OBEDIENCE

OBEDIENCE
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 13, 1990

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Our text occurs seven times in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. It is the concluding exhortation of each of the messages to the seven churches. Indeed, the Lord frequently ended His instruction to the Jews by saying: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear … ” (Matt. 11:15, et alia). The fact that this phrase and similar admonitions occur frequently throughout both the Old and the New Testaments warrants our consideration of its purpose and meaning.

In the Arcana Coelestia we are told that “to hear” in the Word does not mean simply the physical act of hearing, but rather the reception of that which is heard, first in the memory, next in the understanding, then in the will, and finally in the life (AC 9311).

Two of the five senses, we are told, especially serve man in perfecting the mind: the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. These are also the primary senses involved in man’s reformation and regeneration, for they are formed to receive those things which contribute to this end. The things which enter the mind through the sense of sight enter the understanding and enlighten it. For this reason when “seeing” is mentioned in the Word and it is frequently mentioned it refers to the enlightenment of the understanding. However, the things which enter through the sense of hearing enter both the understanding and the will, and for this reason when “hearing” is mentioned in the Word it refers to perception and obedience (see AE 14).

That “seeing” refers to understanding and enlightenment, and “hearing” to perception and obedience, is evident from ordinary speech. When we want to know if something is understood we ask: “So you see what I mean?” And if it is understood the answer is given: “Yes, I see.” Also we say of a person endowed with an unusual intelligence that he or she is bright or brilliant. Or if a person is low in intelligence we say he or she is dull. “Dull,” “bright,” and “brilliant” are attributes of light, and thus of sight.

That “hearing” refers to perception and obedience is also clear from ordinary speech. When somebody has been explaining something to us which he considers important, and we get the message, we say: “I hear.” Or, when we are trying to exact obedience from a child in a certain matter, we end by saying: “Do you hear me?” And if the answer is “Yes,” we expect obedience from that child.

These expressions, we are told, flow down into human speech out of the spiritual world, where man’s spirit is, by correspondence. Furthermore, in the Grand Man of heaven, those who are in the province of the ear are in obedience from perception. This province is said to be the axis of heaven, that is, the whole of the heavens have direct relation to those who are in obedience from perception because the ruling perception of heaven is that if a thing is true it must be done (see AE 14; AR 87).

In communication between people the function of the ear is to receive the speech of another and convey it to the mind so that we can perceive what is in the mind of the other person. Thus “to hear” is to perceive. The function of hearing is to transfer what a person is speaking from his thought, into the thought of another, and from his thought to his will and from the will into deed. Therefore to hear also involves obedience. The circle of communication, then, is from the will into thought, and so into speech, and from speech through the ear into another’s thought and will (see AC 5017).

The most important of all communication is that which exists between the Lord and mankind. And the medium of this communication is the Word. The Lord’s ardent love for the eternal happiness of mankind descended into His thought and from His thought into words, which were communicated to those who were prepared by the Lord for the office of revelator, who wrote them down. For the circle of communication to be completed these words must be conveyed to the understanding of man and from the understanding to the will, and from the will into life. When the Lord’s love is received in a person’s will, conjunction between the Lord and that person takes place. It is not enough that the Lord’s wisdom contained in the Word be communicated to our understanding; this merely produces presence but not conjunction. This is the reason the Lord has established a church and instituted worship so that His Word may be heard, that there may be an appeal to the very will itself.

Thus in the church we have the written Word and the spoken Word. To develop our understanding we should read the Word and presentations on its Divine doctrine and reflect calmly and deeply on their meaning. In this way we will grow in spiritual intelligence. But if we wish to grow in wisdom also, we should hear the Word read and preached. In hearing there will be, or should be, an added appeal to the affection. Thus it should enter into our will and from that into our life where the will is terminated and made permanent.

In His wisdom the Lord has provided that the mind of man may be reached through both of these senses through “seeing” and “hearing.” The written Word is almost devoid of emotion except for the emotion which the words themselves convey. Thus the intellect is appealed to so that the mind can come to know, understand, and believe the truth which the Lord teaches, simply because it is true. The spoken Word is then added to appeal to both the intellect and the will. The ideas expressed by the words are received in the understanding but the tone of voice and the inflection affect the will, so that what is said may be received in the will and cause a person to do that which is heard. From this we may see that there is a use and a need for both kinds of communication, and we can see what our response to both should be.

