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Sermons

Not Peace, but a Sword

May 12, 2002

Bible Reading

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple--truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. (Matthew 10:34-42)

Reading from Swedenborg

In the Bible, a sword symbolizes truth fighting against falsity, and falsity against truth. Therefore it also means the scattering of falsities, and spiritual temptation. This can be seen from many passages, including this one: "I did not come to send peace on the earth, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Here "sword" means the combat of temptation. This was said because people at that time were involved in falsities, and the Lord uncovered deeper truths; and only by combats from this kind of truth can falsities be expelled. (Apocalypse Explained #131a.2)

Sermon

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

What did the Lord mean by this statement, when all we are looking for in the world is peace? We go to the Lord in our dreams, in our prayers, in our thoughts. We go to the Lord and ask for peace. We are looking for peace with each other, and most of all, peace within ourselves. It is only when we have peace in our life that we can find peace ourselves, and then maybe offer peace to the world. The peace needs to be within ourselves first.

Yet the Lord said he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. The Lord Jesus Christ came--the Father himself came--and took on flesh, lived among us, and loved us. But he didn't come into this world to console us. He didn't come to take away our freedom. If the Lord stopped all the wars in the world today--which a lot of people would like him to do--he'd have to take complete charge. He'd have to take away our own life. We would lose what we have; what is ours. He would then be able to force us to live together, without freedom.

We do this with our children. We force them to be good. And as soon as they turn fourteen, they rebel. It's only when we find peace within ourselves that we can go to our brother or sister and be at one with them. So the Lord didn't come into the world to force a peace. He didn't come as the United Nations. This wonderful group of people that gathers together to bring peace has never brought peace to anyone. All it does is control the people. As soon as that control is taken away, the people turn back to their old ways, and they hate each other.

But there is a wonderful message when the Lord said, "I didn't come to bring peace; I've come to bring a sword." The Lord uses the sword throughout the whole of his Word. The sword represents the divine truth. It is the power to fight. It can be misused, as Goliath misused it; but the power is still in the sword. David took Goliath's sword and kept it (1 Samuel 21:9), and fought his whole campaign with it.

The Lord talks about swords time and time again in his Word. And he gives us beautiful imagery of the sword. Back when mankind turned from the Lord and fled from the garden in that beautiful, mystic story, the Lord set up an angel with a flaming sword that turned in all directions, to protect what was his. And the Lord does that inside us: he protects what is his with the sword.

If we go twelve hundred pages later to the Book of Revelation we read again that the Lord was standing there with a double edged sword coming out of his mouth. A sword that went this way and that. The double-edged sword represents truth that fights for us and also protects us. That's why it has the double edge.

The Lord came into the world to give us his Word--to give us the truth--so that we may find a way out. The Lord's sword is his truth. The Lord's Word is what he came to bring. There is no divine truth in the world. And without truth, how do we know what's right and what's wrong? He came to give us the truth. That's the beautiful thing here. The Lord is holding the sword, and he came to bring a sword to give to us. He gave us the power to do the things that needed to be done in this world, and in our personal life. We have to fight for peace.

An incredible thing happens when we pick up the Lord's Word. I'm working with a young man, and as he has grasped the truth, a battle has begun inside him. He has the love of the world (which he does love!), and now he has the love of the Lord, which he has to fight with, and overcome that love of the world. And there's a battle inside him--a terrible battle.

The sword is placed in our hand. We've got a job to do. So let's look through Matthew chapter ten to see how the Lord prepares us to take the sword. Please read the chapter along with me.

First of all, he gathers together the twelve disciples who were with him. Symbolically, he gathers together a complete array of knowledge within us--represented by the twelve disciples. Then he says: now you have the power to go out and to heal. Now you have the power to cast out spirits.

We think that we've got that power, and yet we see that people with addictions, when they've failed the Lord, are given the power to cast out those evil spirits. We tend to want to cast out evil spirits from other people, but we have to cast them out from ourselves first. The message is tough. The Lord says: I gather together the twelve disciples and I give you the power to overcome what's wrong in your life. I give it to you.

That's the wonderful message of the New Church. The Lord gives us the power. People are waiting for the Lord to come back and do it. He's done it. He brought the divine truth into the world. He gave us the sword. And he gave us the guarantee that we'll win, because he says: I now gather together the twelve, all those states of being that I've put in you from birth; and with those twelve states, you now have the power to heal. The power to heal yourself. The power to fight against evil. But we have to face the problems that are within us.

And the Lord beautifully tells us where we are to focus in this fight. He sends us out and he says: Don't go to the Samaritans and don't go to the Gentiles. Go to the lost tribe of Israel. Go back inside yourself, where once, as a child, I ruled. Bring the divine light there. And he warns us--and this is the hardest thing for us to do in life--to take no copper, no silver, no money belts. Take no extra tunic, no sandals, nor a staff, for the worker is worthy of his food. The Lord is saying: If you want to change your life, take nothing from the past. "Let the dead bury their own dead" is the way he says it (Matthew 8:22). And he tells us we don't need to take our silver--our truth. We need to take his truth. That's the only thing that we can fight for. Because as soon as we take our own "truth," we start to make excuses.

And he tells us that it will surely be better for those who were like Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who hear the Word of the Lord and don't use it. Here he is using Sodom and Gomorrah to mean those who knew none of the truth, and were destroyed. But you have the truth. And it's going to be tough, he says. It's not going to be easy to do what I'm asking you to do. Some of us have got sixty years stored up inside of us that we need to take over. Some of us are young, and see the ambitions of life.

