Hearing: Who Told Thee Adam?

March 30, 2016

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

     “Ephphatha” is Aramaic for “Be opened,” and it was Jesus’ cure for someone who had a hearing and speech impediment. There is a lovely poem about being open in The Christian Science Journal — about giving thanks for open thought, open hands, open hearts, open eyes, open doors, open books, and “open meetings, where with lips unsealed, we tell our friends how Truth has made us free.” (Edith Harris Siegfried, January 1960)

I had a wonderful example of the protection of “open ears” last weekend. After dinner Friday night, it occurred to me that I should go to the grocery store to pick up a few items; however, it was already getting dark, so I thought I would just go on Saturday. The thought kept recurring that I should go to the store that night; so I went, and on the way back, I got a flat tire. I was only a few blocks from home, so I slowly drove back on the flat tire, fussing at myself the whole way since we needed to use this minivan the next morning to pick up some furniture in Mississippi. Had I run over some nails or hit a ubiquitous Lakeview pothole in the dark? The next morning when Dan examined the tire, he saw that it was totally split.  We were both so grateful that it had blown out a few blocks from home while I was driving slowly instead of on the interstate at 75 miles an hour. And, there was a tire shop open at 8 am on Saturday morning, so we got a new tire and made it to the Gulf Coast only a few minutes later than expected.  Yes, we don’t always recognize the still small voice when it gives practical directions like “Go to the store!”

Chastened by Love – The Jacob and Esau Story

March 16, 2016

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

“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s.

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29, 30)

Have you ever pondered those verses in thinking of what it means to be chastised by the Lord?  Our Wednesday readings this week are an in-depth study of the story of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers who were both chastened by Love. Perhaps you already know the story of Jacob who left his house, his father, his mother, his brother; then met with many persecutions by mere mortals and many chastisements by powerful angels; and then received his brother Esau hundredfold more glorious than before, as if he had seen the “face of God.”

This Wednesday we will also be focusing on Esau’s side of the story.  Esau was chastised for disregarding his birthright for an attractive morsel of food (reminding me of Adam with a similar cursing consequence); and Jacob was chastised for cheating his brother and in turn, being tricked by his own uncle. Both brothers eventually “broke the yoke” of having a dual nature — foolish and wise, his-son versus her-son, hunter and tent-dweller, good and bad, deceitful and honest — when they earned their “dominion” (Gen. 27:40), until the New Testament’s yoke of grace in Christ.

It should be noted that most commentaries have determined that the word “away” is missing from Esau’s “blessing” in Genesis 27:39 in the King James Version.  According to Dummelow’s Commentary on the King James Bible (online):

39. Shall be the fatness] rather, ‘Shall be away from the fatness.’ Read thus, the prophecy is in agreement with the general barrenness of Edom or Seir, where the descendants of Esau dwelt.

It should also be noted that the book of Genesis is a compilation of several different documents, which explains the contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2.  Similarly, the blessing given to Jacob by a misty-eyed and feeble Isaac in Genesis 27:29 is not part of the blessing given by Isaac (who is not described as dim-sighted or dying) in Genesis 28:3,4. If there is only one true blessing (as there is only one true creation in Genesis 1), then what happens to the historic animosity between the nations of Judah and Edom which many trace back to the trickster story in Genesis 27?

It became apparent (at least to me) that Esau’s choice of wives added an interesting twist to his parents’ opinion of him that perhaps we don’t see when we only read part of the story.  Here’s the pertinent chronology:

Gen 24:4 – According to Abraham, Isaac’s wife (Rebekah) must come from Abraham’s original country.

Gen 25:34 – Esau trades his birthright for bread and lentil stew. The birthright was the special privileges of being the first-born son, such as being the religious and judicial authority in the family as well as inheriting a double-portion of the paternal inheritance (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).

Gen 26:34,35 – Esau marries Canaanite wives, which grieved Isaac and Rebekah.

Gen 27:27 – Isaac blesses Jacob with the fatness of the earth, and people serving him. Deathbed blessings were “believed to irrevocably release a tangible power that determined the character and destiny of the recipient” (Oxford Annotated Bible).

Gen 27:38 – Isaac “blesses” Esau “away” from the fatness of the earth, living by the sword, and serving his brother. But, when Esau has “dominion,” he shall break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck.  Other Bible translations of dominion are “gain your freedom” (God’s Word); “break loose” (JPS TANAKH); “grow restless” (NIV).

Gen 27:46 – Rebekah tells Isaac that it “wearied” her for Jacob to marry one of the local women.

Gen 28:1 Isaac blesses Jacob and sends him to Rebekah’s family for a wife.

Gen 28:7-10 Esau sees that Jacob obeyed his parents and did not take a Canaanite wife, so Esau married an Ishmaelite this time.

Hmm… I wonder if Esau’s first marriage wasn’t the “planned arrangement” for an heir which might have added to the family plotting to benefit Jacob? The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that Gen. 28 is a Priestly parallel where:  “Isaac was not tricked into blessing Jacob, but intended from the outset to bless him in the process of sending him away to find a proper wife.”

How interesting that the Christ seed appeared to develop in the nurturing environment of certain chosen women, whether it was Sarah (instead of Hagar), or Jacob’s wives from Abraham’s country who produced the 12 children of Israel (instead of Esau’s Canaanite and Ishmaelite wives). And how interesting that the mothers, Sarah and Rebekah, both wanted such pure environments for their sons that they felt led to take such drastic measures. However, after years of wrestling, both Jacob and Esau claimed their birthright of infinite Love instead of continuing to believe in a pre-existing condition of favoritism and hate from birth. The brothers finally saw the glory of God in each other, much like when Jesus healed another man blind from birth (John 9).  Seeing the real man is an ongoing struggle in the Bible; and what a pleasure it is to read other Bible stories in the Old Testament, and especially in the New Testament about Jesus’ stand (and eventually the disciples’ and Paul’s stand) for unity amongst Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, and all people due to their joint inheritance from their true Father-Mother God.

