“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name,” by Louis A. Dole

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“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” – Psalm 103:1-2

Readings

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 · Revelation 14:1-7 · Psalm 103

Sermon

In the Word we find numerous and beautiful references to the value of thanksgiving, of the acknowledgment and confession of the Lord’s goodness, and of the mercies which He bestows: thanksgiving for spiritual blessings. “I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee.”

There are thanksgivings for the coming of the Lord and the establishment and growth of His kingdom, and thanksgivings for His presence with us, enlightening us to see the way of life and delivering us from spiritual bondage. So the Psalmist writes, “I will offer unto thee the sacrifices of thanksgiving.”

The Lord commissioned His apostles saying, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The word translated creature here means every created thing. The Lord could give this command because He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and could say “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” We recall that the Lord by His miracles, the turning of the water into wine, the stilling of the storm, the healing of all manner of sicknesses, showed that He had this power.

All things in nature have a spiritual origin and are constantly maintained by influx. Man is an epitome of the universe. The sicknesses, the disasters that distress and afflict mankind are from the Divine influx flowing into man and thence operating in the world external to him. If the human soul were in order, the world of nature would be affected. Not only man but the world of nature has been marred through man. As men become better, the so-called evil uses or evil instrumentalities of nature will fall away with the need of them. Will not these aspects disappear, even as have some monstrous forms of past historic ages, as unhealthy conditions are more and more removed, as people come into orderly habits of industry and charity? And if men lived in love to the Lord and the neighbor, would not war with its heavy burdens and suffering forever cease? No mere external changes will cause these things to come to pass, but little by little the things in the external world can be brought under control as society becomes regenerate. Then there will be no pollution of the arts and of literature nor of man’s material surroundings.

The natural mind cannot see this. The spiritual mind must be opened. The effect of the natural surroundings is different upon different kinds of people. The purely natural man sees in them only the means to gratify his desires. But the spiritual man, who sees the Lord in the world that He has made and acknowledges Him as the Author of the Word which He has written for us, sees in everything about him the loving and abundant providence of the Lord.

In the writings there is a passage of great beauty describing how nature mirrors regeneration. Under the statement that to be created and so to be a “creature” means in the Scriptures to be regenerated, the writings state: “In the world regeneration is represented by various particulars, as by the blossoming of every vegetable on the earth in the spring, and its successive advancement even to fructification, in the like manner by the growth of every tree, flower, and shrub from the first month of warm weather to the last. It is represented by morning and evening showers, and by dews, on the fall of which the flowers unfold their beauties, while they close them up at the approach of night. It is represented by the fragrance arising from gardens and fields, and also by the rainbow in the clouds, and by the splendid colors of an eastern sky at sunrise.” This thought is expressed in the hymn:

“For the meadows and the forest
Are but pages of His Word,
Paler shadows of His heaven
For our feeble eyesight given.”

So should we give thanks for all things.

Thanksgiving is no mere passive recognition and acceptance of past favors, but is an earnest, active, progressive ability to receive and use the influx of love and wisdom which flows from the Lord continually. It is a prayerful, reverent attitude of the human soul, acknowledging its dependence upon the Lord for all things, both temporal and eternal. It is a fundamental factor in the religious life of man. It is the very spirit of praise and gratitude of worship voiced so continually throughout the Word and particularly in the book of Psalms. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”

In our recognition and acknowledgment of spiritual blessings which are poured forth continually from the Lord we must learn that these blessings are intended to be ultimated and particularized in the very outermost and smallest details of our natural and physical life.

The Lord’s life on earth was for the very purpose of entering into and overcoming the disorderly states into which can enter the trials and disappointments, the sorrows and pains of the world. “He overcame the hells, and so delivered man.” Delivered man from what? From all that brings suffering and disorder – from the love of self, from love of dominion and love of the world, whence come all suffering and wars.

Offer to God “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Offering thanksgiving to God is more than saying “Thank you.” It is giving up all that would hinder our spiritual growth, that the Lord may bestow the fullness of His blessings upon us.

A new and brighter light has been given to those who have accepted the teachings of the New Church, by which we see even our personal sorrows and pains as merely shadows through which we must travel but which cannot touch the real angelic and eternal life of man. We read in the book of Revelation of a song sung by the angels which no one could learn save those who were redeemed from the earth. And we read, “These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth… for they are without fault before the throne of God.” These are not those who are satisfied with themselves. Neither are they those who give up the pleasures of the world for the sake of happiness in the future life, exchanging one selfishness for another. They are those who live actively in the world, who know their own weakness and have come into a childlike recognition of the Lord’s loving presence and power.

Jesus said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes,” to those who by learning and obeying the commandments have learned the lesson of obedience, who have come to know that His words are spirit and life and gladly follow Him wherever He leads them, seeing in all things that come to them the Lord’s loving hand turning them away from false ideas and unworthy motives, renewing their strength from day to day, giving them ever greater delight in the good things of the world and enabling them to see the things of eternal life. This is the thanksgiving which the man who lives only for this earth and its pleasures can never learn.

The Thanksgiving season is the time of harvest, which is a symbol of the maturing of the heavenly kingdom in us. By learning and keeping the precepts of the Word we enable the Lord to produce in us the harvest of eternal life. May we draw this lesson from the Thanksgiving season, namely, that as we learn the truth and devote our abilities to the service of the Lord, we bring our lives an offering to Him. This He desires us to do not for His own sake but that the laws by which He brings happiness and blessing to mankind may be operative in us.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
“For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Amen

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