David – Eternal Friendship

August 24, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

Jonathan, the son of Saul, Israel’s king, considered David a friend, as did Israel’s enemy, Achish, the Philistine king.  How did David become a friend without borders — a friend to all kinds of people, including those with different backgrounds, different religions, and different nationalities?

It is a timely lesson during this season of Olympic friendships and rivalries, so I’ve included a link to a story provided by the World War II Museum about the friendship between a German track star and Jessie Owen. I admit that I didn’t know about Luz Long congratulating an African-American in front of Hitler in the 1936 Olympics, and Long’s final letter before being killed in World War II is truly inspirational.  Yes, we do have our contemporary “Jonathans” who remain friends despite politics and governments.

I am backtracking this week so we can read the whole story of David’s friendship with Jonathan which begins after David kills Goliath. In I Samuel 17, King Saul doesn’t recognize David although in the preceding chapter, David tries on Saul’s armor and gets Saul’s permission to battle Goliath. According to the notes in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, two versions of the David and Goliath story have been combined. On another level, Saul is becoming blind with jealousy toward David, beginning with David’s slaying of Goliath.

Earlier this week a church member mentioned to me how some Bible scholars and archeologists question the existence of the Bible characters and history we love so well.  Mrs. Eddy gave a succinct response to a similar question asked of her about the existence of Christ Jesus:

“I do not find my authority for Christian Science in history, but in revelation. If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God’s spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness.” (Miscellany, p. 318-319)

In today’s readings, Mrs. Eddy questions the existence of Virgil, one of our classic figures whom she may have considered a spiritual friend and guide.

“Chaucer wrote centuries ago, yet we still read his thought in his verse. What is classic study, but discernment of the minds of Homer and Virgil, of whose personal existence we may be in doubt?” (Science and Health, p. 82)

There is some background on this question in the podcast, “Mary Baker Eddy Mentioned Chaucer, Homer, and Virgil,” which discusses literature’s mixture of fact and fiction (such as putting an historical figure such as Virgil into a fictional story), and which you can hear in the final minutes of a link included on the readings and resource page.  (I happened to see a new movie trailer with Tom Hanks based on Dante’s Inferno; I think poor Tom is acting like Dante’s Virgil, so that’s a great example of muddling facts-and-fiction, or actually fiction-and-fiction in the movies!)

When I was preparing these readings, it occurred to me that Mrs. Eddy had spent so much time with her Bible, reading and pondering it, that the Bible heroes became her friends. “We think of an absent friend as easily as we do of one present” (Science and Health, p. 82). It is wonderful to know the Bible so well — its contents and its characters — that it becomes your Friend.  When the inspired Word guides us to eternal Life, then that is a real “past, present, and future” transfiguration moment for us!

David – God as My Refuge

August 10, 2016

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I love finding similarities between the events in the lives of Jesus and David.  Jesus could pass through an angry mob ready to stone him, and David was hidden from King Saul although others could easily find him.  It was as if David was wearing an invisibility cloak protecting him from Saul, or “clad in the panoply of Love” as described by another female author (Science and Health, p. 571). Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “panoply” as “complete armor or defense,” and the psalms this week speak of God as a refuge and fortress, enclosing you in safety.

You might also spot some similarities between Saul and John the Baptist.  Included on the readings page is a link with photos of the rugged terrain beyond Jordan where John baptized and Jesus escaped (John 10:40).

What about the questions asked by David (Are you pursuing a dead dog, a flea?) and Jesus (Were you expecting to see John, a reed shaken by the wind?) These questions highlighted that the missions of David and John were not insignificant. Mrs. Eddy repeated this question:

“What went ye out for to see?” A person, or a Principle? Whichever it be, determines the right or the wrong of this following” (My. 117:3).

Here are some Bible notes to help with the stories:

I Samuel 23:28 – The name of this place means either “Rock of Escape” or “Rock of Division.”

I Samuel 24:3 – Saul went in to relieve himself, literally “to cover his feet,” a denigrating portrayal of a king.

