifestation of that Branch is referred to in the New Testament. When we conform to the truth, which the Lord has revealed in His Word, we are bearing our unique fruit. And this fruit will also be “excellent and appealing”.
Each one of us has a unique way of responding to the Lord’s revelation of truth. All of us can read the same passage from the Word, yet, each one of us can draw different insights from that passage. What is amazing, all of us could be right. The Lord can bring our unique perspectives together whereby the church is formed. Unfortunately, the Church is weakened when individuals try to force others to interpret everything of doctrine as he or she does. Instead of respecting the different ways the Lord’s revelation of truth can be responded to, such people try to impose their personal belief upon others. However, if we express our uniqueness, without infringing upon other people’s uniqueness, the Lord can form His church more effectively. The Church is formed when many branches are springing from the Lord’s branch or vine.
Everyone of us has the capabilities to affirmatively respond to the Lord’s Advent. The Lord has carefully preserved within all of us the ability to know His truth and act from His love. However, each one of us has a unique and different way of responding to the Lord’s coming. But this unique way is our branch from the Lord’s vine. If we are faithful in performing our tasks and responsibilities, our branch will be vibrate and alive. We will be engrafted in the Lord, Who is life itself. As we spiritually grow in the Lord, the more these words will become real in our lives, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)