Sermon: The Power of Holy Supper
Pittsburgh New Church
September 15, 2019
Rev. Calvin Odhner
Text: John 12:24
Arcana: AC 3464.2
And Jesus took the cup and gave to them, saying, This is my blood of the new covenant. (Matt. 26:27–28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20).
We are living in fantastic times! Where people don’t recognize church has any value and it is unclear what “God” means or how He can have meaning in our lives. While at the same time, almost secretly, it has pleased the Lord to reveal the internal sense of the Word and now, for the first time, true christianity has arrived on earth revealing the internal meaning of the Word, the sacraments and especially Holy Supper! We can now approach the Lord-the Father-Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, the essential means of our salvation! (TCR 700) Once we approach the One Lord, we become malleable, flexible in our will and able to be molded by the Lord. Let’s read about us in Jeremiah Chapter 18….
Its been said there are only two pains in life—the pain of discipline, which weighs ounces; and the pain of regret, which weighs tons (Jim Rohn).
We seem to be regularly encouraged by the Heavenly Doctrines to embrace the difficult—to seek the pain of shunning those things we delight in today so that the pain of regret, when we land in the other world, will be minimized. We also experience the peace that inevitably follows our battles with temptation.
Is this wisdom of “overcoming the difficult” things in our lives any different than what we’ve been telling our kids for years? Eat your dinner before dessert, finish your chores before you go out and play, finish your homework before watching TV. Shunning evil and walking away from instant gratification needs to become a way of life!
For the most part, we manage our own time. We get to do what we want when we want, and yet, it’s not really a question of time is it? It’s really a matter of priorities—have you prioritized your spiritual welfare at the top of your priority list? This is the mark of an angel.
One of the top reasons people might not prioritize their spiritual life is that they don’t really believe there are consequences for our actions on earth. Academia and science teach us not to believe in things we cannot touch or see, and yet this is the “leap of faith” we all must make into our spiritual life. The thrust of the whole Heavenly Doctrines is to educate us on a spiritual system so broad and all encompassing, that we will make that leap of faith and change our lives for it. That we will make that “educated guess” which says, ”maybe I’m wrong, but is it really worth the risk of not believing in something greater than myself? Especially with all the glorious "natural world” orderly evidence in front of me.”
“False delights, like the lust for adultery for example, are the worst kind of trick for people on earth, because they are delightful at first but soon, strangely become un-delightful, and finally, in the other world, we are introduced into what the Heavenly Doctrines call ”it’s wretchedness.”
When we believe there are no consequences for how we live, we fall into the trap this young man did:
I heard a certain spirit, a young man fresh from the world, boasting of his whoredoms and affecting praise because he was a more masculine man than others.
Among other boastful insolences, he gave vent to this: "What is drearier than to imprison one's love and live with only one woman? What is more delightful than to emancipate the love? Who does not tire of one only? Who is not enlivened by many? What is sweeter than promiscuous liberty, variety, deflowerings, the deceiving of husbands, and scortatory hypocrisies? Do not these things, contrived by subtleties, craft and intrigues, delight the inmosts of the mind?"
 Bystanders, on hearing these things, said, "Better not talk so. You do not know where you are…. or with whom you are.
You have only just come here. Under your feet is hell and above your head is heaven. You are now in the world which is intermediate between heaven and hell, called the world of spirits. All who die in the world arrive here, are mustered, explored as to their quality, and prepared, the evil for hell and the good for heaven.
Perhaps you still recollect from what you were told by priests in the world that whoremongers and harlots are cast down into hell, and that chaste married partners are taken up into heaven."
The novitiate laughed at this and said, "What are heaven and hell? Is it not heaven where one is free? Is he not free who can love as many as he likes? And is it not hell where one is a slave? Is he not a slave who must cleave to one?"
 But a certain angel looking down from heaven heard all this, and cut him off, that he might not further profane marriage, and said to him,
"Come up hither! I will show you to the life what heaven and hell are, and what hell is like to confirmed whoremongers."
The angel pointed out the way and the young man went up. He was received and taken first into a paradisaical garden where were fruit-trees and flowers, the beauty, pleasantness and fragrance of which filled the mind with the delights of life.
On seeing them he greatly admired them. He was still in the external sight, however, in which he had been when he saw analogous things in the world. In this sight he was rational. But in his internal sight, in which whoredom was the chief instinct, filling every particle of thought, he was not rational.
His external sight was closed, therefore, and his internal sight opened. Thereupon he cried, "What do I see! Only straw and dry wood? What do I perceive now? Is it not an evil odor? Where have those paradisaical objects gone?"
The angel said, "They are right before you, but do not appear to your internal sight, which is scortatory, for this turns heavenly things into infernal and sees only the opposite. Every man has an internal and an external mind, and so an internal and an external sight.
With evil men the internal mind is insane and the external is sane; but with the good the internal is sane and from it the external also. As the mind is, so in the spiritual world does one see objects."
Now…in this memorable relation this happened to the young man three more times with the angel finally saying:
I predict that you will become so enfeebled, you will scarcely know where to turn for manhood. Such is the lot in store for those who glory in the potency of whoredom."
After hearing this, the young man descended and returned to the world of spirits and to his former associates there, with whom he spoke modestly and chastely but not for long. (CL 477)
We can see from this memorable anecdote, that it is the internal man we need to be concerned about—the way we work on our internal man is through repentance. Holy Supper is a sacrament of repentance. It not only corresponds to the reception of the Lord's love and charity, but it also corresponds to the removal of what is evil and false. For this reason, the bread used in the Holy Supper and in all the gift offerings in the Israelitish Church was unleavened bread, for leaven corresponds to what is evil and false. The wine also has no leavening, for through the process of fermentation, which represents spiritual combat and temptation, this falls to the bottom and is removed.
This “repentance” is beautifully illustrated in a short memorable narrative in the work True Christian Religion:
"After this the assembly of the English, inflamed with a desire to be wise, said to the angels, 'They say so many different things about the holy supper; tell us what the truth is about it.'
"The angels replied, 'The truth is that the man who looks to the Lord and repents is by that most holy ordinance conjoined with the Lord and introduced into heaven.'
"Those of the assembly said, 'That is a mystery.'
"The angels replied, 'It is a mystery, and yet such as may be understood. The bread and wine do not effect this; from these there is nothing holy; but material bread and spiritual bread, as also material wine and spiritual wine, correspond to each other mutually, spiritual bread being the holy principle of love, and spiritual wine the holy principle of faith, both from the Lord, and both being the Lord. From this comes the conjunction of the Lord with man and of man with the Lord, not with the bread and wine, but with the love and faith of the man who has repented; and conjunction with the Lord is also introduction into heaven.'
"And after the angels had taught them something about correspondence, those of the assembly said, 'Now for the first time we can understand this also.' And when they had said this, behold, a flame with light descended from heaven and affiliated them with the angels, and they loved each other mutually" (TCR 621:13).
Amen. The rite of Holy Supper will now be performed.