I Samuel 24:7 – David’s cutting off Saul’s hem is symbolic for emasculation or usurpation of Saul’s kingdom, which is why David’s conscience bothers him. To attack the Lord’s anointed (Saul) was to attack the Lord.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, p. 435)

I had some evidence of the One Mind last Wednesday when I came home from our church service. I was skimming through my FaceBook posts and saw a youtube video shared by Alex Cook, a musician who has performed at our church — both in person and frequently on Sunday’s CDs. Alex was posting a link about a Boys Club in Detroit called the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy, and our readings last Wednesday included the time David spent in Israel’s Cave of Adullam. I always like to read how people apply Bible stories to their own lives, so here’s the link on how this inner city Boys Club has made the Cave of Adullam a contemporary tale:

http://thecaveofadullam.org/about/

David and the shewbread – One Divine Life

August 3, 2016

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Republicans vs. Democrats, the employed vs. the unemployed, migrants vs. residents, Christians, Jews,  Muslims, strangers. We seem to live in a world of personal opinions and divisiveness, so what better time than now to learn about what makes a good ruler and what makes sound government and laws.

David in the Bible was called the shepherd-king, and his reign provides insights about bringing a divided country together. He united the kingdoms of Israel in the North and Judah in the South, and ruled for 40 years from 1010-970 BCE.  David wrote many of our psalms, the prayer-book of our Old Testament. You can feel his constant dependence on the guidance of God, his shepherd, when you read his psalms in correlation with the turbulent history of his life. You’ll notice in our readings that the psalms with superscriptions are interspersed with those events in his life from I and II Samuel.  Can you spot some of the qualities which made David a good leader?

Our readings begin with David’s escape from the envious King Saul. During this period, David spent a lot of his time hiding in caves which isn’t how I pictured the heroic David who ran toward the enemy Goliath. But after preparing these readings, I realized that these caves represented closet prayer times for David, who did not want to kill King Saul, the Lord’s anointed. These caves provided a sanctuary for David to compose many of his psalms.  Here is a favorite quote about prayer times:

“We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.” (Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon)

In today’s readings, when David was hungry, he ate the shewbread, thus identifying himself with the divine. No one could take away his victory, so he reclaimed Goliath’s sword. It seemed that his actions were irreverent toward God and country, but David’s holiness and reverence was toward Life, not toward a symbol.  That word “reverent” reminded me of the Scout Law:  “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Being reverent in the wilderness was definitely a quality that David had to practice!

Recently I had a FaceBook posting: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.” That is what came to mind today when I read this line of the Lord’s Prayer with Mrs. Eddy’s interpretation: “Give us this day our daily bread; Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections” (Science and Health, p. 17). Certainly David’s psalms show how he was feeling crushed, yet beyond the broken bread/body symbol lies the grace. David had the Life and the Truth (the bread), and the Love (grace).

I’ve noticed that artists sometimes use femininity and youth to show the Comforter in Bible figures, so I’ve included a link to an interesting sculpture out of many in Florence, Italy, where David has Goliath’s head under his foot. Those sculptures remind me of the first verses of that enigmatic Psalm 110:

The word of God to my Lord:

“Sit alongside me here on my throne

until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.”

You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion;

now rule, though surrounded by enemies! (The Message Ps. 110:1, 2)

Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth. (New King James Version Ps. 110:3)

 

Church of the Laodiceans: be warmly passionate or coolly inspired by Truth; just don’t be lukewarm!

July 27, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

In the summer of 2014, we were armchair travelers with our Pastor on the rivers of Eden (Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates), which were defined in the Glossary of Science and Health. The next summer, we traveled along with the Apostle Paul by reading his letters to the Romans (Italy), the Colossians (Turkey), and the Philippians (Greece). This summer we have been reading about John’s vision of the seven churches written while on the Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.

Today we are concluding this study of the seven churches with the last congregation, the Laodiceans. That congregation received this message: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.”  (Rev. 3:15 NRSV) What a statement! It seems that our air-conditioning is frequently too cold or too hot, but in the Book of Revelation, the church angel tells the Laodiceans that he wishes they were either cold or hot.  Think of that!  Our air-conditioning has been blessed by an angel, and we didn’t even know it!

Seriously though, this statement was not written about modern air-conditioning, but according to the Bible commentators, it described the apathetic, indifferent, and self-satisfied attitude of the “lukewarm” Laodicean congregation.

