Church of Ephesus – “Thou hast left thy first love.”

June 1, 2016

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

The Annual Meeting of The Mother Church is Monday, June 6th, 2016, and you may access it via this link in the upper left of our homepage:

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org

The next several readings on Wednesdays will be on the subject of church. The bases of the readings are Saint John’s message to the seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, and Mary Baker Eddy’s analysis of these same churches in her Message to the Mother Church for 1900 (pages 11-14).

There have been many articles written on the subject of “church hurt” from different denominations, whether it was due to corrupt clergy, poor decisions made by church administrators, or because of the conduct of church members. What is so interesting is that each of the seven churches in Revelation also suffered from a “church hurt”; each of these errors is described, and then a remedy is given “to him that overcometh.”

John recorded this message about the first church, Ephesus:

“I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works;…” (Rev.  2:4,5)

I used jsh-online because I wasn’t sure what was meant by “first love,” and some of those articles appear on the readings page. Here is a short list:

Remember the fire that once burned within you! Repent, get back to where you were when you first heard about Jesus! Do the first works, rekindle the first love you felt for God, for each other—and for healing the sick!” (Mary Trammell)

“the light of pioneer enthusiasm” (Horace Pullar)

“the Christ, or true idea of God, that had first inspired them and had proved so practical in healing.” (Warren Luedemann)

“Our first love must be love for Church as the spiritual idea of God rather than for the many organizational tasks we must carry out. This first love is then manifested as useful, progressive, relevant dedication to the church in its healing mission.” (Geoffrey Barratt)

I also looked at some books on Revelation written by Christian Scientists who defined “first love” as follows:

“the teachings of the truth,” Edith Armstrong Hoyt, Studies in the Apocalypse of John of Patmos, page 32

“I applaud you for your vigor, but I also know where you are falling short. You have forgotten the cause that underlies your purpose — light, enlightenment….Infinite God supplies infinite light, not finite things, not better human situations or relationships. Never, at any moment, seek the things. Never claim the things as personal possessions.” George Denninger, Revelation: The Prophecy and Fulfillment of Man, pages 21-22

And then there is this pithy statement I read from patheos, an evangelical website: “We must never mistake the fruit of the tree for the root of the tree.” (Jonathan Storment)

All of these definitions enlarged my understanding of this rebuke, “thou hast left thy first love,” but this description by Kay Kyser (a famous band leader, Christian Science lecturer and teacher) is my favorite:

“I remembered that John was speaking of the love this church had at first. It had cooled. But I got to thinking of “first love” as meaning “most important love”—then, now, and always. I felt sure God was and is my first love, but, gratefully, not the unknown one Paul said the men of Athens worshiped (see Acts 17). I treasure the seven synonyms for God Christian Science has taught me to find stated or implied in the Bible (Spirit, Mind, Soul, Principle, Truth, Life, Love), plus the many other terms for Deity used in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science.

I thought: All terms aside, my first love actually is who or what I set my affections on, put my trust in, give power to. Can I in good conscience say, “Yes, I love God first and most”?…It’s study harder; pray more often; declare continually that because God is omnipresent, and because man is His manifestation, we can’t leave the Father and the Father can’t desert us. …From such study and prayer we can expect not only to feel God’s presence but to be reassured that we are forever the Father’s first love—regardless of how inconsistently He is ours. But is it enough to profess to adore God supremely? …. So, to prove God is my first love, I must first love; love my neighbor as myself.” James K. Kyser, “First love,” October 1978 issue of The Christian Science Journal)

I appreciate what Kay Kayser wrote because he jointly identified our first love (God) and our first works (loving man).

Joseph

May 25, 2016

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

We are concluding our study of the sons of Jacob with his favorite son Joseph. We’ve read parts of this story on previous Wednesdays, such as exploring Joseph’s connection to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5). (Those readings are under ”Choose Ye” which you can find using the search bar.)