We are taught in the Word that to hear the voice of the Lord means to obey what is proclaimed from the Word; and that they who do so become rational and spiritual, but that they who do not become sensual and corporeal. “Those become … sensual and corporeal,” we read, “who have … known the things of the spiritual world and have afterward rejected them, and have imbued themselves with principles of falsity contrary to truths; and as to life, have looked solely to worldly, bodily, and earthly things, and from this have believed that life ought to be enjoyed with every pleasure, saying: `What has man more while he lives? When we die we die!’ … If anyone by rational arguments sets them thinking at all about eternal life, they think that they shall fare no worse than others, and immediately relapse into the state of their former life.

“With such there is a closing of the passage for the light of heaven and its influx, and light of heaven in their natural becomes thick darkness, but the light of the world … becomes brightness, and the brightness is so much the more brilliant as the light of heaven is more darkened; hence it is that such see no otherwise than that the evils of their life are goods, and that consequently the falsities are truths. It is from this then that a person becomes sensuous and corporeal” (AC 6971).

In other words, if we do not obey what we hear from the Word, we degenerate. Instead of becoming rational and spiritual, we become sensual and corporeal our minds are darkened and our will vitiated.

Compare this state with that of the angels of the celestial heaven. The wisdom of the angels of the inmost heaven consists in wishing to be led by the Lord and not by themselves, in loving what is good and delighting in what is true. Because they love nothing so much as being led by the Lord, whatever they hear from the Lord, whether through the Word or by means of preaching, they do not store in the memory but instantly obey it, that is, will it and do it (see HH 278). “In that heaven, love to the Lord is willing and doing Divine truth” (HH 271).

In the teachings which have been presented, we see sharply contrasted the final lot of those who hear only with their ears and those who really hear with the ears, with their understanding and with their will. We should need little convincing as to which state is preferable. But we may well ask ourselves: “Where do we fit in this picture?”

To find the answer to this question we should ask ourselves more particular questions. To what extent have we allowed the truths we have heard to enter into and change our lives? What is our usual reaction to the truths we hear preached? Do they enter only as far as the external ear and then vanish beyond recall? Are we momentarily stirred but cannot remember several days later what it was that moved us? Or do we see and perceive an important truth a truth which, if lived, can change our lives and make us better men and women? Do we will that truth and determine within ourselves to obey it?

Speaking generally, the purpose of a sermon is to draw a particular truth from the Word, to put it into perspective by showing its relationship to other truths, to examine it from several different aspects so that its nature and quality may be perceived, and to indicate the application of that truth to life. A sermon is not preached merely to uplift and soothe, nor is it intended to upset or depress the congregation, and certainly it is not to weary them. The Word is studied and its truth presented with the hope that it may be received, perceived and obeyed.

In the Arcana Coelestia where it treats of the reading of the covenant by Moses to the Children of Israel, we are told that to “read in the ears of the people” signifies hearkening and obedience. For when anything is read, it is that it may be heard, perceived and obeyed (AC 9397).

In the passage from the Apocalypse Revealed which we read for a third lesson, we are assured that if we read the doctrine of the New Jerusalem with a desire to know that doctrine, if we hear the things which are taught from it, and if we live according to it, then we will be blessed. We will be, as to our spirits, in communion with the angels of heaven even while we live on earth (see AR 8).

What, then, should be our attitude and response to the reading of the Word and the preaching from it that we regularly hear in Sunday worship? The nature of our response is clearly indicated in the Word itself. We should say in our hearts with conviction and determination: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and hear” (Exodus 24:7). Amen.

