Church of Thyatira: overcoming tyranny with purity

June 29, 2016

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).