From the Word: “After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you…. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.’” (John 17:1, 11-15)
“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Then the angel said to me, ‘Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.’” Revelation 22:1-7
“‘And he said, Peace to you, do not be afraid’ means that all is well, they should not despair…. The reason ‘peace’ means all is well is that peace is what is central and consequently what reigns universally within every single thing in heaven. For the peace that reigns in heaven is like spring on earth, or like the dawn. What moves a person’s feelings when spring or dawn arrives is not the discernible changes that take place then but the loveliness reigning universally, which pervades every individual thing he perceives and fills not only that perception but also each individual object with loveliness. Scarcely anyone at the present day knows what peace is when it is mentioned in the Word, as, besides other places, in the Blessing, “Jehovah lift up His face upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:26.
Almost everyone believes that peace consists in being kept safe from enemies and in serenity reigning at home and among companions. That kind of peace is not however what is meant here but another kind that is immensely superior, namely heavenly peace. No one can be granted this peace unless he is led by the Lord and abides in the Lord, that is, unless he is in heaven where the Lord is the All in all. For heavenly peace enters in when the desires that spring from self-love and love of the world are removed; for those desires take peace away, molesting a person inwardly.” Arcana Caelestia n.5662
From Pastor Clark
Think of where you feel safest. What makes it safe? Do fences, walls, locks and alarms create safety? Does safety consist of a sense of security, an absence of anxiety?
I have noticed that many mountain roads in Colorado have no guardrails. Visitors often say this is terrible. But those who live in the mountains know that guardrails would provide a false security and would not be able to stop those who lose control when they drive too fast, thinking it is safe to do so because the guardrails are there.
Of course we do make safe places for our children, blocking stairs, fencing playgrounds, enforcing lots of safety rules. But we all know that there is a limit to the safety we can guarantee. Accidents happen; people are ignorant or stupid.
So perhaps the kind of safety we all really want is spiritual in nature. It is a matter of mind and heart. We are able to accept the risks of living on earth, and we are able to cope with its vicissitudes. But not feeling safe in our spiritual life is a terrible burden.
Spiritual safety consists in knowing that the Lord is protecting you. Not just knowing it in your memory or as a concept, but living a life according to His commandments from a sense being loved by Him and loving Him. Such intimacy can exist only in a safe place.
Jesus Christ prayed for this safe place for all who follow Him. He knew that “the world” would hate His followers. And He knew that “the evil one” would molest them. And He knew that leaving the world was not the solution. He knew that the evil spirits of hell would never give up.
And so He prayed that His followers would be one with Him, would have joy and would not be of the world even while being in it. And then He established just such a world: His church, which is His kingdom on earth.
The church of Jesus Christ, which we call the New Church, is a safe place. That is the promise. Just read the description of this place in the book of Revelation. It is likened to a beautiful city. It has great protective walls and open, but guarded, gates. Everything its residents need, and all that they want, is inside: water, food and housing, love, community, usefulness. It is always bright, clean and springtime. Only good people live there, even though selfish and worldly people want to get in. There is what is now called and “internal locus of control,” that is, everyone is what they want to be and does what they want to do. And everyone else unconditionally supports them.
This church has a definite structure and definition. It has a deep foundation and so does not move. While its doors are open to all who wish to be there, it does have doors through which people must pass. It supports people in their lives of good, as everyone looks to the good of all others. There are tasks to be done in this church, but none of them are drudgery as people do what they love as well as what they know is their duty to do. There is healing in this church. Its medicine is love-bearing truth. This truth is abundant and of every possible variety to reach every human state of spiritual illness. Along with the water of life, this medicine is given by the Lord freely to all who come and ask.
And there is the key. The Lord is constantly inviting us into His church. To find this safe place we must respond to the Lord and ask to come in. He doesn’t demand super human effort. He doesn’t demand perfection in doctrinal knowledge or even in the actions of our life. We don’t have to be pure, great, heroic or holy. But we do have to come to Him and ask, which is very hard in some situations and at certain times.
Typically, to come to the Lord and ask means we have to give something up. Or a part of our life has to die. Or we have to stop doing something. Or we have to start doing something. It may be as obvious as gossip, lying or lust. Or it may be as subtle as sarcasm, negativity or hopelessness. It can be hard to stop and analyze your normal way of being and acknowledge that it is not consistent with going to the Lord and asking Him.
Perhaps a good way is to seek for beauty and safety. For surely these characterize the Lord’s New Church. Imagine a place that is open to you, inviting, where joy reigns. For beauty and safety are generated by people’s love for the Lord and each other, not by manipulating external circumstances. And what is hard to believe, the Lord Himself will provide all the protection you need because you have put your very eternal life into His care.
Look up, therefore, in search of a glimpse of that holy city, the New Jerusalem. It will descend from heaven into your life. And the promise is that you will find joy, beauty and safety in that place.
Precursor June 2005