Which Are We?
November 01, 2009
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 25:1-13)
Reading from Swedenborg
The Ten Virgins
"The ten virgins" to whom the kingdom of the heavens is likened signify all who are of the church, for "ten" signifies all, and "virgins" the church; but "five" signifies some, or some part, for some of the church were prudent and some foolish. Such is the signification of the number "five" in the Word. "Lamps" signify the knowledges of truth and good, here from the Word, also the truths of doctrine and of faith; "oil" signifies the good of love and of charity; the "bridegroom" means the Lord, and the "wedding" means heaven and the church, which are called a "wedding" from the marriage of good and truth; and as where there is not this marriage there is neither heaven nor the church, therefore those are called "foolish" who know the truths of faith and have no good of love, while those who have the good of love are called "prudent"; for, as has been said, "lamps" here mean the truths of faith, and "oil" the good of love. "Virgins" signify the church, because "virgin" and "daughter" in the Word signify the affection of good and truth, and it is because of that affection that the church is a church. . . .
Those who acquire nothing of intelligence are like the "foolish virgins," and as these possess truths in the memory only and not in the life, after their departure from this world they are deprived of truths, while those who possess truths both in the memory and in the life enrich themselves in intelligence to eternity. (Apocalypse Explained #675)
It is the Worldwide Communion Sunday today. I would like to give you an unordinary sermon for the day. Instead of a sermon directly related to the communion, I would like to talk about the ten virgins at the wedding. Because the true communion is nothing but the spiritual conjunction between the Lord and the church.
According to the English dictionary, a virgin is defined as a maiden, an unmarried woman, or a person who has not had sexual intercourse. Indeed, in the Scripture, we find many things said about "virgin daughters" of Jerusalem, of Judah, of Zion, etc. Virgins represent the church not yet in conjunction with the Lord, in spiritual marriage. Ten virgins here in our text represent all in the church, for ten frequently represents all or the fullness of something.
According to our text, five of them were wise, and five foolish. Heavenly wisdom is in knowing, loving, and practicing the truth. Foolishness is in not loving or practicing the truth that we know. Once Jesus told his followers that a wise man is one who both hears and obeys the Lord's teachings, while a foolish man is one who hears, but does not practice the Lord's truth.
For many years I have read and heard people speak of the foolish virgins so mercilessly and never give them a chance to speak for themselves, as if the speaker does not have anything to do with them. But the state of the human spirit represented by the foolish is not far from our own. This morning I want to speak of them, assuming that we could be identified with them in many aspects. Because, in the sense that we learn in the Bible, the distinction between the wise and the foolish was made in the setting of the wedding which represents the spiritual conjunction of the Lord and humans. Indeed, in the church both the wise and the foolish are together and hear the Lord's truth. The only difference that exists between these two groups of people is the fact that the wise obey and practice the Lord's truth, while the foolish do not. I can't think that we are in a position to criticize or to judge the foolish without mercy, because they reflect the image of our foolish selves.
The foolish virgins found that their lamps had gone out, and that they had no more oil. "Lamps" are the knowledges of truth, the doctrines known to the memory. Dear friends, we have to know that the New Church doctrine is also a lamp as any other church doctrine is. I surely believe we need more oil to keep our lamp lighting the world. The foolish, in the dull slumber and sleep of sensuous life, having no inward love for good and truth, no heavenly oil, found their minds without any element of life with which to receive new intelligence. During their life in the world, their love of evil had extinguished their intelligence, and had taken away their interest in the truths of heaven.
Why are we not interested in the church's programs and its activities, but in the secular things? Why are we so much feeling tired of the church rituals: worship, prayer, and sacraments? Of course, the church should reach out to those who are not interested in religion or in the traditional ecclesiastical approach. And it should find out other ways in which those people can be reached out to so that they can be encouraged to look into themselves and turn around. But one thing I would like to emphasize is that evil in the will and falsity in the understanding, and sins in the conduct, make a person unfit for any genuine intelligence in spiritual things and for any inward feeling of joyful response to the Lord's coming. This is why we can hardly be joyful at the worship of the Lord and enjoy our Bible reading. Of course even evil people have a certain love of acquiring knowledge. But they have no warm love of the truth itself as the spiritual principle of human life. At last, their merely intellectual interest in the doctrines of the church will not feed their minds, nor promote spiritual intelligence.
The foolish begin to cast about to see how they can attain the measure of spiritual adulthood, when the light of truth shows all the necessity of a love for good and truth. This is why they beg the others for the oil for their lamps. They seek to trust in the goodness and love which are in others. They rely upon a "vicarious atonement," and on a "justification by faith alone." No one can have genuine faith, unless one is inwardly filled with love to God and one's fellow humans. The faith which is "alone" is a spurious faith. My dear friends, even if you hold the New Church faith tightly, it may be also a spurious faith so long as you keep it in your memory only. The mere faith, or the faith alone, even though it is of the New Church doctrine, is still a spurious faith.
The blood of Christ is the spiritual truth of the Lord, loved, believed, and practiced. Here is an illustration. Suppose a dying invalid has healthy blood transfused into his body, from the arm of a healthy person. Is he saved by the blood? Yes, but not by the shedding of the blood, but by the life of the blood; by blood received, made his own, appropriated, used as his own. Only thus can a spiritually dying person be saved by the spiritual blood of Christ, when he receives it as his own principle of actual life, circulating through his whole mental system.
Our Lord said that He will find many in the knowledge of doctrine. But whose who have knowledge only, will have empty lamps, and no oil of love to keep the knowledge in daily use. For conjunction with the Lord, which is regeneration, takes place with one in the degree in which there is formed, in one's mind, a spiritual marriage of good in the will and truth in the understanding. When these mental partners are united in the mind, heaven is opened to the mind, and the person enters into the marriage supper of the Lord.
Heaven is a condition of love, faith, and obedience. And these, only, can enter into a heavenly condition, who have the oil of genuine love, to make alive their light of intelligence; who know the truth and love to live by it.
We come to your table, Lord, to be fed with the bread of life. We trust not in our own endeavors and righteousness, but in your mercy and love. As we partake of the bread and the wine, let us reaffirm our love for your goodness and truth and let us honor that commitment by the action in our daily lives. Amen.
Rev. Chungsun Lee