Posts Tagged Living Courageously

Reflections on “Charter Day” 2009

Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

As I write this, it is the Monday morning after Charter Day weekend. I am still feeling very happy from my experience at the ANC Charter Day Sunday Worship at 10 a.m., yesterday. In particular, the music from that service has been echoing in my heart, reminding me of how wonderful I felt as I opened the Word, having heard great music from the Ethan Daum band, Malotte’s version of The Lord’s Prayer by the high school choral group, and Psalm 62 sung by the entire congregation. By the time I opened my mouth, it felt to me almost like I could just read from the Word, say a prayer, and be complete.

But I really enjoyed the topic, too. We kicked off the second week of Living Courageously with the story of Elijah being fed by the Widow of Zarephath. Elijah told the widow to feed him first, and only afterwards herself and her son. She obeyed, and rather than hastening her starvation, it ended it. Sometimes it feels as if we, too, cannot afford to serve the Lord first, when in reality, we can’t afford not to! In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded that the first tenth be given to Him, not because He needed to receive it, but because people need to give it, so we could be reminded that everything good–all of it–belongs to the Lord.

True Christian Religion 746:1 begins with the statement, “To live for others is to perform useful services.” When we live for others, we are living for the Lord; what greater gift can we as a church give our heavenly Father than to usefully serve His children? Every parent wants their children to be loved, the Lord more than any other.

I talked a little bit about how the Academy was a movement before it was an institution. And a selfless movement, at that. A handful of people determined to serve the Lord, the world, and future generations through the growth of New Church schools and churches. The Academy was founded for the sake of training a new priesthood, translating and publishing the Writings, writing and publishing related books, furthering New Church education, and establishing a library. And not for themselves alone! I challenge you to count up the number of lives transformed by the Academy movement since its start. Or the number of people positively changed as a result of the planting of a church here in Bryn Athyn.

Creating institutions and planting churches are selfless acts. These things take sacrifice and hard work that can never show a “return on investment” for those who do them. And now, how can we repay those who gave us what we have–the Academy of the New Church, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and New Church congregations scattered across the world?

All movements fade in time, and successful ones leave behind communities, institutions, and other organizations. Our churches and schools are good things, gifts from the Lord through the agency of people no longer living. I believe it is time to “pay it forward”–to recognize what we have freely received and find new energy for passing even more on to the next generation, and to the larger world around us. It is time for a new movement.

Just something to think about this week, as we contemplate what it means to put God first, and to live for others.

[This is also appearing as this week’s “Pastor’s Box” in the Bryn Athyn Post.]

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Two Hearts

Angel and Devil on Homer's ShoulderMost of the time, we’re unaware of having two wills, because our good and evil selves often agree on what to do, each for its own reasons.

This is not directly taught in the Word (as far as I know), but it’s a logical inference from other teachings. For instance, True Christian Religion 596 (among other places in the doctrines) describes spiritual temptation as combat between our two wills:

…[A] struggle ensues between the internal and the external man, and the victor then controls the other.

The reason why a struggle then ensues is that the internal man is reformed by means of truths, which enable him to see what is evil and false; and these truths are still in his external or natural man. First, therefore, there is dissension between the new will, which is above, and the old will, which is below. Since it is dissension between wills, it is between the pleasures of either, for it is well known that the flesh opposes the spirit, and the spirit the flesh, and the flesh with its lusts must be tamed, before the spirit can act and the person can become a new man. Following this dissension of the wills, a struggle, known as spiritual temptation, takes place.

And New Jerusalem 193 (among other places) says that these days few people experience much spiritual temptation at all:

Since to-day faith is rare because of the absence of charity, the church being at its end, few people nowadays experience any degree of spiritual temptation. As a result it is hardly known what spiritual temptations are and what purpose they serve.

So putting the two together, it seems that many people very rarely experience a conflict between their higher and lower selves. No conflict must mean agreement. And this is actually a good thing, I think. Imagine if every minute decision of every day of your life caused spiritual warfare to break out in your mind! There would be little break at all from spiritual suffering. So here’s an example: this morning I got in my car and drove to the pastor’s office. Why? Well, I think my selfish will (kickin’ it old-school, I might even say my “proprium”!) figured my reputation and wealth might take a hit if I just stopped showing up for work. Besides, my evil will likes it when people think I’m doing a good job. At the same time, I believe, the new will that the Lord is growing within me, based off of my conscience, wanted to drive to work this morning because it loves serving the Lord and other people as a pastor and preacher. It was excited to get to work on things like my proposal for Austin and the next Living Courageously sermon. Now, if the two wills disagreed, then I would have to have duked it out inside myself. Some mornings, that does, indeed, happen, when my evil self decides it can blow off work because it’d rather play video games and eat stromboli all day. But today, I happily got up, got dressed, and drove off to the office without a tinge of internal struggle. This week’s task for people doing the “Living Courageously” program is to regularly ask “Why did I do that?” This is in observance of the fact that the Lord mercifully works with us through these mixed motives of ours. E.g., see Secrets of Heaven 4063:

When people are being spiritually remade (“regenerated”) the Lord keeps them in an intermediate kind of good, a good which serves to introduce genuine goods and truths. But once those [genuine] goods and truths have been introduced, the intermediate good is separated from them. The spiritually reborn person has an affection for spiritual and heavenly matters since these give one feelings of delight and blessedness, whereas the affections of the person who is not spiritually reborn are for worldly and earthly things, and these things give him feelings of delight and pleasure.

…Since therefore our states of life have to be changed so drastically we are inevitably kept for a long time in an intermediate kind of good which partakes both of worldly affections and of heavenly ones. And unless we are maintained in that intermediate good we will no way let heavenly goods and truths enter us.

By the way, if you haven’t, yet, you should check out the Living Courageously program.

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I’m exploring the meaning hidd…

I’m exploring the meaning hidden in the story of Elijah, and his courageous stand against evil. Join me 10/4-11/15, Bryn Athyn Contemporary!

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