Here is a testimony I’d like to share about being hot or cold.  When I first started reading, I thought it was always too cold in the church auditorium, so I bought lots of matching sweaters.  As First Reader, I spent much time in the word, reading the word, researching the word, and about two years into this position, I noticed that I had never caught cold, never had a sore throat, etc. I was very grateful that it was not part of my experience while reading!  Meanwhile, one of my Second Readers had a baby, and it brought back memories about breastfeeding and its benefits according to human eyes, such as bonding with the mother and having the mother’s immunities passed on to the baby. Then I started thinking about the “milk of the Word,” and wasn’t spending all this time in the Scriptures also bonding with my Mother (God), and thus benefiting from Her natural defenses? Mrs. Eddy also wrote about how “sensitiveness is sometimes selfishness,” which has been a great help to me in how to respond to temperatures. (Message to The Mother Church 1900, p. 8)

As in the earlier blogs, here are some comments and paraphrases about Revelation that I found enlightening:

Rev. 3:14 – John has his own little methods of emphasis.  You and I would put the “beginning” at the beginning, and the “Amen” at the end. But John reverses the order, to indicate without beginning or ending, in other words, infinite (Edyth Hoyt, Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, p. 38).

Rev. 3:20 – No door can be opened until there has been evidence of the desire to enter in, and then the one within must open the door. Thus, the reward is true oneness with the Christ,. . .  (Hoyt, p. 39).

 

Rev. 3:15-18 – In the beginning, ‘I’ coddled you with milk, healing you and telling you parables because you were too immature to swallow the truth. Now it is time to eat the meat. Remember when ‘I’ said, “Word was made flesh”? (John 1:14). ‘I’ have tried to give you the meat before, and I repeated it in my Philadelphia message. Why are you not chewing on it? You have not even tried to digest what ‘I’ said (George Denninger, The Prophecy and Fulfillment of Man, p. 33).

Rev. 3:21 – Sitting with me on the throne is your ultimate inheritance (Denninger, p. 34).

Rev. 3:22 – These messages are delivered and written in Spirit language, and you have the ability to receive them. Are you listening with spiritual ears? (Denniger, p. 34)

 

Church of Philadelphia: brotherly love opens doors

July 13, 2016

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Did you ever notice that the “Key to the Scriptures” section of Science and Health (Genesis, The Apocalypse, and Glossary) begins with its keynote from Revelation 3:7-8?  It is the message to the church of Philadelphia, which is identified with “the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem”  (Rev. 3:12).  Philadelphia means “brotherly love,” and of the seven churches, Philadelphia received the strongest commendation; and it was given no rebuke.  This church was also described as having an open door which no man could shut. What opens the door of a church or heals a community? Isn’t an open door, an open heart, an expression of love?

Edyth Hoyt gave a wonderful explanation of the keys of hell and death and of the key of David. She explained that having the keys of death is having dominion over death, and having the key of David is the dominion of Love. “Is not possessing the dominion of Love really possessing dominion over death?” (Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, p. 37). Hoyt also commented that “the open door is an indication of complete communion” (Hoyt, p. 37).  Obviously, you’re not afraid when you leave your door open!

I also like The Message’s translation of the timeless key of David:  “David here designates the Messiah ‘my Master’—so how can the Messiah also be his ‘son’?” Mark 12:35-36 David saw that “he coexists with God and the universe” (Science and Health, p. 266).

Here is some more commentary on Revelation from George Denninger’s Revelation: The Prophecy and Fulfillment of Man:

Rev. 3:8 – Sweet Philadelphia, you know the essence of Me. I presented the key to you, and with it you have unlocked my treasure. Indeed, Love is the simplest and most profound of Me and is the true way to all that is (p. 31).

 

Rev. 3:12 – Those who love their way past their fears will find that as they ascend, inspired fleeting moments increase in frequency until spiritual living is realized permanently.  You will recognize your true identity in this way:

  • Standing in the firmament of heaven, you will discover your identity to be God consciousness.
  • New Jerusalem will be found to be here and everywhere, encompassing the all of your being.
  • Divine Love will explain itself — “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5) (p. 32).

James and John were surnamed “the sons of thunder” by Jesus, and he later rebuked them for wanting to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume” a Samaritan village that wasn’t receptive to Jesus (Luke 9:54). What a transformation in John’s character to later be able to preach and write to “love one another” and “God is love” (I John 4:7,8).