Mary Baker Eddy gives glossary definitions for 9 of Jacob’s 12 sons, with 7 of them identified as sons of Jacob. Mrs. Eddy doesn’t identify Judah or Joseph as “(Jacob’s son),” so was she seeing them as symbols of the Christ and the Comforter? These readings are focusing on Joseph’s motherly, thoughtful, and caring qualities which he used to shepherd and nourish his brothers, Jacob, and the Egyptians.

The readings include the glossary definitions for Jacob, Children of Israel, Judah, and Joseph, and I was really inspired to see the growth of the Christ-idea in these symbolic Bible characters from Jacob who had the “inspiration” and the “revelation” to Joseph who truly knew how to demonstrate his dominion with “a higher sense of Truth” (SH 589).  Where the Pharaoh saw a human problem, Joseph saw a solution.  These readings also show the beginnings of the two separate kingdoms: Judah in the South where Jacob and the earlier patriarchs were buried; and Israel in the North where Joseph’s bones are buried.  (We also had some earlier readings about the tragic site where Joseph’s bones were buried; those readings are part of his brother Levi’s story.)

Years ago, I attended a Cobbey Crisler talk on the Gospel of John where I first learned about the four Greek words for love and their use by this beloved disciple.  (There is also a short book on these Greek words by C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves,” based on his radio speeches and which is available in various formats online.) I think the four loves are beautifully illustrated in Joseph’s story of his coats as follows:

  1. storge – affectionate love, parental love – Joseph’s coat from his dad which was stripped away
  2. eros – romantic love, erotic love – Joseph’s garment which was snatched away by Potiphar’s wife
  3. phileo – friendship love, brotherly love – vestures of fine linen given to Joseph by Pharaoh
  4. agape – spiritual love, divine Love – Joseph’s panoply of Love which he always wore.

If you look on the readings page, there is a link to a youtube video from one of our modern dreamers.  It appeared on my FaceBook feed yesterday, and it reminded me of something I learned from my study of Joseph this time around.  When Joseph was a boy and first dreamed about the wheat and stars bowing down, perhaps he thought his brothers were to bow down to him. Then, from his life experiences, Joseph learned that this dream held a deeper meaning for him  — that he (like the wheat and the stars) also had to be humble enough to listen, to yield, and to obey the plan God had for him.

When I was in Sunday School, I used to wonder what happened to Joseph since his story is a lengthy 14 chapters in the Book of Genesis, and then he seems to disappear. For example, I wondered why Jesus’ genealogy was from Judah’s side of the family instead of from the more colorful Joseph.  But, when you look at Joseph as a symbol of knowing how to interpret our material dreams, then the Bible is full of Josephs, full of pilgrims in strange lands.  Thus, these readings are an attempt to show that the symbol of Joseph in Egypt, the land of affliction, remains a powerful sign throughout the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings which you can find when you search the scriptures!

Benjamin

May 18, 2016

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Have you been blessed studying the Bible stories and glossary definitions of Jacob’s sons? Last week while I was out-of-town, I witnessed the role of the redeeming Judah in my own family of boys and the “corporeal material belief progressing and disappearing” (SH 589), like the tares and the wheat. Next week we are wrapping up with Joseph whose appearance of tares in his life all became wheat, but this week we are learning more about Benjamin, Joseph’s brother with the same mother Rachel.

The glossary definition of Benjamin has two parts, and we previously studied the first part of the definition with Bible readings on the worldly King Saul who was from the tribe of Benjamin. (The topic was “Dissolving self-will, self-justification, and self-love” which you can find using the search bar.) In the Bible, Jacob’s youngest son is also given two defining names: “Ben-oni,” son of my sorrow, given by his mother as she passed on in childbirth; and “Benjamin,” son of my right hand or son of the south, which was the name given by his father.

Today’s readings focus on the second paragraph of the glossary definition and on a New Testament Saul who became known as Paul, and who also came from the tribe of Benjamin.  According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, “Saul was his Jewish name, used up until Acts 13:9 to stress his origin; Paul was his Roman name, the one he was generally known by, and used from now on in Acts as missionary activity aims at both Jews and Gentiles” (p. 1943).

