His Righteousness

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

A favourite hymn begins with the words, "The Lord in His righteousness judges the people" and then goes on to speak about a world that is peaceful and orderly because the Lord is recognized as its king, and it is ruled by His laws.

Tonight we have come here to be together with our friends and family and reflect on the events of the past twelve months. A year and a day ago, our homeland was a place of peace and prosperity. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, while they did not destroy the United States, have certainly served to make significant changes to our way of life, to take away much our sense of peace and security, some of our prosperity, and many of our personal freedoms. Their intention was to kill America, but they only managed to kill some Americans. Their intention was to change us, but it seems that we have changed in ways that no one would have guessed.

This tragedy was huge, and the effects of it continue. We all know people who were directly affected by the attacks. Members of this congregation were in the Pentagon that morning. Others of us knew people associated with the World Trade Center. A member of the Convention Church was on one of the airliners. It was personal. It was not just an attack on a way of life, or national entity, it was an attack on people and places that we knew and loved. The numbers of people killed, the low-tech but very effective methods used, the fact that many of the terrorists lived nearby, trained at the local airport, shopped in the local stores beside us – all these things together have fuelled a tremendous groundswell of righteousness indignation and fury.

It is now, as all the pain and the hurt and the anger are brought to mind that we need to reflect on deeper matters. Perhaps the greatest harm that we have suffered is to our spiritual states, because we have been sorely tempted to encourage and enjoy thoughts of anger and revenge and to encourage others in their "righteous anger."

The Heavenly Doctrine of the New Church is quite clear and forthright in its many statements that we are to honour those who fulfill their duty to their nation and homeland by fiercely defending it from aggression. But at the same time it reminds us that even in battle we are to act from charity. We are to put our lives in the hands of the Lord when we go into battle, but when the battle is over, we are to treat our enemies with compassion. To fight an enemy in charity sounds impossible, but it is described, in part, by this passage from The Doctrine of Charity.

Charity 164: In his inner self he does not exult in the overthrow of his enemy, and in the honour of victory; but in the deliverance of his country and his people from the invasion of an enemy, and the destruction and ruin they would inflict.

There are those who go to war reluctantly, but are valiant in their defence and brave in battle. But there are others who use such times of chaos and disorder as an opportunity to act out their anger and hatred under the sanction of battle, and to plunder the goods of others.

DP 278:4 Concerning those who favour sins and therefore cannot know them. These are they who acknowledge God and worship Him according to the customary ceremonials, and who convince themselves that any evil which is a sin is not a sin; for they disguise it by fallacies and appearances, and so hide its Enormity. When they have done this they favour it, making it their familiar friend. It is said that those who acknowledge God do this, because others do not regard any evil as a sin, whereas every sin is an offence against God. But examples may illustrate this. A man does not regard evil as a sin who in his desire for wealth makes certain forms of fraud allowable, by reasons which he devises. The same is true of the man who justifies in himself the spirit of revenge against enemies around him, and who in time of war plunders those who are not his enemies (emphasis added).

The hells incited these people to act out their hatred for our country, our people, and our way of life. We cannot imagine that the hells went away satisfied with the destruction caused by the crashing planes. They are still with us, only now they are using our anger to attack us. We need to be careful, to examine our minds and hearts to make sure that we are not using these circumstances to excuse or even encourage us to take delight in thought of revenge.

A person, or a nation, when attacked for no apparent reason, first needs to defend himself. But then, when the danger of physical harm has passed, it is important to know what caused the attack. We all want to see that some good has come from this. If we, as a nation and as individuals, stop and ask ourselves honestly why is it, when we are trying so hard to be friendly and kind, that some people are so mad at us. If we can learn how to preserve our essential character and still be better neighbours, then good will be seen to have come from this.

The Lord teaches us, saying "My ways are not your ways." We do not see the whole picture. We do not know what loves are in another person's heart. We are forbidden to make judgments about the eternal lot of others. In spite of the fact that things may not always work out the way we expect, We have to trust in the Lord, and act from conscience in charity.