Mrs. Eddy made a reference to the “legend of the shield, which led to a quarrel between two knights because each could see but one face of it. . . .” (SH p. 457). (I suppose in contemporary language, it could have a black side and a blue side.  Or perhaps a Fox side and a CNN side.)  Mirrors were placed beside each knight, so each could see the view from the other side’s mirror. That stopped their quarreling, and I love thinking of us as being those mirrors, those reflections, instead of the one-sided dueling knights.  Here are two different interpretations of that legend from our periodicals from years ago:

Mrs. Eddy was a true patriot, as is manifest by her life and her writings. One of her signal achievements in behalf of the good of all nations was the establishment of The Christian Science Monitor, a paper that is replete with true patriotism. Although published in the United States of America, its sense of patriotism is by no means limited to the boundaries of this nation. In the legend of the two knights who engaged in combat over a shield, one side of which was silver, and the other gold, each knight could see only one side of the shield—hence the strife. A mirror would have saved the situation! Nations are composed of men who, like these knights, seeing but one side of a situation, plunge headlong into battle. The Christian Science Monitor, by furnishing a mirror which truthfully reflects all sides of every important question, is thereby lessening the liability of war. (Julia Salome Kinney, “True Patriotism,”  from the March 6, 1926 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)

 

To illustrate this dual appearing of the human and the divine, we may refer to the old legend of the shield which was of gold on one side and silver on the other. The different appearance which the shield presented to two friends who chanced to view it from opposite sides, led to a quarrel between them. Not until the knight upon the silver side crossed over and saw the shield from his friend’s position, did he learn the valuable lesson that much depends, in every case, upon the point of view from which one looks. So it was that the world, looking from the view-point of the five physical senses, and ignorant of the purely spiritual nature of man as God’s image and likeness, saw the Christ in fleshly form as a marvelously perfect, pure, tender, loving, and strong human being, walking among men, and they called their view of the redeemer, Jesus.

 

But God could not look from a mortal, imperfect, material, and unreal standpoint. He could never know aught unlike His own deathless being, and so God’s idea, the Christ, was never subject to the flesh, was never scourged, spit upon, crucified, or buried. These brutalities mortal man heaped upon his own highest human concept, which was an ever-present rebuke to the lower sense. Through the meeting and blending of human need and divine supply, as manifested in Christ Jesus, humanity found a mediator between God and man, learned the true idea of Life as God, and how to overcome the false concept with all its woes. (Elizabeth Earl Jones, “Immaculate Origin and Being,” from the February 1909 issue of The Christian Science Journal)

When I began marking my books for these readings, I didn’t include all of Mark, chapter 3, but when I read the whole chapter, it resolved some of the confusion I’ve had about some of these separate stories.  Jesus calls his 12 disciples, with the last named:

Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.” (Mark 3:19-21)

Other translations describe Jesus as being “mad” (Phillips) or “out of his mind” (NRSV, GW, NIV).  Then the scribes think Jesus has Beelzebub (Satan) and is casting out Satan with Satan, so Jesus gives them the parables about how a divided kingdom or house cannot stand and about how it is necessary to bind the strongman in order to plunder his house.

Did you ever notice that Jesus went “out of his mind” after including Judas Iscariot as a disciple, and did you ever think that the parables which followed had to do with Judas as well as the destructive crowd — that Jesus’ love had to bind the strongman (hate) in order to clean out his house (consciousness)?  Perhaps it is all the Martin Luther King quotes I have heard over the last few days that are causing me to read the parable in this way, but here is one quote that really fits: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Here is another paraphrase of Mark 3:27:

Every time Jesus released the sick and demon-possessed from their bondage, Jesus entered Satan’s house and spoiled his goods. . . Mary Jane Chapin, “Insiders and outsiders Mark 3:7-35,” from the October 1997 issue of The Christian Science Journal).

Then after a lesson in crumbling hate with love, it appears that Jesus is leaving out his mother and brothers who are calling to him. Was Jesus rejecting his human family or expanding it spiritually? Here is one commentary:

In redefining the scope of his family, he announced that his kinsmen were no longer limited to blood relatives. His definition embraced all the people sitting around him. His new and expanded family included all those who did the will of God. His inclusion of sister with brother and mother is, among other things, a delightful recognition that women were always among his followers and disciples. Even though Mark does not mention women until the very end, it is heartening to know that they were there all along.  (Chapin)

“God had been graciously preparing” Jesus with the events  in Mark 3 that there are not many stressful, demanding, prejudiced, fearful, or hateful mortal minds, but only One Mind and One Love (Science and Health, p. 107). Thus he was well equipped to heal incidents further along in his mission, such as the man with an unclean spirit named Legion (Mark 5).