Lessons: Exodus 24:1-13; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-11; AR 8

Apocalypse Revealed 8

Verse 3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein” signifies the communion of those with the angels of heaven, who live according to the doctrine of the New Jerusalem. By “blessed” is here meant one who as to his spirit is in heaven; thus, one who, while he lives in the world, is in communion with the angels of heaven; for as to his spirit he is in heaven. By “the words of the prophecy” nothing else is meant than the doctrine of the New Jerusalem, for by “prophet” in the abstract sense is signified the doctrine of the church derived from the Word, thus here the doctrine of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem; the same is signified by “prophecy.” By “reading, hearing, and keeping the things which are written therein” is signified to desire to know that doctrine, to attend to the things which are in it, and to do the things which are therein; in short, to live according to it. That they are not blessed who only read, hear and keep or retain in the memory the things which were seen by John is evident (n. 944). The reason why “a prophet” signifies the doctrine of the church from the Word, and “prophecy” the same, is that the Word was written through prophets, and in heaven a person is regarded according to that which belongs to his function and office. From this also is every man, spirit, and angel named there. Therefore, when a prophet is mentioned, because his function was to write and teach the Word, the Word is meant as to doctrine, or doctrine from the Word. Hence it is that the Lord, because He is the Word itself, was called the Prophet (Deut. 18:15-20; Matt. 13:57; 21:11; Luke 13:33). To show that by “prophet” is meant the doctrine of the church from the Word, some passages shall be adduced, from which this may be collected. In Matthew: “In the consummation of the age many false prophets shall rise up and shall seduce many. There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and, if it were possible, they shall lead into error the elect” (Matthew 24:11,24).

“The consummation of the age” is the last time of the church, which is now, when there are not false prophets but falsities of doctrine. In the same: “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man shall receive a just man’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

“To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet” is to receive the truth of doctrine because it is true; and “to receive a just man in the name of a just man” is to receive good for the sake of good; and “to receive a reward” is to be saved according to reception. It is evident that no one receives a reward, or is saved, because he receives a prophet and a just man in the name of such. Those words cannot be understood by anyone without a knowledge of what “a prophet” and “a just man” signify; nor can those which follow: “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” By a “disciple” is meant charity, and at the same time faith from the Lord. In Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, so that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). This is concerning the church which was to be established by the Lord, in which they would not prophesy but receive doctrine, which is to “prophesy.” In Matthew: “Jesus said, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? but then will I confess unto them, I have not known you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

Who does not see that they will not say that they have prophesied, but that they knew the doctrine of the church, and taught it? In the Apocalypse: “The time is come for judging the dead and for giving reward to the prophets” (Rev. 11:18); and in another place: “Exult, O heaven, and holy apostles and prophets, for God hath judged your judgment” (Rev. 18:20).

It is evident that a reward would not be given to the prophets alone, and that the apostles and prophets would not alone exult at the Last Judgment, but all who have received the truths of doctrine and have lived according to them. These, therefore, are meant by “apostles” and “prophets.” In Moses: “Jehovah said unto Moses, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Exod. 7:1); “a god” here means the Divine truth as to reception from the Lord, in which sense the angels are also called gods, and by “prophet” is meant one who teaches and speaks it, therefore Aaron is there called a prophet. The same is signified by “prophet” in other places, as in Jer. 18:18; 23:15,16; 5:13; Isaiah 28:7; Micah 3:6; Jer. 8:10. In these passages, by “prophets” and “priests,” in the spiritual sense, are not meant prophets and priests, but the entire church, by “prophets,” the church as to the truth of doctrine, and by “priests” the church as to the good of life, both of which were destroyed; these things are so understood by the angels in heaven, while by men in the world they are understood according to the sense of the letter. That the prophets represented the state of the church as to doctrine, and that the Lord represented it as to the Word itself, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 15-17).

Faith in the Will

Faith in the Will

A Sermon by Rt. Rev. Peter M. BussCataloged May 4, 1997

 

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples” Luke 1:29-31.

Nearly everyone wants to believe. It is a need sown into the human soul, for there is an influx from God which disposes us to believe that He exists. We want to believe that there is such a thing as unselfish love, that there are true ideals that rise above personal inconvenience, that there is a heaven, worth longing for and striving for. We want to believe that there is a perfect God who offers us these things.

