Love and Marriage

January 27, 2016

“My beloved is mine, and I am his,” sounds like a Valentine’s Card, but it is one of the many romantic sayings from the Bible’s Song of Solomon. If the Post Office has been stuffing your mailbox with jewelry store ads or you’ve been shopping for cards for loved ones, then you know know what holiday is approaching.  Our readings this Wednesday are on the topic of Love and Marriage.

Some of the readings are verses that I do not recall hearing in our Bible Lessons recently, such as:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Eph. 5:22)

Man should not be required to participate in all the annoyances and cares of domestic economy, nor should woman be expected to understand political economy. (SH 59)

Obviously, we cannot take these verses out of context, especially historical context!

And, while we are on the subject of marriage and historical context, some of you may have already received information about Cindy Peyser Safronoff’s new book, Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claflin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage.  You can read more about it on this link:

In skimming through Cindy’s website, I saw where Crossing Swords has received several accolades, such as 2016 Illumination Book Awards (one of the best Christian books), 2015 Winner in Regional Literature for the New England Book Festival, and 2015 USA Best Book Awards Finalist. It has also received positive reviews from nonfiction Pulitzer Prize winners and from members of the Christian Science community, such as Dick Davenport (former CS Military Chaplain and current director of the Higher Ground Bible Seminars). I contacted the author, Cindy Safronoff, to see if she would be willing to SKYPE our Time for Thinkers Book Club, which meets in the Fourth Church Sunday School, and she said she would be delighted!  We will probably be SKYPING with Cindy on February 27th at 10 am, but we could meet at another time if I get a majority of responses from those who want to attend this event and have a conflict. It would be great if you would read the book too, but that is not a requirement. In fact, here is what Cindy emailed me about reading her book:

Having a discussion about the book with people is a great way to interest people in reading it. And even those who don’t read the book will get something out of the discussion. But most people find the book to be an easy read, and people often say it’s hard to put down once they start reading.

It is wonderful to be able to support independent and positive research about Mrs. Eddy, and we are trying to do our part!


Treasuring the Christ

January 20, 2016

     There have been several recent Hollywood movies about the dishonesty of large institutions — such as covering up a sexual abuse scandal within a religious denomination (Spotlight), disregarding head injuries by a national football league (Concussion), and creating a fraudulent real estate credit bubble in mortgage banking (The Big Short). The front page of our local newspaper had this recent headline, “Richest Americans adept at dodging income tax burden.” What does our pastor, the Bible and Science and Health, have to say about this attitude of greed and financial dishonesty? Our readings this Wednesday are on the topic of Treasuring the Christ, and as you know, the Bible is full of stories about wealth inequality and distribution of wealth — always interesting subjects to contemplate during an election year!

     So, I hope everyone will ponder the Pastor, whether you are blue, red, striped, independent, indignant, or indifferent, and of course, I hope you can join us today.


“Who am I?” Jesus’ “I am” statements in the Gospel of John

January 13, 2016
     The readings this week went through several transformations. First, I tried matching the seven “I am” statements made by Jesus in the Gospel of John with his seven “signs” in the same gospel. Here is my list, but I wasn’t pleased with some of my matchings (*), and there was so much overlap. Perhaps you have a better matching with these seven “signs.”
Bread of Life – feeding 5,000
Light of the world – healing blind man
Door – walking on the water (only answer left)*
Good shepherd – healing man at Pool of Bethesda (because Jesus found this lost sheep)*
Resurrection and life – raising Lazarus
Way, truth, and life –  healing official’s son in Capernaum*
True vine – changing water to wine
     I decided to email Madelon Maupin, a Bible scholar and Christian Scientist, who had mentioned this matching of Jesus’ I am words with his acts during one of her talks. She responded back that day(!!!) with some more insights:

What a wonderful reading.  I read that years ago and only matched a few, so I’m thinking about your list and really liking it.

The true vine — I might use the fig tree story when he denounces it going into the Temple (because it’s a comment on the non-productivity of the Temple.  And he now represents the New Israel — not ritual but demonstration.  (That might be obscure if people haven’t put that relationship together, however, of him going to the Temple and cursing it on the way, then showing the no leaves on the return – symbolic of the lack of fruition of the Temple.)

The ‘door of the sheep’ makes me think of every healing but especially the adulterous woman who was being hounded by wolves.  The ‘door’ of course refers to the way the shepherd literally put his body over the opening, to keep out the wolves, which is what he did with the adulterous woman.