 

Church of Sardis: “Be watchful,. . . and hold fast”

July 6, 2016

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Did you notice that the name of our first hymn is “Sardis”? Its composer is Beethoven, and according to the Christian Science Hymnal Notes, it speaks to “the twofold quality of his music, in its power and tenderness” (p. 254).

Sardis is a great hymn to accompany the story of Elijah, and this week’s readings have the “backstory” of this prophet and the “still small voice.” Elijah had proven the power of God with his altar of 12 stones (representing the 12 tribes of Israel), baptized with the 12 barrels of water (4 barrels three times), and aflame with the Holy Spirit, but he apparently forgot that God’s tenderness and mercy extended beyond these 12 tribes of Israel.  Without following God’s direction, Elijah took it upon himself to slay the 850 prophets of the false god Baal, which caused Queen Jezebel to threatened his life. Here is a Christian Science Sentinel explanation:

Undoubtedly, Elijah realized that he had committed an error in slaying the priests of Baal; for, while on his flight, he gave vent to discouragement, requesting that he die, because, he declared, “I am not better than my fathers;” and, later, the lesson was made clearer. . . . Finally, came a “still small voice,” typical of divine Love; and Elijah felt the presence of God. How different was it from the great wind, the earthquake, and the fire, which were destructive! Did not these typify the mortal qualities to which Elijah yielded when he ordered the destruction of the priests of Baal, and which threatened him when Jezebel declared that she would effect his destruction? Was not the “still small voice” representative of the God who “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” and who is ever waiting for the prodigal to arise from his husks of materiality and return to the father—ever ready to go to meet such a one rather than destroy him? (Charles C. Sandelin, “Let there be no strife,” from the September 2, 1922 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)

Not only did Elijah need to be shaken up out of his sleeping and waking dream, but he also needed to “see” better because God had never left him alone — Obadiah, Elisha, and 7,000 others had not followed Baal.

Much like Elijah, the Church of Sardis needed to be awakened and presented with “the full spectrum of God (all seven Spirits radiating Us) so that you will know that you and ‘I’ are not separate” (George Denninger, Revelation: The Prophecy and Fulfillment of Man, p. 29).

Caroline Getty became the first teacher of Christian Science in France with a career spanning two world wars. She was also a profound student of the Bible, and in her insightful article, “The Seven Churches,” she wrote:

In Sardis we come to stagnation, —”Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” How needful, then, to watch against this error, to rouse one’s self when the suggestion comes that one has borne the heat and burden of the day and may now rest; that one has attained the place where one may withdraw from the organization. This state of stagnation is the offspring of mortal personality, of self-importance; and with the example of our Leader before us, we are indeed inexcusable, nay even despicable, if we yield to it. With her the name of Christian Scientist meant the living in ever increasing measure of the life of a Christian Scientist; and it must be so with every one who apprehends in the least what the Christian Science movement stands for. Obedience to the Church Manual, membership in The Mother Church, and generally in a branch church, with obedience to its by-laws, activity in the work of the organization without self-seeking or self-will, keep us on a safe road through the wilderness that stretches from sense to Soul (Caroline Getty, “The Seven Churches,” from the October 1917 issue of The Christian Science Journal).

Church of Thyatira: overcoming tyranny with purity

June 29, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

I was wondering what inspiration I could take from today’s readings after hearing the news about another airport bombing.  Our first hymn is #161 where we sing of God’s ability to get rid of “stones or tyrants’ thrones,” and the Bible readings also address injustice. If anyone has inspiration to share, there is a “leave a reply” button at the end of this blog.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” is the message that is given repeatedly to each of the seven churches in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. That message is paraphrased: “Real identity is wholly spiritual. Listen that way” (Revelation: The Prophecy and Fulfillment of Man by George Denninger, p. 28). In today’s readings, there is a warning about “that woman Jezebel,” the Bible’s symbol for the opposite of real womanhood.

“The condition to be corrected in Thyatira is uncovered by the use of an allusion to Jezebel, queen of Ahab of Samaria, daughter of the renegade king of Tyre. Jezebel came to her new kingdom of Samaria determined to wipe out the worship of the one God. . . . Because of her dominating and manipulating actions, the word Jezebel has forever been symbolic of that type of thinking. If permitted by the individual to hold sway, it brings ruin and disaster. If it is curbed and denounced and silenced, there is hope for growth and progress” (Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, by Edyth Armstrong Hoyt, p. 35).