Most hero images manifest this deep longing to believe in a power greater than our own. Sometimes we transfer this image to other people. Young people have a tendency to choose an idol and expect him or her to be perfect, and then become disillusioned when faults appear. People become inordinately hopeful about their national leaders or heroes. They treat them as super-beings, who will miraculously give them freedom from hunger or poverty, give them employment, peace, no inflation, no crime. How many times has a nation heralded a new leader with unnatural fervor, and turned on him a few months later because, like everyone else, he has human flaws?

This longing of the human heart, to believe in a savior, was fulfilled when the Lord came down to earth. It was for this purpose that He came, so that He could show Himself as the one perfect Man – God-man. Only He can fulfill the need within us for a complete trust.

He had no flaws. He did not put a foot wrong in all that He did on earth, nor did He show anything but the most perfect love and wisdom. Much though we love a human being, however deeply we revere a wife or husband or parent or friend, we cannot trust him or her altogether. There will be areas in which her love or his wisdom is not equal to helping us. But in Jesus we see infinite qualities at work, and we are able to say with Simeon, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.” In our faith in the Lord is our hope, and our security.

It is that certainty, that faith, which is meant by Simeon’s words, when he held the infant Lord, and knew that this was the moment for which he had been kept alive. He prayed to die: “Now let Your servant depart in peace.” For the longing to believe is with us only for a time. When we discover faith in the Lord, then the wish to believe dies. It departs – in peace – because it has done its job, and its time has passed.

Yet Simeon does not represent simple faith in the Lord and His power. For faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a powerful and comforting thing, but it is not effective if it is a belief in the Lord as Someone standing outside of us. It is the sense of the Lord within us, coming to be born in our hearts, that matters. The first faith a person has is an intellectual picture, the mental vision of his God. But the understanding is not the person himself. We are the things we love.

Therefore the Lord comes to us in our wills, in our hearts, and Simeon, that just and devout man who longed to see Jesus with the eyes of his body represents our wish to have the Lord within us. In the internal sense of the Word, Simeon (whose name is taken from the word “hearing”) represents faith in our will, faith working in our lives, so that the Lord can dwell in us.

What do we know of the Simeon story? He was just and devout, and he was waiting, longing, for the “consolation of Israel.” Because of this, the Holy Spirit had promised him that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ. He was led of the spirit into the temple to worship at just the time that Jesus was presented there, and in this infant he recognized the salvation of all people. He took Jesus up in his arms, and blessed God.

These actions represent a state of mind in us which follows after we already have an intellectual faith in the Lord. For Simeon was already a believer, and he was just and devout. He was putting into practice the things he believed. When faith is put into practice, it becomes “faith in the will,” faith in act, the wish to make our religion a reality (AC 342; 3862; 5472; 3869; 3872). Simeon also represents obedience, for obedience is the willing subjection of our will to the Lord’s truth (AC 6238).

To understand Simeon’s part in the Christmas story, it is important to reflect on the abiding emotion which ruled his life. For Simeon knew that it was his lot to remain on this earth until the promised Messiah came. His days were filled with hope, and with eager anticipation of this most wondrous event. This spirit, of hope leading into anticipation, is what keeps us going between the time of our first obedience to the Lord until charity, or true love is born in our hearts. The Writings say that hope is of the understanding, but confidence (or anticipation) is of the will (AC 6577, 6578). It comes about when we trust the Lord with our hearts.

There is a wait between the start of our obedience, and the birth of true love. Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel. How long did he wait? Probably for a long time. But was it an anxious wait? No. Was it a wait filled with uncertainty? No. He knew: the Holy Spirit had told him that his waiting would come to an end.

In our own lives nothing worth having comes to us in a moment. The truly worthwhile joys, the satisfying experiences in life take time. When did you first fall in love? How long was it from that day until your marriage? When did you first decide on a career? How long was it from the time you dreamed of owning a house until you inhabited it? A baby takes nine months to grow before you can hold it.

