David – Meeting the human need

August 31, 2016

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

The readings today overlap with last week’s time period because the first Bible story occurs in the chapter before King Saul’s death, and the next Bible story is about Jonathan’s son.

The story about David’s pursuit and smiting of the Amalekites reminded me of a recent discussion we had in our Time for Thinkers Book Club. One of the participants was asking about the use of military force, and our Book Club moderator told the story of “Joseph Campbell’s Samurai Tale,” the issue being whether you were fighting to fulfill a duty to your king and country or to fulfill a personal act of anger or revenge. In David’s story, the wives and children of David’s village have been captured, but David still asks God first whether he should pursue the enemy.  It wasn’t David’s personal emotions that were controlling his actions, but a perceived higher direction.

Another reason why I really like this story about David and the Amalekites is that it reminds me of the best rules of youth sports. In the Bible story, some of David’s men became so fatigued that they had to wait with the supplies. The more agile warriors who went into battle and were victorious didn’t want to share the resulting bounty, but David ruled that all his men were to have part in the victory just the same. Yes, everybody on the team gets a trophy, even if you’re sitting on the bench!

David took care of his lambs, whether it was the women and children captured by enemies or the lame son of his friend Jonathan. Inviting Mephibosheth to the king’s table was a first inclusive step until the Christ’s healing power became more evident in the New Testament.

There is a baffling paragraph in Science and Health about the short lives of spiritual thinkers (p. 387:13). To help with my understanding, I appreciated this paraphrase from an article about “Prayer that covers the bases”:

It seems the world has an inclination to sort of throw people off a cliff when they’re doing the thinking that could actually help the world. This suffering of good people is not some kind of command from God. On the contrary, it is mortal belief in the power of error or evil that would cause sensitive thinkers to suffer. The troubles of the world would particularly shake up those who are not necessarily playing along with those troubles. And so, spiritual thinkers would do well to pay attention. We free ourselves from evil or error as we pray to deny it any place in life. And God empowers us to do just that. (“Prayer that covers the bases,” Curtis Wahlberg, Christian Science Sentinel, November 15, 2010)

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David – Eternal Friendship

August 24, 2016

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

Jonathan, the son of Saul, Israel’s king, considered David a friend, as did Israel’s enemy, Achish, the Philistine king.  How did David become a friend without borders — a friend to all kinds of people, including those with different backgrounds, different religions, and different nationalities?

It is a timely lesson during this season of Olympic friendships and rivalries, so I’ve included a link to a story provided by the World War II Museum about the friendship between a German track star and Jessie Owen. I admit that I didn’t know about Luz Long congratulating an African-American in front of Hitler in the 1936 Olympics, and Long’s final letter before being killed in World War II is truly inspirational.  Yes, we do have our contemporary “Jonathans” who remain friends despite politics and governments.

I am backtracking this week so we can read the whole story of David’s friendship with Jonathan which begins after David kills Goliath. In I Samuel 17, King Saul doesn’t recognize David although in the preceding chapter, David tries on Saul’s armor and gets Saul’s permission to battle Goliath. According to the notes in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, two versions of the David and Goliath story have been combined. On another level, Saul is becoming blind with jealousy toward David, beginning with David’s slaying of Goliath.

Earlier this week a church member mentioned to me how some Bible scholars and archeologists question the existence of the Bible characters and history we love so well.  Mrs. Eddy gave a succinct response to a similar question asked of her about the existence of Christ Jesus:

“I do not find my authority for Christian Science in history, but in revelation. If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God’s spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness.” (Miscellany, p. 318-319)

In today’s readings, Mrs. Eddy questions the existence of Virgil, one of our classic figures whom she may have considered a spiritual friend and guide.