These readings do not include the most familiar Jezebel atrocities, such as killing all the Lord’s prophets and scaring Elijah into the wilderness until he was restored by “a still small voice” (I Kings 19:12). Instead, I’ve included the story about Naboth, a new character for me, who is also the subject of a wonderful Sentinel article from 1945 about the courage of the “little people,” the Naboths who stand up to tyrants.

In the New Testament readings, did you notice that the healing of the Phoenician woman’s daughter follows Jesus’ parable about how your uncleanliness comes not from what you take in, but from what comes out of your body? Jezebel and this Phoenician woman were both taken in from outside Israel, but it was Jezebel’s words and evil heart which defiled her, not her foreignness. In contrast, it was the Phoenician woman’s words and pure heart which shattered the prejudice to her foreignness and brought healing to her daughter. A truly contemporary tale!

A few years ago, our Time for Thinkers Book Club was preparing to read The Book of Revelation, and I received a call from a n occasional participant who was concerned about whether we should read that book. She had heard there were all sorts of superstitious and scary things in Revelation, so why did we want to read that book of the Bible? I admit to being surprised by her question because I believe Mrs. Eddy thought the study of Revelation to be foundational to Christian Science. There is a chapter in Science and Health entitled “The Apocalypse” which is her exegesis on Revelation.  And, in speaking of her early education in the Christian churches, she wrote:

“Such churchmen and the Bible, especially the First Commandment of the Decalogue, and Ninety-first Psalm, the Sermon on the Mount, and St. John’s Revelation, educated my thought many years, yea, all the way up to its preparation for and reception of the Science of Christianity” (Message to The Mother Church 1901, p. 32).

Yes, reading Revelation is more obscure than other sections of the Bible, so I find commentaries helpful.  Here are some comments on a few difficult passages in Revelation from Christian Science Bible scholars:

Rev. 2:22 implies that as adultery (fornication) is associated with a bed, so adulteration of true teachings and domination in the church puts to sleep and kills (Hoyt, p. 35).

Rev. 2:28 – The morning star is a reference to the Christ in the New Testament. So the reward for overcoming domination and manipulation is the dominion of the Christ, the morning star, completely annihilating every offending thought as a piece of pottery is broken when dropped (Hoyt, page 36).

Rev. 2:19 – The milk of the Word leads to sharing, and sharing leads to service, and service leads to faith, and faith grows into patient practice. Practice, as a living faith, is a greater work than the object of your first lessons (Denninger, p. 26 – 27).

Rev. 2:25 – If you already know something of truth, cling to it with all your might, and that good seed will grow into divine freedom (Denninger, p. 28).

Rev. 2:26-27 – You must strive to master these insidious hidden evils in yourselves, until everyone in the world breaks the fetters of believing in a mind apart from God. Your old beliefs will eventually be seen as fragmentary notions without entity, for God alone governs man (Denninger, p. 28).

Church of Pergamos: “stumblingblocks”

June 22, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

Sweet are the uses of adversity,

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

I would not change it.

These lines are from Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It,” and the first three lines are also quoted in Science and Health (p. 66).  Today’s readings on “stumblingblocks” are much like Shakespeare’s sweet adversity, and here’s some history to go along with the Bible stories.

Last December, we had readings from the Book of Numbers about Moab’s King Balak who wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam was prevented by his wise talking donkey.  (It is one of my favorite stories, and you can find it using the search bar under “Angels: Intuitions of Blessings.”)  Although Baalam could not curse the Israelites, he did find a “stumblingblock,” which was to have Balak send in foreign prostitutes, and there is a reference to this sensualism as a stumblingblock in the church in Pergamus.  “The stumbling block of sensual thinking is always disastrous to spiritual growth” (Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, by Edith Armstrong Hoyt, p. 34).

Pergamos was a noted center of Roman emperor worship, and the reference to “Satan’s throne” (Rev. 2:13) may refer to either the temple of the Roman emperor or to the monumental altar of Zeus, both at Pergamum (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 2158).  Pergamos was also the location of the Aeschylapium or College of Medicine. (Hoyt, p. 34)

In both the church of Ephesus and Pergamos, there is a reference to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. When the Gentiles became Christians, the Jerusalem Council ruled that they did not have to observe all the Jewish law, but the Gentiles did have to “keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication” (Acts 21:25). The Nicolaitans did not adhere to these rules, resulting in controversy in the early church.