The Good Shepherd could also include the calling of the disciples.  He was shepherding those who would carry the mission forward, constantly talking with them.  You could also use those passages when he explains parables to them that he doesn’t to the larger crowds, clearly identifying them as the ones to carry on so they must get the deeper meaning that the larger crowds might not.

I am the way the truth and the life — what about the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

So, I decided to leave the matching up to you, with the Bible readings of the “I am” statements in the order that they are presented in the Gospel of John. I really liked doing it that way because it made a ladder (yes, I am still thinking of Jacob’s ladder) from the bread (and everyone wants God to supply their daily needs) to the difficult pruning of the vine.
     And speaking of pruning, I found it interesting that Jesus was “troubled in spirit” twice in the Gospel of John  —
1) when he saw Mary and the Jews weeping at Lazarus’ tomb, and
2) when he was talking about his betrayal after washing the disciples’ feet.
It makes me think that Jesus’ grief was pruning himself at Lazarus’ tomb (the Gospel of John’s Gethsemane struggle), and then the second time Jesus was pruning his 12 disciples (the Gospel of John’s betrayal by Judas).  But perhaps I am going out on a limb!


January 6, 2016

     Many religious traditions celebrate this Wednesday, January 6th, as the Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or as many New Orleanians know it — Kings’ Day. Our readings are on the subject of epiphany — that sudden leap of understanding that comes through spiritual intuition.  In an article from the Christian Science Sentinel, “Epiphany in the trenches,” Bible scholar Mary Trammell wrote,
Such moments of epiphany, of awareness that God, divine Spirit, is immediately present, bring a spiritual poise and grace in the midst of any challenge. Peace pervades, and disruption fades. Courage grows, and terror shrinks. God’s eternal care is seen, and the limits of time back away. And ultimately, Spirit triumphs, and material pressures dissolve. They dissolve in the light of a spiritual perspective, where everything looks different. The impossible becomes possible. The dead-end road becomes a wide highway forward.
     I have been relaxing in an epiphany lately. Perhaps it is one you’ve already noticed — where Mrs. Eddy defines Christ two ways – 1) the divine manifestation of God; 2) which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error. (SH 583). Christ is 1) the Son and 2) the real man and his relation to God (SH 316); 1) the name of Truth and 2) the demonstration of Truth (SH 135) or Immanuel repeating itself (SH xi), the ascending and descending cycles of light (SH 135). In other words, I had never noticed that Jacob’s ladder could be a metaphor for the Christ as the Door or the Way!
     Here is another cool thought. The commentary in the New Revised Standard states the following about Nathanael under the fig tree:  “Several Rabbinic texts equate gathering figs with studying the Torah, suggesting Nathanael’s status as student” (p. 1884). Mrs. Eddy makes a reference to sitting “beneath your own vine and fig tree as the growth of spirituality…” (Mis. 154).  So, if Isaac Newton could sit under an apple tree and have a physics epiphany about the law of gravity, and Nathanael could sit under a fig tree and have an epiphany about the Christ, then when we are studying the Pastor, we are sitting under our own fig tree!
     Do you remember when we started the Christmas season with a series of Bible stories about angels, including the angel standing in the path of Balaam and his talking donkey? Did you know there was a connection between Balaam’s prophecy and the New Testament Wisemen? The article, “Witnessing the Divine,” in the Bible History Daily, comments:
The magi’s special role as witnesses to the true faith was also noted by the church father Origen, who read the magi’s stories in light of the prophecies of Balaam. According to Origen, after the star appeared to the magi, they noticed that their magic spells faltered and their power was sapped. Consulting their books, they discovered the prophecy of the oracle-reader Balaam, who saw a rising star “com[ing] out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) that indicated the advent of a great ruler of Israel. The magi thus conjectured that this ruler had entered the world. So, the magi traveled to Judea to find this ruler, and based on their reading of Balaam’s prophecy, the appearance of the comet and their loss of strength, they determined that he must be superior to any ordinary human—that his nature must be both human and divine. The magi, for Origen, are not simply Jesus’ first visitors, but the first to recognize Jesus as messiah.
     I am sorry about such a long email, but I really love the subject of epiphany. Perhaps you have an “epiphany” to share with us this Wednesday!