Gaining a Heart of Wisdom A Sermon by the Rev. Kenneth J. Alden. So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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1 Gaining a Heart of Wisdom A Sermon by the Rev. Kenneth J. Alden So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) The Lord shows us through nature and through revelation that life is full of new beginnings. After the winter, the year begins again with spring. After the night, the day begins again with morning. After the lunar month ends in a dark sky, the month begins again with a crescent moon. When a fruit falls dead to the ground, life for the plant begins anew with the seed. So the various times and seasons in the Word signify the end of old states and new beginnings. (See Arcana Coelestia 7828, 8400, 8426, et al.) The Heavenly Doctrine teaches: "...Man is as it were being born continually." It compares it to a series of eggs evolving from each other, with each egg producing a chick, which produces a new egg. (See Arcana Coelestia 4378, 5202:4) Although each present state is never perfect, it is like a new beginning, an egg, to the states following. (See Arcana Coelestia 4379) By the new beginnings which each present moment affords, we are able to build on the past, and be continually perfected. In fact, with those who are regenerate, the Lord is said to rise every day, and even every moment, just as He rose from the tomb. (See Arcana Coelestia 2405e) We can see, then, that every moment can be, and is intended to be a new beginning, a new step forward in the journey from earth to heaven. When we look back at the past year and reflect on the moments of the three-hundred-sixty-five days which have gone by, we might ask ourselves, "Did we put these moments to their best use?" If we are fair-minded, we will see many areas in which we have made gains--evils over which we have gained some control, and new uses which we have responded to. At the same time we will see many imperfections as well. If we reflect on the truth of the teaching of the Heavenly Doctrine, that "Every least moment of man's life has a continual series of consequences to eternity..." (Arcana Coelestia 3854:3), then we cannot but humbly ask, "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." "To apply our hearts to wisdom," or as it is perhaps better translated, "to gain a heart of wisdom," reminds us of the thing Solomon chose when he was told by the Lord to name the thing he desired. He said, "...Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?" (1 Kings 3:9) "A heart of wisdom" --"an understanding heart." These phrases combine two ideas pertaining to the two parts of the human mind. These phrases speak of the marriage of will and understanding, of good and truth, which can take place in the mind of each of us. This marriage is most important to our lives, for it is, as the Heavenly Doctrine says, "heaven with man." We read: "In this heaven the Lord dwells as in His own, for all the good of love is from Him, and also all the conjunction of truth with good. The Lord cannot dwell in anything of man's own, because it is evil." (Arcana Coelestia 10067:7) So the Lord dwells in what is His own--in the marriage of good and truth--in a

2 Gaining a Heart of Wisdom 2 heart of wisdom. The marriage of good and truth takes place when the truth which is to be of our faith has its life from the good which is of our love; and when the good of love has its quality from the truth of faith. (See Arcana Coelestia 10067:7) So the truth of our understanding is giving quality to the good of our will, and the good of our will is giving 1ife to the truth of our understanding. When these things are conjoined, man is conjoined with the Lord, and the Lord with man. Not that man is able to conjoin himself with the Lord, but that the Lord conjoins the man with Himself. This the Lord can do when man desists from evils. Desisting from evils is the part which man can play in forming this marriage of good and truth with him, and so of conjoining himself with the Lord. So the Heavenly Doctrine says, "...To desist from evils has been left to man's decision, and when he desists, then is effected the reciprocal conjunction of the truth which is of faith and of the good which is of love from the Lord..." (Arcana Coelestia 10067:8) We can see from the way in which the marriage of good and truth is formed in us, that gaining an understanding heart, or a heart of wisdom is intimately tied to shunning evils as sins against the Lord--to desisting from evils. So the Heavenly Doctrine repeatedly teaches that man becomes wise by rejecting the things of his proprium. (See Divine Providence 189) We read: "Since wisdom is of life and thence of reason...the question arises, What is the wisdom of life? In a brief summary it is this: To shun evils because they are hurtful to the soul, hurtful to the state, and hurtful to the body; and to do good deeds because they are of advantage to the soul, to the state, and to the body." (Conjugial Love 130:4) Moral wisdom, too, is defined in terms of shunning evils in this passage: "Moral wisdom flees from evils and falsities as leprosies, especially those of lasciviousness, which contaminate his conjugial love." (Conjugial Love 102) To shun evils as sins against the Lord, then, is to apply our hearts to wisdom. It is to gain a heart of wisdom from the Lord; for it purifies our heart of evil so that it may give life to our understanding; and shunning evils as sins against the Lord gives spiritual quality to our loves by looking with the understanding to the eternal welfare of ourselves and others. Being wise is far more than a matter of intellectual development. It comes down to acting wisely. As the Heavenly Doctrine puts it: "He who acts wisely is wise, and he who acts foolishly is foolish." (Divine Providence 321:3) So the Psalm which turns to the Lord for a heart of wisdom also calls on the Lord to "Establish the work of our hands." Being wise comes down to doing good uses. (See Conjugial Love 130:4) We read: "It is written in the wisdom of the wise that no one is wise or lives for himself alone, but for others also... Living for others is being useful." (True Christian Religion 746) When we put theoretical wisdom to use, then we are wise.

