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

July 6, 2016

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).