Sermon II: How The Lord Protects Us
Pittsburgh New Church
October 6, 2019
Rev. Calvin Odhner
Text: 1 Kings 3:16-28
Arcana: AC 6466,6467
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)
Good morning and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! How many of you have seen a newborn baby? Yes, nearly everyone—and if you talk to the mom of the newborn what’s always on her mind? The baby! She is always feeding it, cuddling it, checking every little thing—is it warm enough, is its head up enough, you might call it the "personal bodyguard" and “100% protection plan” for the baby. And, you’ll never see a mother backdown from protecting her baby—no matter what, so strong is her love. This love was first, the Lord’s love that He imparted to mothers. This is how much the Lord cares for each of us! Let’s read a story about a mother and a baby….
We have been talking about how the Lord preserves our spirit, how he protects us from evil, attempts to surround us with good. This subject is so interesting, so complicated with so many new and fresh ideas regarding our life in this world and the next, that it must be digested slowly to receive the full impact of how the Lord preserves the human race.
Let’s start by following a novitiate spirit who has just arrived in the other world…
Spirits fresh from the world, before they have been instructed by angels, believe no otherwise than that the all of life is in the man himself, and that nothing flows in; because they know nothing in particular about heaven, thus neither about influx thence. (AC 6468)
These new spirits soon discover that there is only one life that flows in from the Lord into people, just as there is only one sun for this earth and it brings all our heat and light!
Just as the sun is received by different objects according to how they are shaped or their color—the Lord’s influx flows into us according to the things we love and delight in.
…everyone has life in accordance with the form of the interiors which he has acquired by willing and acting, thinking and speaking. (AC 6468)
Good delights connect us with heavenly influx, evil delights connect us with evil influx. So it is us who summons spirits to ourselves that match who we are.
Angels can tell if a new spirit is open to being instructed about the Lord. We read
Neither are spirits who are not good willing to be instructed in these things, for they desire to live from themselves (AC 6468)
Who wants to hear about the Lord when we believe all life is from ourselves? But, when a spirit is willing to be instructed he or she for the first time learns the secret of how the Lord leads people. He does so through spirits. Let me share with you the first time Swedenborg discovered this….
Before the way was opened to me to speak with spirits, I was of the opinion that no spirit or angel could ever know or
perceive my thoughts, because they were within me, and known to God alone.
And then it once happened that I observed that a certain spirit knew what I was thinking, for he spoke with me about what I was thinking of, in a few words, and gave an indication of his presence by a certain sign. At this I was astounded, chiefly because he knew my thoughts.
From this it was evident how difficult it is for a man to believe that any spirit knows what he is thinking, when yet he knows not only the thoughts which the man himself knows, but also the least things of his thoughts and affections, which the man does not know—nay, such things as the man can never know during the life of the body. This I know from the continuous experience of many years. (AC 5855)
It is these spirits—good and evil, that permit the life from the Lord to continually flow into us. Without them we would drop dead as a stone.
In this way the Lord is technically within us and not just through general influx like animals, but in what the Heavenly Doctrines call “particular influx”— managing our thoughts and affections…
That all life is from the Lord, it has also been given to know from the fact that no spirit thinks and speaks from himself,
but from others, and these others from yet others, and so on. (AC 6470)
In this, granted, strange way, the Lord protects and leads each of us. But His Leadership is even more powerful than we know—consider this statement concerning the Lord's power in our daily life:
It was shown me by experience during the space of an hour, how all the thoughts are ruled by the Lord. There was an
influx like a most gentle and almost imperceptible stream, the current of which does not appear, but still leads and draws.
This, which flowed in from the Lord, led in this manner all the series of my thoughts into the consequent things, and although gently, powerfully, so that I could not possibly wander into other thoughts, which also I was allowed to attempt, but in vain. (AC 6474)
This is how the Lord leads imperceptibility, leaving us in freedom and yet protecting our salvation.
Many people wonder why the Lord didn’t make sure they were given tons of money, or grandchildren, or a husband or even a wife, believing that everything has been left to fortune or chance. But the Lord leaves nothing in our life to chance. He manages everything for our eternal welfare.
We don’t get to know why we don't always get what we want. We think we are just unlucky but the Lord plays a hand in every action of our life.
A great example of this was with a “not so good spirit” Swedenborg met. The Lord actually permitted the angels to see where this man would have ended up without the His protection.
There was a certain one who had confirmed himself in the notion that nothing is of the Divine providence, but that each and all things are of sagacity, and are also from fortune and chance….When he came into the other life he continued there his former life, as all do; he sought out and learned all things—even magical arts—that he supposed might be of service to him, and by means of which he might take such care of himself as to be fortunate… from himself.
I conversed with him, and he said that he was in his heaven when this was the case, and that there could not possibly be any other heaven than that which he made for himself.….the same spirit was reduced into the state of his infancy, and the Lord showed the angels what his quality had been at that time, and also what was the then foreseen quality of his future life, and that every detail of his life had been led by the Lord, and that he would have plunged into the most atrocious hell if there had been even the least cessation of the continual providence of the Lord.
It may surprise you that the Lord works this closely in your life! But all this comes from His deep love for us! His words in the Word are a real invitation, a very real hope that we’ll join him…
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6)
“Come unto me, ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. (Matthew 11:28)
Scarcely any man believes that the Lord takes such care of a man, and this continually from the first thread of his life to the last of it, and afterward to eternity. (AC 5992)
We’ve probably all heard that there are at least two angels and two devils with every person. What you may not know is that these spirits change very quickly depending on our states(AC 5851) in a way, we are in charge of what angels or devil are with us.
So, what exactly do angels do in a day to protect us? When infernal spirits attack, the angels protect—this is the order of operations. Angels especially regulate our affections for these are what make up our spiritual life.
They observe whether any new hells are open, and if a person has brought themself into any new evil. If they have, angels can close that hell as far as the person lets them and they can remove any spirits who attempt to emerge from that hell.
What else are they looking for? We are told they
disperse strange and new influxes that produce evil effects. (AC 5850)
Especially do the angels call forth the goods and truths that are with a man, and set them in opposition to the evils and falsities which the evil spirits excite.
…and this every moment, and every moment of a moment; (AC 5992:3)
All this happens every moment of every moment, so our job and your challenge this week, is to keep your thoughts clear and clean, keep your intentions directed towards heavenly ends. These two things bring the presence of the Lord into your life which bring tranquility, peace, and happiness (AC 6469).
Amen. Let us pray.