3 Gaining a Heart of Wisdom 3 The Heavenly Doctrine shows that there are several planes of uses: natural and bodily uses relate to the loves of self and the world; moral and civil uses pertain to love of society and the community; and spiritual uses pertain to love to God and the neighbor. (See True Christian Religion 746) These latter are spiritual uses because they relate to eternal life, since God is primarily a heavenly king, and since the neighbor was created to live to eternity. So the Psalm which speaks of a heart of wisdom also has a strong theme of this spiritual component. It speaks of God being from everlasting to everlasting. It says, "A thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past... The days of of our lives are seventy years. The Heavenly Doctrine echoes this truth that the bulk of our life is spent in an eternal world. We read: "Man's life is scarcely like a moment relatively to his life after death.' (Arcana Coelestia 5006:4) True wisdom, then does uses which look to our own, and our neighbor's lives to eternity--uses which look to our eternal God. How can we number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom? We have already seen that we can shun evils as sins against the Lord. We can act wisely by living for others. We can look to the Lord and His eternal ends in the things that we do. We can care for the spiritual welfare of our neighbor. And yet these are relatively small things--or at least, few in number compared to all the conscious moments of our lives. If you have ever tried to keep a log of all the things you do in a day, you know that you can only write down the most general things. If you have tried to make plans for the day or the next week, you cannot even begin to put down all that will happen, for too many unforseen things happen: people help you out unexpectedly, something breaks down, more important things come up, and so forth. It is simply impossible for us to keep track of all our time so that every moment is planned as a new beginning and step forward. It is impossible for us to number our days so that each one is ordered and disposed by us. Only the Lord can order and dispose the least moments of our lives so that they can have good consequences to eternity. (See Arcana Coelestia 3854:3) Only the Lord can protect us from the hells every moment. (See Arcana Coelestia 59:2, 5992:3) The Lord does want us to act as if of ourselves in the ordering of our lives. He has given us freedom and reason so that we may deal with the present and make prudent decisions which will affect our future, insofar as we can foresee it. But the Lord is the one who truly numbers our days, ordering and disposing them according to our cooperation with Him. He commands us to order and dispose our lives, but at the same time requires that we acknowledge that He is the one who does it. This is pictured in the law given to the children of Israel that when they numbered the people often at the Lord's command they were to offer to the Lord a half shekel per man, lest there be a plague. The numbering of the people represented the ordering of our lives which we do as if of ourselves, at the Lord's command; and the offering of a half shekel represented our acknowledgment that all things of good and truth are from the Lord, and that He is the One who alone can order and dispose all things of our lives, (See Arcana Coelestia ) On one occasion David numbered the people without the Lord's command, and presumably without giving an offering to the

