The Raven and the Dove
October 19, 2014 – Toronto
A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper
Remember that the story of Noah and the Ark comes from the Ancient Word, written in an “ancient style” - factitious; a made-up story that is nevertheless true.
The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers that we read as a lesson is an example of the same kind of thing in the Lord's own words in the New Testament. It's not a story about real people, but the lesson it teaches is truth itself.
The earth filled with wickedness
Noah commanded to build an ark
Locked inside, there is rain for 40 days and nights, flooding the earth and destroying all the wicked things.
Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (GEN 7:24).
The waters subside. It takes another 150 days until the ark rests on the ground.
Another 40 days pass until Noah opens the window and sends out a raven.
The raven flies back and forth but does not return.
Then Noah releases a dove.
The first time it does not find a place to rest, so it returns to the ark.
After 7 days he tries again. This time the dove returns with an olive leaf.
After 7 more days he sends the dove again. This time it does not return and he knows that it is finally safe to leave the ark and start his new life.
Contrast the raven to the dove.
Black, carrion eating. The raven represents the last states of the falsity that was the cause of the flood in the first place.
It flies back and forth, gradually disappears; a picture of the waning falsity which allows for the emergence of the new states of truth from the Lord's Word.
Doves = the truths and goods of faith residing with a person who is to be regenerated (AC 870)
The question is why is the dove released 3 times?
The subject is the three states following temptations in the regeneration of this man (AC 871)
Dove 1 – No rest, comes back to the ark.
'The dove found no rest for the sole of its foot' means that no good and truth of faith at all had as yet been able to take root.
'It returned to him to the ark' means good and truth appearing to be the good and truth of faith with him.
'For the waters were over the face of the earth' means that falsities were still there to overflowing.
'He put out his hand' means his own power.
'And he took hold of it, and brought it in to himself into the ark' means that self was the source of the good he did and of the truth he thought. (AC 873)
[The first time the dove is released represents] a state when people imagine that they themselves are the source of the good they do and of the truth they think. And because they are still in the greatest obscurity, the Lord lets them cling to that opinion. But as long as they cling to that opinion which is false, no good deed they do nor any truth they think is the good or truth of faith. For whatever a person carries out from himself cannot be good since it has come from self, an impure and most unclean origin. (AC 874)
While [the person who is being regenerated] was inside the ark, which means his state prior to regeneration, he was in captivity or prison, hemmed in on every side by evils and falsities, which are 'the flood-waters'.
Consequently 'it returned to him to the ark' means that good and truth meant by the dove came back to him again. Any good at all which a person supposes that he does from himself comes back to him, for it has self in view. AC 876)
The waters – falsities – are still surrounding the ark, so even though the person is attempting to do things that are good, still at heart there is an element of selfishness. A lot of our immature efforts to do good have a selfish motive; we want to go to heaven! Later, as we mature, we eventually begin to do good because it's the right thing to do, because we are beginning to learn how to love the neighbour.
Dove 2 – Finds an olive branch which it brings back to Noah.
'He waited yet another seven days' means the beginning of the second state of regeneration,
'seven days' meaning that which is holy, because now charity is the subject.
'And he proceeded to send out the dove from the ark' means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.
'And the dove returned to him at evening time' means that these started to show themselves a little,
'evening time' being similar in meaning to pre-morning twilight.
'And behold, in its mouth an olive leaf plucked off means a small measure of the truth of faith,
'leaf' meaning truth,' olive good that stems from charity,
'plucked off' the fact that the truth of faith derives from that charity, and 'in its mouth' the fact that it was made visible.
'And Noah knew that the waters had abated from over the earth' means that all this was so because the obstructive falsities were now fewer than previously. (AC 879)
Those waters of falsity are being pushed back by the improving state of regeneration.
The “leaves” of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.
It's important that it is an olive leaf, for the olive (which produces oil) introduces the element of charity tied to the truth represented by the leaf.
The waters continue to abate: “when a person is being regenerated truths are planted in him towards which falsities are turned by the Lord. It thus appears as though they have been dispersed, dispersed by means of the goods which he is given.” (AC 887)
Dove 3 – Does not return, demonstrating to Noah that it is finally safe to open the ark.
'He waited yet another seven days' means the beginning of the third state,
'seven days' meaning that which is holy.
'And he sent out the dove' means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.
'The dove did not come back to him any more' means a state of freedom. (AC 888)
The water – the falsities – have finally been pushed back enough that the person can begin to act from freedom and rationality. They get out of the ark and walk about on the earth, breathing the fresh air, moving about as they wish.
'It happened in the six hundred and first year' means a finishing point.
'At the beginning, on the first of the month' means a starting point.
'The waters dried up from over the earth' means that falsities were not at that time apparent.
'And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and saw out' means the light, once falsities had been removed, shed by the truths of faith, which he acknowledged and in which he had faith.
'And behold, the face of the ground was dry' means regeneration. (AC 893)
When we think about our own spiritual states it's hard for us to get a sense of perspective because we only experience the 'now'. We dimly remember the past, and we cannot know the future.
The power of this story, then, is that it gives us a picture of the progress of the states of regeneration.
If we are in the early stages, it can give us hope for the future, and guide us on the path.
If we are in the later stages, it can give us a perspective from which to look back and be reminded of the progress that we have made.
But, if nothing else, this little fragment of the Noah story holds within it the promise and certainty of the Lord's constant care and guidance, and demonstrates that He does have a plan for us, and even when the storms rage around us, when the evil spirits try to enslave us, He can still can lead us to our heavenly home. Amen.
First Lesson: Genesis 8 – from the Children's Talk
Second Lesson: MAT 21:33-44
"Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: ' The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing, And it is marvellous in our eyes'? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."
Third Lesson: AC 892.
Once someone has been regenerated he enters for the first time into a state of freedom. Previously he has been in a state of slavery. It is slavery when evil desires and falsities predominate, freedom when affections for good and truth do so. As long as he is in a state of slavery, a person never perceives what his situation is. Only when he enters a state of freedom does he start to do so. When he is in a state of slavery, that is, when evil desires and falsities predominate, the person who has become subject to them imagines that he is in a state of freedom. That however is sheer falsity, for he is at that time being carried away by the delight that accompanies desires and resulting pleasures, that is, by the delight accompanying the loves that are his own.... It is however the devilish spirits, in whose company and so to speak fast moving stream he is caught, who carry him away....
 No one ever enters into a state of freedom until he has been regenerated and is being led by the Lord by means of the love of good and truth. When he has entered that state he is enabled to know and perceive for the first time what freedom really is, because he can at that point know and perceive what life is, what the true delight in life is, and what happiness is.... When persons who are in a state of freedom from the Lord see the life that goes with evil desires and falsities, and even more when they experience it, they are as appalled by it as people who see hell opened before their eyes....