Sermon: The Power of the Lord
Pittsburgh New Church
September 1, 2019
Rev. Calvin Odhner
Text: Mark 35-41
Arcana: DP 278
"With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; emphasis added).
Good morning welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church!
In 1879 Edison invented the electric lightbulb. It was a piece of carbonized sewing thread and it burned for more than 12 hours! William Henry Vanderbilt was a business tycoon. Once he saw the electric light he had to have one! He insisted that Edison install a generator in his house and lights in the living room, which he did!
But the living room was a picture gallery with silk cloth interwoven with metallic tinsel. The tinsel crossed the uninsulated wires and the whole living room caught on fire. Mrs. Vanderbilt would not go back into the house until the generator was gone!!!
Now we have something here—a whole lot more powerful than the electric light. It brings a different kind of ‘light,” doesn’t it? And it offers us an eternity in heaven!
But, in order to harness it, you have to give something up. Only you know what that thing is and then we must come to the Lord on our knees and beg Him to give us this light, so that we may live.
The disciples came to this same realization when they were about to die on the lake. Let’s read from Mark chapter 4….
Who here has heard of goal setting? Goal setting allows us to push forward to define success! It holds us accountable for the things we want to accomplish, right? But how about goal setting for spiritual goals like shunning this or that evil? Big goals, especially ones that involve spiritual work and temptations, are fantastically hard to achieve on our own! Why?
Maybe you have set the goal to not gossip. You are amazing at not gossiping for a while but this destructive habit slowly creeps back into your life. Until you look at yourself in shock and disappointment and think ”I’m no farther along in this than I was 5 years ago!” What is the problem?
Maybe you are obsessive-compulsive, or angry, or controlling or lustful? Name any spiritual challenge you are working on or trying to eradicate from your life and we find that these nasty forces, even though we have worked hard on removing them come back into our lives with a vengeance. Sometimes, even worse than they were when we were focused on ridding ourselves of them in the first place.
A friend of mine was working on telling the truth no matter what. He didn’t even make it through one day without lying. He “white-knuckled” it as best as he could and I could see that he was really trying. But lying had become a way of life for him. A crutch that he truly believed made his life easier. His puny strength against his monster was almost a joke and this wasn’t the first time he’s struggled with this beast!
We can compare fighting evils in ourselves to fixing a engine. It’s incredibly frustrating when you can’t figure out what the problem is. It might take days of trial and error but once you figure it out, people often say “of course that was it, how could I have missed it?” Once you know the secret to fighting evils within yourself, one that creates permanent results—it can be used as a lifelong regeneration tool.
Fortunately, we have the Heavenly Doctrines to show us the way when we are discovering and fighting evils within ourselves and their one answer is “forget it.” Yep, forget it—you cannot do it.
Take our story for today—the disciples are in a boat and it begins to get flooded with waves. By the way, this Sea of Tiberius is no joke—because of its position with the mountains around it, you can start off on the shore with a nice day and by the time you get to the middle of the crossing, you’re into a terrible windstorm, very much like when we start any so called ‘simple” project in our life.
The waves and wind-representing temptation (AE 419.24) are so scary, the disciples begin to fear for their lives. I imagine you have a similar image that I have in my mind. Experienced sailors in a somewhat primitive boat with a sail, water washing in on all sides. Tremendous wind blowing, to the point where the disciples are really afraid that they are going to die. But the odd thing is, on a cushion in the stern the Lord is asleep! Who could sleep through that?
An explanation comes to us from the internal sense of the Word. The storm represents our state before we have allowed the Lord to enter into our lives, before we have begun to go to Him first for everything. This is a very natural and non-spiritual state. We are “white-knuckling" it in the boat with zero trust in anything but ourselves. Life is throwing everything it has at us—waves, wind, rain, all our natural affections flood us with emotional pain and commotion! It is in this state we are told that the Lord appears “asleep.”
And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher do you not care if we perish?” And He awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said to them why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
Have you no faith? Faith is when we realize “I can’t do this on my own,” “I just keep failing over and over again.” Faith is when we go to the stern of the boat and wake the Lord up! We ask Him for help, sincerely beg Him, because we are really in trouble here on our knees in desperation before we are overcome and as it were, are drowned by the sea of evils in our life.
How much power did the disciples have over the wind and the rain? As much as we do today! None! This symbolizes us fighting evils without the power of the Lord behind us. It is a fruitless battle that always leads to failure.
"People are very greatly mistaken," we read, "who believe that they are able to rule over evil from themselves. [The truth is that] the Lord alone rules over evils residing with a person, and over hell residing with him or her”
…the Lord alone rules over evil in man and over hell with him….which strives every moment to rush in upon him and destroy him forever, ….if he does not so acknowledge and believe (this) in the life of the body, it is shown him (in) the life to come. (AC 987:1, 3; emphasis added).
Again, we read
"Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
"With God, all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27).
The Heavenly Doctrines teach that
"the Lord alone has power to remove evils from a person, to withhold him or her from evil and hold them in good, and thus save them" (HH 5, ref. to AC 10,019).
Another way this is taught is that when a person is engaged in spiritual combat or temptation, the Lord fights for them. That is, He fights on our behalf (AC 63, 1691, 1693; HD 653; emphasis added).
Our part, is to learn the truths of His Word and decide to have the Lord be our King. It can only be the Lord alone who has the power to fight for us. Any power of thought, will, or action we exercise as part of cooperating with Him, is actually His power acting into and within us.
The Heavenly Doctrines have lots of comparisons of what we are like when we try to take the hells on by ourselves!
All of heaven appears before God like a single human being, and on the other hand, all of hell is like a single gigantic monster.
Consequently, to act against a single evil and its falsity is to act against that gigantic monster or hell, and this no one is able to do except God, because He has all power.
From this it is clear that unless a person approaches the all-powerful God, he has from himself no more power against evil and its falsities than
a fish has against the ocean,
than a flea against a whale, or
than a grain of dust against an avalanche,
and much less than a locust has against an elephant,
or a fly against a camel.
Moreover, a person has all the less power against evil and falsity because he or she is born into evil tendencies, and evil cannot act against itself.
From all this it follows that unless a person acknowledges God and His omnipotence, and the resulting protection against hell, and also on his or her part fights with evil in him or herself,
they cannot but be immersed and overwhelmed in hell and there be driven about by evils, one after another, as a skiff at sea is driven by the storms. (TCR 68)
Here is the secret to managing the evil within us. Bring the Lord into the equation and literally beg him, implore Him to raise you up from the depths of hell. This He desires to do more from His love for us, more than anything in the universe! Let Him!
Just imagine, if you can—the Lord sitting up here with me right now. He has come today to speak with you because He loves you so much and wants you to harness this power He is offering! Here is what He would say, paraphrased by me, from the Heavenly Doctrines….
love one another; as I have loved you (John 13:34)
“I cannot take your sins away …unless you actually repent of them, which… means… seeing them, imploring My help, and desisting from them. (Lord 17:3)
Every one of Us… by nature is such that…. we can shun what is evil, as of yourself, from My power, if you implore it, then you will be doing good from Me. (Life 31)
When you see and know… what sin is, if you implore My help, to not will it, but to shun it…. and afterwards to act against it, even if your heart is not completely in it yet, still…. you can exercise restraint on it…. by combat… and over time….. turn away from it…. and hate it. (DP 278)
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 28).
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Amen. let us Pray