I was trying to think of a contemporary equivalent to ancient Christianity’s food debate, such as not eating meat in front of a vegetarian. But then I remembered a recent conversation with an artist friend who had attended many gallery openings which only served wine and cheese. She was aware that many of her friends were struggling with alcohol addictions, so we talked about some non-alcoholic beverages she might substitute at her own art party, such as pretty creative fruit water, etc.  I admired her alert concern for those facing this stumblingblock and for her desire to build up others. It is a perfect example of Paul’s comments in I Corinthians which are paraphrased here:

Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. (The Message,  I Cor. 10:23)

In reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I also realized that this discussion didn’t have to be limited to food at all, but that it could refer to stirring up controversy.  Of course, this argumentative attitude made me think of many national political and social debates.  The following article applied Paul and John’s disdain for the Nicolaitans to our own church:

“In her Message to The Mother Church for 1900 (pp. 12, 13) Mrs. Eddy writes, “Nicolaitan church presents the phase of a great controversy, ready to destroy the unity and the purity of the church.” If faced with the heat and confusion of controversial views, the body of members should unanimously detect and resist the attempt of error to becloud their vision of the true Church and church member. The unity of Truth and true thinking affords protection from this mischief-making influence. The self-importance of mortal mind, evidenced in a tendency to cling blindly to personal views, must be unmasked and made to yield to the far greater importance of serving one’s church with alertness, teachableness, and always in the spirit of Truth and Love. So doing, the entire membership may take refuge from the pettiness of mortal mind in the grandeur of divine Mind.” (Violet Ker Seymer, “Church and Church Member,” from the February 1934 issue of  The Christian Science Journal)

Here is another article about idolizing personality:

“When one’s sense of Truth has been adulterated by mental malpractice, one falls into the danger of personality,—of seeking good through persons and of believing that one’s own personality is good. Accepting adulation, taking to one’s self that which belongs to God, offering gifts or yielding obedience and adulation at the shrine of personality, is equivalent to eating “things sacrificed unto idols.” (Caroline Getty, “The Seven Churches,” from the October 1917 issue of  The Christian Science Journal)

This is a wonderful verse to ponder in the King James Bible:

“We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness.” (I Cor. 1:23)

Here’s one translation of that verses:

“While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.” (The Message)

And in an essay on “How to Understand Science and Health,” Mrs. Eddy wrote,

Truth is, and ever has been, simple; and because of its utter simplicity, we in our pride and selfishness have been looking right over it. We have been keeping our eyes turned toward the sky, scanning the heavens with a far-off gaze in search of light, expecting to see the truth blaze forth like some great comet, or in some extraordinary manner; and when, instead of coming in great pomp and splendor, it appears in the simpleness of demonstration, we are staggered at it, and refuse to accept it; our intellectual pride is shocked, and we are sure that there has been some mistake. Human nature is ever the same. The Jews were looking for something transcendently wonderful, and the absence of it made the Christ, Truth, to them a stumbling-block. It was foolishness to the Greeks, who excelled in the worldly wisdom of that day; but in all ages of the world it has ever been the power of God to them that believe, not blindly, but because of an enlightened understanding. (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 469)

Orlando – the brotherhood of man

June 15, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

My planned readings were on the stumbling blocks facing one of the churches in Revelation. However, due to the tragedy in Orlando, I felt that I should do some readings on man’s friendship and brotherhood which extend beyond the physical appearances of sexuality, nationality, or religious beliefs.  I usually post my readings on Wednesday mornings, but I thought I would send them out ahead of time in case they should provide some comfort.

The Bible readings have three stories about friendships with those we would certainly describe as diverse in today’s language. The first, Ebed–melech, bravely saved the life of the prophet Jeremiah when the weak King of Judah was too afraid of disagreeing with his advisors to follow Jeremiah’s God-given instructions. The second, Ashpenaz, disobeyed the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon so that the Jewish captives (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) could keep their faith’s dietary laws. The third, the eunuch of an Ethiopian queen, was baptized by the Apostle Philip for proclaiming his belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  In Miscellaneous Writings, Mrs. Eddy answers a question about the salvation of this eunuch, and I am quoting part of it below as it is a wonderful essay on the transition from firm believing to understanding to the miracle of grace. (The entire essay is available at the end of the readings.)