If you are still wondering what the story of Jacob and Esau has to do with today, here is a testimony from a Sentinel article:

A woman suffering from a severe pain in her neck and shoulder, which made it impossible for her to move her head or lift her arms, called upon a student of Christian Science for help. Turning prayerfully to the Bible for inspiration, the student opened to the book of Genesis where she read the account of Jacob and Esau. The account relates that when Esau learned that his father’s blessing had been fraudulently obtained by his younger brother, Jacob, Esau “lifted up his voice, and wept” (Gen. 27:38).

Esau had accepted evil’s claim of finity, the belief that there is not enough good to go around. Then his father, Isaac, answered him in these words: “It shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” Did Isaac recognize the error in Esau’s thought which needed correcting? It is true that only by gaining dominion over a false sense of man can the yoke of mortal mind be broken. As long as Esau hated Jacob and entertained the belief that his younger brother could deprive him of his birthright of good, Esau was burdened with a yoke of limitation and deprivation.

When Jacob repented during his experience at Peniel, Esau’s thought also was changed, and the yoke of limitation and resentment was lifted from him. When Jacob offered him a gift, Esau could say (Gen. 33:9), “I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.”  (“Man’s Birthright of Dominion” by Ila Ramage from the June 11, 1955 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)

What a powerful angel Jacob wrestled with in order to understand the one man because not only was Jacob healed, but his brother as well!  And pondering the lessons in this Bible story brought healing to the woman in the above article centuries later, which is a testament to the eternal living Word.

Sight – Where art thou Adam?

March 9, 2016

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

“Adam, where art thou?” is one of the first questions recorded in our Bible. Different variations of this same question, “Adam, where art thou?”; “Consciousness, where art thou?”; “Where art thou, man?” are repeated seven times in Science and Health.  Our readings this Wednesday apply this question in reference to sight.

The Bible readings include three separate healings of blindness:

  1. Jesus touched the eyes of two blindmen.
  2. Jesus spit on the eyes of a blindman who saw “men as trees, walking.” Then Jesus put his hands on his eyes.
  3. Jesus spat on the ground, made clay, and anointed the eyes of a man born blind, then told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

Mrs. Eddy explains the second healing as follows: “Jesus’ first effort to realize Truth was not wholly successful; but he rose to the occasion with the second attempt, and the blind saw clearly.” (Mis. 171:3) What a lesson in persistence, and how each healing is unique and individualized!

Today’s readings also include the feeding of the four thousand with seven baskets remaining, not to be confused with feeding the five thousand with twelve leftover baskets. Here is how these two healings of supply are distinguished in the Oxford Annotated Bible Commentary:

As [Jesus] had fed the earlier crowd in the wilderness, implicitly composed of Israelites, now Jesus also feeds the surrounding peoples in the wilderness. Seven is symbolic of the surrounding peoples, as twelve was of Israel. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th edition, p. 1806)

Mrs. Eddy used the term “geometric altitude,” which does not appear in the Webster’s 1828 online dictionary. Geometric altitude is apparently used to determine airplane height above different terrains, so that was an interesting choice of words for a book published decades before the Wright Brothers’ first flight (which was 1903. Thank you Wikipedia.)

Balance

March 2, 2016

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

Putting this lesson together reminded me of children’s dance lessons years ago. In order to do a pirouette (spinning around in a circle on your toes in ballet), you are supposed to always spot —meaning pick a point of reference before you spin that your eyes can come back to. Focus your eyes there at the beginning of your turn, and bring your head back to that same spot at the end of the turn. Otherwise, you would be making yourself dizzy and spinning all over the floor. This concept of focusing for balance can be applied to many other sports, and so I’ve included a lovely poem about skating and its perfect balance, that God-centered equipoise.

Here’s an excerpt from a Journal article about this:

Because Jesus, our Way-shower, put all weight on the side of good, he struck a sound equilibrium between his faithfulness to divine realities and demands, and his response to apparently human demands made on him. He found time in his Spirit-focused life to go to a wedding when it was appropriate for him to do so.3 He showed an effective balance between the time he spent alone in thought and prayer4 and the time he spent with his disciples and the general public. He had a sensitive agreement, too, between speaking and being silent.

Sound balance doesn’t mean setting up a modus vivendi between total opposites, as between Spirit and matter, since the two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t mean a state of equilibrium between the mortal and the divine, since they are wholly different—the unreal and the real. But there is a spiritual sense of proportion that ought to be evident in our living. We find it by keeping the realities of Spirit uppermost in our thinking. This leads to moderation in our opinions, to our curbing of extreme points of view and actions, while leading us to make more intelligent and fair judgments. (“For better balanced lives — less and more,” Geoffrey J. Barratt, June 1998 issue of The Christian Science Journal).

The Bible readings are mostly from the book of Amos who was a prophet of social justice. I’ve included a Bible notes page about Amos because comparing his struggles with today’s political climate is quite insightful.

Also, we’ve been readings testimonies from other people in the “Fruitage” chapter, but did you know that Mrs. Eddy gave a lengthy testimony in Science and Health about dyspepsia using the third person?  The link to that podcast,”MBE mentioned Sylvester Graham,” is included as well.

And I love these readings of Proverbs 16:11:

“A just weight and balance are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are his work.” King James

“God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.” The Message

Yes, we are all in God’s pocket!  So, perhaps you thought this Wednesday’s readings were just going to be about standing on our tiptoes, but we all need balance — whether in sports, social justice, governmental checks-and-balances, checkbooks, or in body. Balance truly is our center and circumference, our God-center and our God-focus.