Mrs. Eddy defines Benjamin in part as “a gleam of the infinite idea of the infinite Principle; a spiritual type; that which comforts, consoles, and supports” (SH 582).  Have you ever thought of Rachel’s sons, who were Jacob’s two youngest children, as providing a spiritual glimpse of the Comforter?  And have you ever thought of the Apostle Paul’s demonstration of the universal Comforter through his missionary work in “comforting, consoling, and supporting” the early churches?

We usually read Paul’s conversion story as a third-person narrative in Acts 9, but in Acts 22, while on the steps of the Jerusalem Temple, Paul presents this same story as his own defense before an angry Jewish mob and mighty Roman soldiers. After presenting his case, there is a conversation between Paul and the chief captain about Paul’s Roman citizenship, and the chief captain says, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born” (Acts 22:28).  Previously, I had read that verse as only a discussion about the privileges of citizenship that you either earn or inherit, but this time, I read it as Paul’s statement of grace that we are all truly free born — born free of sin and disease.

 

Dan (Jacob’s son)

May 4, 2016

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

During our Wednesday services, we have been studying the sons of Jacob using the Glossary terms in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Last spring we read about Reuben, Levi, Judah, and Benjamin, and we recently studied Gad and Asher. This Wednesday, we are taking up this study again by learning about Jacob’s son Dan, which Mrs. Eddy defines as “animal magnetism; so-called mortal mind controlling mortal mind; error, working out the designs of error; one belief preying upon another” (Science and Health, p. 583). Why did this son of Jacob receive such a harsh definition?  In our readings this Wednesday, we will learn once again that error “… is neither a person, place, nor thing, but is simply a belief, an illusion of material sense” (SH 71).

One famous Danite (member of the tribe of Dan) was Samson who was notoriously distracted by the hair-cutting Delilah, and whose story was the subject of earlier readings on purity. (These readings can be located by typing in “Samson” on the search bar on the left.)

Today’s readings include a Danite who blasphemed God and was stoned. There is also a story of a weak Hebrew priest who allowed idol worship among the Danites and which provides an interesting connection with the list of impurities in I Corinthians 6. Or as Eugene Peterson sums it up in The Message: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate” (I Cor. 6:12).

In the listing of the tribes in Revelation, the names of Ephraim and Dan are missing. Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, was promised a double inheritance, so if we assume that Joseph represents Ephraim (his younger son), then does Manasseh (his older son) replace Dan? There is an excellent classic article on this subject from a 1919 Christian Science Journal, and that link is on the website.

There is also another excellent classic article entitled “Wiser than Serpents,” by John Tutt, which is the lead article in a pamphlet by the same name and also appears in a 2007 Anthology of Classic Articles by the Christian Science Publishing Society. I am quoting part of it below, but I also have the link to the full article on the website.

In the allegory of the garden of Eden, the serpent is represented as talking to Eve. Mrs. Eddy reminds us that there is no such thing in animal life as a talking snake. The talking serpent used Eve’s tongue, for it had no ability to talk itself. Evil may even, fraudulently, take the livery of heaven. The serpent talked to Eve in terms of her own thinking and speech. Indeed, any evil belief comes to us in the guise of our own thought. It can come in no other way, since we see, feel, hear, touch, and taste only what we believe. Thus all these evil things depend for their seeming reality upon our acceptance of them at the behest of mortal mind….

“The wisdom of a serpent is to hide itself;” and because the serpents of error come to us in the guise of thought, and can come in no other way, therefore the serpent hides itself in our own thinking. We must seek for it there. The animal magnetism outside our own consciousness can never harm us….

These serpents, or animal magnetism, are not people or things, even though mortal mind does claim to operate as mortal men and things. These serpents are, one and all, just false concepts,—material beliefs. The serpent we handle for ourselves we at the same time handle impersonally for others,—indeed for all mankind, — because Christ, Truth, which heals and saves anybody, truly heals and saves everybody… (March 1925 The Christian Science Journal).