“This is the Father’s great Love that He hath bestowed upon us, and it holds man in endless Life and one eternal round of harmonious being. It guides him by Truth that knows no error, and with supersensual, impartial, and unquenchable Love. . . . To believe thus was to enter the spiritual sanctuary of Truth, and there learn, in divine Science, somewhat of the All-Father-Mother God. It was to understand God and man: it was sternly to rebuke the mortal belief that man has fallen away from his first estate; that man, made in God’s own likeness, and reflecting Truth, could fall into mortal error; or, that man is the father of man. It was to enter unshod the Holy of Holies, where the miracle of grace appears, and where the miracles of Jesus had their birth, — healing the sick, casting out evils, and resurrecting the human sense to the belief that Life, God, is not buried in matter. (Miscellaneous Writings p. 77-78)

Here are some interesting comments found in the notes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible:

Jeremiah 38:7 “The eunuchs” is often used of court officials indicating how highly in Judean court life such persons of ambiguous gender could ascend. Some scholars, however, suggest that the term has two distinct meanings (“official” and “eunuch”). There is no indication, however, that the “eunuch” was a social pariah. (4th edition, page 1116)

Daniel 1:5 Three years are cited by Persian texts as the time required for gaining knowledge of religious concerns. (page 1234-35)

Hmm…I wonder if Mrs. Eddy considered this with her Bylaw regarding Readers’ terms of three years, or perhaps it had to do with the length of Jesus’ ministry?

Church of Smyrna: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

June 8, 2016

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/WedReadings.html

Decoding the terms and symbols in Revelation is key to understanding the problems of the seven churches. In Smyrna, the reward for overcoming is that he “shall not be hurt of the second death,” which is a term found only in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. (Rev. 2:11)  Mrs. Eddy references “second death” several times in her writings, including this explanation next to the marginal heading “second death”:

Death will occur on the next plane of existence as on this, until the spiritual understanding of Life is reached. Then, and not until then, will it be demonstrated that “the second death hath no power.” (SH 77:9)

In the Bible readings, there is an interesting contrast between the “fountain of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6) and the “lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). This reminds me of the familiar story comparing the Sea of Galilee, which receives and gives water, and the Dead Sea, which receives water but has no outlet. Or as Paul quoted Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Another symbol with the Church of Smyrna is “Gog and Magog.” (Rev. 20:8)  Edyth Armstrong Hoyt provides this explanation:

Gog and Magog first appear in connection with the wilderness wanderings of the Children of Israel. There the prince Gog of Magog appears with an army surrounding the camp of the Israelites. But they are driven back. Ezekiel makes use of this symbolism in his 38th chapter. In the Revelation vision before us, Gog and Magog appear as the perversions of the Truth (Ezekiel’s application). Like an army they surround the camp of the saints. The last attempt of the resistant beliefs is to seem to rally numberless perversions of the Truth, “as the sand of the sea,” to attack the children of spiritual victory. But “fire came down from God, out of heaven,” symbolizing the spiritual purification of thought which completely destroys all suggestions and attacks of the perversions of Truth, as Gog and Magog were destroyed when the children of Israel were aroused to resist the aggressor suggestions. Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, p. 89

The “synagogue of Satan” refers to the animosity between the Gentiles and converted Jews. Since Abraham, the Jews had defined their worship a certain way, and now the same rules didn’t apply to the Gentile converts to Christianity. And we think our churches are having an identity crisis due to the changes in our 21st century ways of worship!

To churches that are spiritually rich but materially poor, there was this comment in The Christian Science Journal:

To the Christians at Smyrna, John expressed his sympathetic understanding for the poverty they had endured but, he also assures them, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” If a Christian Science church is today struggling with poverty, let the members recall and obey this command; then the reward it promises will be theirs. Their individual faithfulness to the teachings of Science will be manifested in abundant supply for right activities, among them more generous contributions to the finances of their church. (“What the Spirit Saith unto the Churches,” by Warren G. Luedemann from the June 1961 issue of The Christian Science Journal)

On the readings page, there is also a link to the podcast, “MBE Mentioned Polycarp,” who was a disciple of the Apostle John, became Bishop of the Church in Smyrna, and was later martyred there.

This week’s subject matter seemed really dense theologically to me, but I also hope it has increased my storehouse of understanding about eternal Life.  As Mrs. Eddy wrote, “We look before our feet, and if we are wise, we look beyond a single step in the line of spiritual advancement.” (SH429:8)