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Submission to the Lord

A Sermon by Rev. J. Clark Echols, Jr.

“Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Was Mary happy? Was she a calm, quiet, strong young woman, sure of herself and her place in God’s plan? Is that why she was able to bee the mother of the Son of God?

And if so, was it because she had been a prideful, self absorbed teen, whose spirit was broken and who had turned her life over to God because of some tragedy?

Whatever was the course of her short life, with this declaration, Mary opened her heart to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Notice that she acknowledged she didn’t know how it would happen. But she submitted herself to the Lord. The Lord did not ask Mary to humiliate herself, in the current sense of the Word. Indeed, He had said she was highly regarded by God, and an excellent example of womanhood.

Our submission is a matter of our heart, not our intellect. It is not simply positive thinking or an affirmative attitude. It is not a grudging acceptance of fate. It is not a reduction in our sense of life. The Lord does not ask us to give up ownership of our life and the responsibility that goes with it. These are not the products of a deep trust in the Lord.

Mary reps affection for truth in the process of life, not in memory
starts small, external
called faith: and exists outside of your core being, your will
doctrine, teachings, rules
we remember resisting, arguing the fine points, trying to be sophisticated

The cycle of regeneration described in the Writings for the New Church is that we are confronted by a new truth. Then we strive to obey it, perhaps grudgingly. Then we anguish over our past disobedience and we despair being able to obey.

Want to avoid “humiliation”
which feels like the dark side of submission
but is actually the product of our past resistance
since the hells have created a sense of ownership of evil and falsity
a key stage: continuing to obey through this feeling of potential loss and pain

Continued obedience leads to new, habitual behaviors or thinking. And finally, joy replaces the anguish, easy submission replaces struggle. How does that happen?

We submit ourselves to the Lord when we “magnify” Him, when we make Him bigger than any of our desires and ideas. For then we turn towards Him, which means we turn away from evil and falsity. We enlarge His space in our lives. It takes up more of our view of life. And the result is that we let go of a love, a desire, and an investment in something.

This is a change of heart. It is not an intellectual process. We place ourselves in the flow of His love, like allowing a river’s current to carry us along. We come to actually enjoy His creation and its natural and spiritual processes. And so we are open to receiving His Divine love and Divine truth. And that is the point of the exercise; that is the end, the goal, and the purpose.

Other faith traditions describe this as emptying oneself, becoming nothing, or giving up everything. There are ancient practices which seek to stop all thought and to give up wanting anything. It is commonly supposed that such a practice is pointless or even a rejection of the Lord. But the goal of this practice of emptying the mind is not thoughtlessness or an absence of life. Its goal is to provide a spiritual space for the Lord to come in and fill the mind with spiritual light and love so that the person can live a life of genuine submission to the Lord’s truth.

The goal of our regeneration is to be motivated by His love, so that obedience is automatic. Eventually we delight in doing what the Lord has commanded. But the journey to that new state is through despair. We experience dependence upon Him, giving up our own loves and ideas.

Perhaps you want to get along with your boss. Perhaps you want to better lead your employees. Perhaps you want a deeper relationship with your spouse. Perhaps you are in anguish over your child’s situation. Or perhaps you are lonely, and feel like you have no friends. Perhaps you are angry, and weary of holding on to it. Perhaps you really want a deeper, personal relationship with the Lord, but just don’t feel it.

The Word suggests that we let go of our grip on our own ideas and desires. The Word describes how our “persuasion” about how life works must be broken. The Lord knows we have a legitimate question about how that works. Mary’s question to the angel, “How can this be since I do not know a man?” is not the intellectual challenge to the truthfulness of the Word. It expresses the heartfelt desire to do what the Lord is asking. The Lord will answer such questions of our heart because they do not reflect an obstinate, intellectual challenge.

Submitting ourselves to the Lord allows us to cope and even overcome negative situations, and allows us to more fully experience bliss and happiness. Why? It is because we have moved out of the way of the inflow of the Holy Spirit into our life. We are living our life according to eternal, spiritual principles. As we thus give our life over to Him, we feel it ever more strongly and it is ever more precious to us.

Why can’t we live such a noble life like Mary did?
perhaps if we simplify our lives
get back to basics
get rid of stuff
live day to day
no debt, nothing we can’t fix ourselves
then we could respond to the Lord like Mary did
No. the Word is not promoting Mary’s external life as a model
we are being taught that an affection for truth used in our life
will bring us to the spiritually simple life
we will be able to give up really destructive and distracting items
like anger, materialism, the need to control
not by changing the external circumstances
by developing, slowly AND surely an affection for His leading

The promise is that we will gain a clear sense of the reality: that the Lord is in control and working for our eternal happiness. Intellectually, we don’t see this at first. And so it feels as though we have to give up all control, and lose our identity. But that is not what the Lord is asking of us. He is proposing that something of Him be born in us, not that anything real or eternal has to die. As soon as we intellectually let go of the supremacy of our ideas and desires, this implantation of love and truth in our will can happen. We have to first submit ourselves to the Lord based only on this hope, this conviction that what the Word is describing is accurate. Which will only happen when we finally decide that we cannot create happiness, fix all the problems, or make the world work.

The Lord’s real desire for us is so wonderful and inspiring: “The Lord desires a person’s total submission so that He can make him blissful and happy.” As we receive the Lord’s love into our heart, we are able to positively assert “be it to me according to your word,” with joy and gladness.

Lessons: Luke 1:39-56

Heavenly Secrets nn. 4347 and 6138: “The Divine is not moved by any desire for glory. Indeed what glory does the Divine have that comes from man? He desires humility and submission not for His own sake but for man’s. For when humility is present in a person he turns away from the evil and falsity present in him, and in so doing removes them. Once these have been removed the Divine is able to flow in with good and truth. Anyone can recognize this within himself. One who is haughty is ruled by self-love and not only sets himself up above others but also does not care a thing about what is Divine; as a consequence he turns back the influx of good and therefore prevents it from being joined to truths. This is the real reason why a person should express humility in the presence of the Divine.... The person who is being regenerated is brought at length, through the repeated experiences of desolation and sustenance, to a point at which he no longer wishes to be his own man but the Lord’s. And once he has become the Lord’s he passes into a state in which, if he is left to himself, he becomes dejected and gripped by anxiety. But when he is brought out of that state he returns to the bliss and happiness that are his, to the kind of state all the angels experience. The Lord desires a person’s total submission so that He can make him blissful and happy.”

December 5, 2004
Preached at The Church of the New Jerusalem
845 Congress Ave
Glendale, Ohio 45246