4 Gaining a Heart of Wisdom 4 Lord. So a plague was brought upon the people. (See 2 Samuel 24) The plague that we receive when we fail to acknowledge that all good and truth are from the Lord is that we receive no good or truth from Him; we are pursued by evils and falsities; and the goods and truths received from infancy perish. (See Arcana Coelestia 10219:4) So wisdom, and rational wisdom in particular, are defined in terms of acknowledging that all good and truth, all intelligence and wisdom are from the Lord, and therefore all the numbering of our days--all the ordering and disposing of the states of our lives. (See Conjugial Love 102, Arcana Coelestia 10227:2) The fact that we appear to order our lives when yet it is the Lord who really does so is beautifully expressed in the original Hebrew of our text, for several words have two meanings, (See Arcana Coelestia 10217) one of which supports the appearance that we may number our days to present or bring a heart of wisdom, while the other meaning supports the truth that the Lord is the One who numbers our days and gives us a heart of wisdom. So the translation the Heavenly Doctrine uses emphasizes the Lord's role: "For numbering our days, make known what is right, that we may put on a heart of wisdom" (Arcana Coelestia 10217:5) This asks that the Lord make known what is right and teach us so that we will have the necessary knowledge to cooperate with the Lord when He numbers or disposes our days. The result is that we will put on from Him a heart of wisdom, like a garment of righteousness from Him. When we look ahead to the coming year, we would do well to ask the Lord to teach us--to ask Him to lead us to cooperate with Him in the disposing and ordering of the moments of our lives. We would do well to ask to gain a heart of wisdom from Him. Let us then take advantage of each moment of our lives as a new beginning. Let us use those moments to shun evils as sins against the Lord. Let us use them to do goods--goods which look to eternal ends for ourselves and for our neighbor. Let us ascribe to the Lord all intelligence and wisdom, all the good and truth that disposes our lives; for the Lord guides us in the ordering of our lives with this prayer: "For numbering our days, make known what is right, that we may put on a heart of wisdom." Amen. Readings: Matthew 4:1-11; Psalm 90:1-17; CL 130:2-4, parts. Conjugial Love 130:2....Something must also be said respecting what wisdom is in its rise, progress, and then full state. Concerns that have to do with the church and are called spiritual have their seat in the inmost recesses in a person. Concerns that have to do with the civil state and are called political occupy a position below them. And concerns that have to do with knowledge, experience and skill and are called natural - these form their footstool...concerns that have to do with the civil state and are called political occupy a position below spiritual matters, because they are connected with the world, since they have to do with the world. For they are the statutes, laws and regulations by which men are bound, in order that they may be formed into a stable and united society and state...

5 Gaining a Heart of Wisdom 5 [3] Now because concerns that have to do with the church and are called spiritual have their seat in the inmost regions, and whatever has its seat in the inmost regions forms the head, and because the concerns that follow next below them, which are called political, form the body, and the lowest concerns which are called natural form the feet, it follows that when these three come one after the other in their proper order, a person is a proper human being. For one level then flows down into the next, in a manner similar to the way activities of the head flow down into the body and through the body to the feet. So do spiritual concerns flow down into political concerns, and through political concerns into natural ones. Furthermore, because spiritual concerns reside in the light of heaven, it is apparent that they illumine with their light the concerns that follow in order, and animate them with their warmth (which is love), and that when this happens, a person has wisdom. [4] Since wisdom is, as we said above, a matter of life first and consequently of reason, the question arises, what wisdom of life is. In brief summary, it is this: to refrain from evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body. This is the wisdom that is meant by the wisdom to which conjugial love attaches itself. For it attaches itself through wisdom's shunning the evil of adultery as a pestilence injurious to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body... Through The Week Recall the Readings In all His temptations, Jesus responded from the Word, with a longing to live by the Word and serve God alone. Psalm 90 spoke of the timelessness of God: From everlasting to everlasting, You are God. "For numbering our days, make known what is right, that we may put on a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12) It ends: establish the work of our hands. Reflect on the Message We are being born continually, each moment a new beginning with consequences to eternity. The Lord alone can number our days put them in order. A heart of wisdom speaks to the marriage of good and truth brought about by desisting from evils and doing what truth teaches, in a life of useful service. Serving spiritual uses is related to eternal life. Take Action Ask the Lord to teach you how to cooperate with His numbering of your days. If you could make the most of each moment as a new beginning by desisting from evil, which evil would it be? If the Lord is numbering your days so you may gain a heart of wisdom, to which of your uses is He drawing you for the sake of their consequences to eternity?

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