Next week our clergy will gather to consider the state of our church and how it can best be led. I look forward to these meetings with a keen awareness that while a minister should teach truths and lead to life’s goodness, in fact it is the Lord alone who teaches and leads His church.
A person is led and taught by the Lord alone because he lives from the Lord alone, it being his life's will that is led, and his life's intellect that is taught. But this is contrary to the appearance, for it appears to a person that he lives of himself; and yet the reality is that he lives from the Lord and not from himself. (Divine Providence 155)
To understand how the Lord is working in our world, we need to understand how He teaches and leads us. Literalism focuses on the written Word, thinking that the Lord teaches and leads us by writing down exactly what we should believe and do, so that all we need to do is follow the recipe, recite the creed and heed the rules.
The teachings for the New Church, offer a different perspective on the Lord’s leading: “The Lord leads us by inflowing and teaches us by enlightenment.” (Divine Providence 165) That is, the Lord teaches us from the inside. He flows into our souls with His love and enlightens us inwardly with spiritual light.
The Lord’s primary work is to change us inwardly. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ezekiel 36:26) If we want to have any understanding of how God works in the world, we have to understand how He works in our hearts and spirits.
This is true not only of how the Lord leads us individually, but also of how he leads His church as a whole. “The Lord governs the entire angelic heaven as though it were a single person; that that heaven, being in itself human, is the very image and very likeness of the Lord; and that the Lord Himself governs that heaven as the soul governs its body.” (Divine Providence 163)
As the clergy prepares for our meetings next week my prayer is that we may all humbly recognize that any efforts we may make to teach others what we believe or to lead others to behaviors we expect are appearances. The real work of teaching and leading is done by the Lord working on the inside, using what we learn from the Word and share with each other as an indirect means to lead and enlighten us.