It's going to be tough. He says, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." He's warning us: "Boy, are you going to get it!" Therefore he says, be as wise as serpents. A serpent can rise up and look around itself for a full three hundred sixty degrees. In Mark's gospel he tells us that we can pick up poison and drink it, and that the serpent will never strike us (Mark 16:18). What's he talking about? He's saying that when you have the ray of truth embedded in you, you have a sword that no one can overcome. It will go this way and that way. It will protect you and it will fight for you.

He says, "Don't worry about what you're going to say." He doesn't say not to worry about not having the truth. He simply says don't worry about it. Just have all the truth.

I liken that to playing golf. You hand someone a set of golf clubs and you say: don't worry about which club you're going to use. Just use the first one, which is a wood. Just hit off the tee. And don't worry about which club you're going to use, because I'll tell you which club you're going to use when I see where you hit the ball. The Lord doesn't expect us to hit them straight down the fairway. He expects that they're going to go all over the place. And he says, don't worry, don't worry. Just move. Just move. When you get out there, when you get out there on the edge, I'll be there to tell you what club to use. He says, don't worry about being delivered up and being persecuted because you will be hated in my name's sake. The hells hate us when we come out with the truth.

He says the children are going to turn against their parents. And he warns us again. A disciple is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master. He's saying: I have the power and I am going to lead you, and there's going to be nothing hidden that's not going to be revealed. That's the most wonderful line. I love reading those lines. Everything that's hidden within me is going to be revealed. I just can't wait until it's all out there. I just can't wait until everybody knows everything about me--and therefore I know who are my friends, and who aren't. The Lord tells us that what's hidden will be revealed. He expresses this beautifully in Matthew chapter six, where he says, "I knew what you had need of before you asked--but pray this way . . ." (Matthew 6:8, 9). I knew what you had need of before you asked. The Lord knows our bad states. We should just wander into our little room with prayer and say "Okay, Lord, you know it all. You know it all. Give me the sword, and teach me how to fight."

Back to chapter ten, he says: Whatever you hear in the dark, speak in the light. And what is whispered in your ear, preach on the rooftops. The Lord is saying: You hear my hidden voice inside you. Now, use it! Say, "I'm sorry. I cannot do that. That's against my religion." That's shouting it from the rooftop. We hear a blip inside, but it comes out on the rooftop. "Sorry. I cannot do that. It's against my religion."

By this time, we're feeling rather down because the Lord has put us out there as sheep amongst the wolves. But then he says the most beautiful thing. He says: Does a sparrow fall from heaven that I'm not aware of? Are they not sold for just a copper coin? And not a single one falls to the ground that I am not aware of. The very hairs of your head--each one of them is valuable to me. Do not fear therefore, for you are worth more than many sparrows. You can feel just like a coach coming back to the team and saying, "Come on, come on. I've seen you play the game. I've watched every hair on your head. I've watched you grow. I've watched you live. Now come on. Just start playing the game."

"Confess me before men" stands by itself. Confess me before every other state within yourself--before every part of yourself.

And then he says "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." The Lord says in this passage that the fathers and mothers are going to be set upon by their daughters and sons.

What was the Lord talking about? Did he literally mean that? Because if he did, I don't want to be a part of it!

What do I have that's of my father? I have my heredity. That's what my father gave me--my earthly father. He gave me heredity. And that will not get me through life. He supported me and gave me love; but the real life that I'm going to get is from the Lord and the Lord alone. My mother and my father have something born from them that's going to be me. Therefore the son and the daughter represent the truth and the love--the new truth and the new love that will put off the mother and the father.

When the Lord came into the world, this was his whole battle: to put off that heredity. And he's telling us to do the same. He gives us the hard line: Pick up your cross. Come on. Pick up your cross and follow me. The cross is temptation. Until we pick it up, we're just talking about doing the work. But when we pick up the cross, we say, "I'm going to follow the Lord. I'm going to go through temptation. I can take it."

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." The Lord taught in the Gospels "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for a friend" (John 15:13). The Lord is asking us to lay down our life. He says: Don't take that worldly life. It's too hard. Lay it down and let me pick it up. Such beautiful text. When we read it on the surface, it's hard. And the Lord says "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for a friend. . . . And I call you friends." The Lord lay down his life for us so that we could pick it up again. And he asks us to lay down our life for him, so that he can pick it up again.

And then come these wonderful little verses to finish it off. He who receives you, my Father receives him; and he who receives a prophet in a prophet's name shall receive a prophet's reward. The Lord is saying: Anyone who gets truth will be given more truth. This is the meaning of parable of the talents. The Lord gave one man two, and one man five, and one man ten; and the increase came from those who used it (Matthew 25:14-30).

It all comes back to a child--to the little voice that we heard in this church this morning. The lovely voice of a child that was right here with us. The angels were there. You could feel the strength of the little voice in church this morning. Above all else, our minds were going to this lovely little baby--to innocence. The Lord is saying: Whoever gives a cup of water--the truth--to a child gives it to me. When we give the Lord's truth to our own innocence, the Lord gives us all we want.

How glad I am that my God came into this world to give me a sword, that I might find peace. Amen.

Prayer

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, all we want is peace. Yet you have told us that you come not to bring peace, but a sword. We rebel against your words. We want to take the easy path. But you have put a sword in our hands and told us to fight the battle. Give us strength, O Lord, to fight that battle--not a battle of literal swords and guns, but a battle of truth against falsity, and of good against evil. Give us the will to fight that battle within ourselves and in our world, so that your way of divine love may triumph over our way of worldliness. Then, when our battle is done, give us the deeper, spiritual peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

Rev. Leslie L. Sheppard