When we sing, "The Lord in His righteousness judges the people," let us reflect that what we should be asking for is that the world to be governed by His righteousness, His all seeing and all knowing Divine Government. Only then will there be peace between nations, and in the minds and hearts of His people.

Let us close by remembering the selfless bravery of so many. There are those in other nations who only know us from what the popular TV shows are, or some of the other foolishness that we indulge in, and conclude from those things that the real people, the solid core of our nation are like the characters in the movies or on TV. If the events of September 11th taught us anything, it was that there are fine, brave men and women ready to lay down their lives for others in every walk of life, and in every city and town of this country. People who understand the real meaning of the life of charity, and the real meaning of the words, "love one another as I have loved you."

(John 15:9-14) "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. {10} "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. {11} "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. {12} "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. {13} "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. {14} "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. Amen.

First Lesson: ISA 55

"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. {2} Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. {3} Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; The sure mercies of David. {4} Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people. {5} Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you." {6} Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. {7} Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. {8} "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. {9} "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. {10} "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, {11} So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. {12} "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. {13} Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Second Lesson: JOH 14:23-27

{23} Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. {24} "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. {25} "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. {26} "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. {27} "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Third Lesson: CHARITY 164 - 166

Charity in the Commander of an army. By the commander of an army is meant its highest officer, whether he be king or archduke, or one constituted commander who holds authority from them. If he looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, and if he acts sincerely, justly, and faithfully in the affairs of his generalship and command, he does goods of use, which are goods of charity. And as he perpetually meditates upon them, applies himself to and executes them, he becomes charity. If he is king or archduke, he does not love war, but peace; even in war he continually loves peace. He does not go to war except for the protection of his country, and thus is not an aggressor, but a defender. But afterwards, when war is begun, if so be that aggression is defence, he becomes also an aggressor. In battle, if he has not been born otherwise, he is brave and valiant; after battle he is mild and merciful. In battle he would fain be a lion; but after battle, a lamb. In his inner self he does not exult in the overthrow of his enemy, and in the honour of victory; but in the deliverance of his country and his people from the invasion of an enemy, and the destruction and ruin they would inflict. He acts prudently; cares faithfully for his army, as the father of a family for his children and servants; and loves them, everyone, according as he does his duty sincerely and valiantly; and many such things. Cunning, with him, is not cunning, but prudence.

Charity in the Officers under the Commander of an army. Everyone of them may become charity, that is, an angel of heaven, if he looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, and sincerely, justly, and faithfully performs the duty of his office. For thus they too do goods of use perpetually, which are of charity; for their minds are in them, and when the mind is perpetually in goods of use it becomes a form of charity. His country is his neighbour; in the spiritual idea, he is its defence and security from invasion and destruction. He does not falsely exult in what is of no merit; nor does he exult even in what is deserving. This he thinks ought to be; which makes him of contented mind, and not vainglorious. In war he loves the soldiers under him, according to their valour, sincerity, and obedience; is thoughtful for them, and desires their good as he does his own; for they are victims to the glory of his use. For officers have the glory of the use and the glory of the honour; the soldiers who are charities have the glory of the use, and not the glory of the honour. Other things with him are similar to those above mentioned pertaining to the commander of the army, for whom he acts, with a difference according to the extent of his command. I have seen such officers in a higher heaven, and I have seen officers who were not such in hell.

Charity in the Common Soldier. If he looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, and sincerely, justly, and faithfully does his duty, he also becomes charity; for as to this there is no distinction of persons. He is averse to unjust depredation; he abominates the wrongful effusion of blood. In battle it is another thing. There he is not averse to it; for he does not think of it, but of the enemy as an enemy, who desires his blood. When he hears the sound of the drum calling him to desist from the slaughter, his fury ceases. He looks upon his captives after victory as neighbours, according to the quality of their good. Before the battle he raises his mind to the Lord, and commits his life into His hand; and after he has done this, he lets his mind down from its elevation into the body and becomes brave; the thought of the Lord – which he is then unconscious of remaining still in his mind, above his bravery. And then if he dies, he dies in the Lord; if he lives, he lives in the Lord.