But the time between the beginning of the dream and its realization is pleasant. At first there is hope. Then hope gives way to something even better – a knowledge that the thing you dream about is going to happen. Two lovers plan their wedding: now they know it is going to happen. They still have to wait, but they are not anxious. That period of waiting, when you are certain of the end, is an important period. Each day that you wait, you reflect on the importance of your dream, of its special nature. The wait increases the delight in the final goal, and makes it more satisfying when it becomes a reality. In fact, if we were to gain our important wishes too quickly, without the pleasure of anticipation, much of the joy would not be there. More important, we would not have gone through the preparation which makes the joy meaningful; and even more important, we would not have used our own reason, in freedom, to prepare for that event, so that there is something of the as- from-self in the experience of the event. It is the wait that allows the Lord to give us a part in the joy that we experience. The Lord gives gifts, and through waiting and planning and looking forward to them, we have a part in their creation.

This principle applies when we start to seek the Lord’s love. Obedience is the beginning, but there is a long way to go. We don’t change from being selfish people to being loving people in a moment. We learn, step by step, and each step is a discovery. It is an adventure. It brings its own satisfaction.

The feeling which Simeon represents is the certainty that if we obey, love will be ours. Tomorrow, or maybe for many tomorrows to come, we may show signs of the selfishness that is still within us, but the time will come when unselfish love is born in us. The Holy Spirit has said so. We know it.

That waiting period is not an unhappy one. A person who is obedient to the Lord has some immediate rewards. He or she has a clear conscience. There is satisfaction in each day’s work. There is a feeling of accomplishment in fighting a weakness and overcoming it. There is real pleasure in finding growing kindness in one’s self. There are moments of quiet reflection and prayer when there is thankfulness that the future is going to be good.

It’s just that we do not yet have the love which makes heaven. The Lord has not yet been born inside us.

How did Simeon picture the meeting that he would have with His Messiah? How many times he must have imagined it! What was his mental vision? We don’t know, but we suspect that nothing prepared him for the joy which overwhelmed him when the infant Lord was brought into the temple and he had the privilege of holding Him in his arms.

We talk of unselfish love, but when it begins to be felt in our hearts, it is going to be much better than we had imagined it.

Simeon asked to die. Why? Because the spirit of anticipation has a limited life. Faith in the will lasts only so long, because when true love is born, faith becomes love, and faith flows from that love. We no longer look forward to charity, it is here, now. Hope, even certain hope, dies when its goal is reached (DP 178). “Now, Lord, you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word. For my eyes have seen!” It has happened.

Like Simeon, we will spend a lot of our lives waiting for something. We are born to love others, and to find joy in loving them unselfishly. At some moment in our lives we believe the promise of the Lord that it can be so, and we begin to obey. But there is a long wait before love becomes a reality. We are invited to enjoy that wait, to find happiness and contentment in it. We are invited to use our reason and our planning and our activity – our freedom! – to look forward to the day when love is a reality. It is into that freedom that the Lord inspires hope, and then confidence, and eager anticipation (see AC 6577, 6578). It gives us the power to go forward, waiting for the consolation that will surely come. “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26). “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word do I hope…. for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption” (Psalm 130:5-7). Amen

Lessons: 1. Psalm 130; 2. Luke 2:22-35; 3. DP 178

 


Divine Providence

178. Man is not granted a knowledge of future events, also for the reason that he may be able to act from freedom according to reason; for it is well known that a man desires to have in effect whatever he loves, and he leads himself to this end by his reason. It is also known that everything a man meditates in his reason arises from the love of bringing it into effect by means of his thought. Therefore, if he knew the effect or result from Divine prediction his reason would come to rest, and with it his love; for love with reason comes to an end in the effect, and from that point it begins anew. It is the very delight of reason to see from love the effect in thought not the effect in its attainment, but before it, that is, not in the present but in the future. Hence man has what is called Hope, which increases and decreases in the reason as he sees or looks forward to the event. This delight is completed in the event, but it thereafter fades away with the thought concerning the event. It would be similar in the case of an event that was foreknown. [2] The mind of man is continually in these three things, called end, cause, and effect. If one of these is wanting the human mind is not in its life. The affection of the will is the originating end (a quo); the thought of the understanding is the operative cause (per quam); and the action of the body, as the speech of the mouth, or external sensation, is the effect of the end by means of the thought. It is clear to anyone that the human mind is not in its life when it is in nothing beyond the affection of the will, and similarly when it is only in the effect. Therefore, the mind has no life from one of these separately, but only from the three conjointly. This activity of the mind would diminish and pass away if the event were foretold.