“Chaucer wrote centuries ago, yet we still read his thought in his verse. What is classic study, but discernment of the minds of Homer and Virgil, of whose personal existence we may be in doubt?” (Science and Health, p. 82)

There is some background on this question in the podcast, “Mary Baker Eddy Mentioned Chaucer, Homer, and Virgil,” which discusses literature’s mixture of fact and fiction (such as putting an historical figure such as Virgil into a fictional story), and which you can hear in the final minutes of a link included on the readings and resource page.  (I happened to see a new movie trailer with Tom Hanks based on Dante’s Inferno; I think poor Tom is acting like Dante’s Virgil, so that’s a great example of muddling facts-and-fiction, or actually fiction-and-fiction in the movies!)

When I was preparing these readings, it occurred to me that Mrs. Eddy had spent so much time with her Bible, reading and pondering it, that the Bible heroes became her friends. “We think of an absent friend as easily as we do of one present” (Science and Health, p. 82). It is wonderful to know the Bible so well — its contents and its characters — that it becomes your Friend.  When the inspired Word guides us to eternal Life, then that is a real “past, present, and future” transfiguration moment for us!

David – God as My Refuge

August 10, 2016

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

I love finding similarities between the events in the lives of Jesus and David.  Jesus could pass through an angry mob ready to stone him, and David was hidden from King Saul although others could easily find him.  It was as if David was wearing an invisibility cloak protecting him from Saul, or “clad in the panoply of Love” as described by another female author (Science and Health, p. 571). Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “panoply” as “complete armor or defense,” and the psalms this week speak of God as a refuge and fortress, enclosing you in safety.

You might also spot some similarities between Saul and John the Baptist.  Included on the readings page is a link with photos of the rugged terrain beyond Jordan where John baptized and Jesus escaped (John 10:40).

What about the questions asked by David (Are you pursuing a dead dog, a flea?) and Jesus (Were you expecting to see John, a reed shaken by the wind?) These questions highlighted that the missions of David and John were not insignificant. Mrs. Eddy repeated this question:

“What went ye out for to see?” A person, or a Principle? Whichever it be, determines the right or the wrong of this following” (My. 117:3).

Here are some Bible notes to help with the stories:

I Samuel 23:28 – The name of this place means either “Rock of Escape” or “Rock of Division.”

I Samuel 24:3 – Saul went in to relieve himself, literally “to cover his feet,” a denigrating portrayal of a king.

I Samuel 24:7 – David’s cutting off Saul’s hem is symbolic for emasculation or usurpation of Saul’s kingdom, which is why David’s conscience bothers him. To attack the Lord’s anointed (Saul) was to attack the Lord.  (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, p. 435)

I had some evidence of the One Mind last Wednesday when I came home from our church service. I was skimming through my FaceBook posts and saw a youtube video shared by Alex Cook, a musician who has performed at our church — both in person and frequently on Sunday’s CDs. Alex was posting a link about a Boys Club in Detroit called the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy, and our readings last Wednesday included the time David spent in Israel’s Cave of Adullam. I always like to read how people apply Bible stories to their own lives, so here’s the link on how this inner city Boys Club has made the Cave of Adullam a contemporary tale:

http://thecaveofadullam.org/about/

David and the shewbread – One Divine Life

August 3, 2016

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

Republicans vs. Democrats, the employed vs. the unemployed, migrants vs. residents, Christians, Jews,  Muslims, strangers. We seem to live in a world of personal opinions and divisiveness, so what better time than now to learn about what makes a good ruler and what makes sound government and laws.

David in the Bible was called the shepherd-king, and his reign provides insights about bringing a divided country together. He united the kingdoms of Israel in the North and Judah in the South, and ruled for 40 years from 1010-970 BCE.  David wrote many of our psalms, the prayer-book of our Old Testament. You can feel his constant dependence on the guidance of God, his shepherd, when you read his psalms in correlation with the turbulent history of his life. You’ll notice in our readings that the psalms with superscriptions are interspersed with those events in his life from I and II Samuel.  Can you spot some of the qualities which made David a good leader?

Our readings begin with David’s escape from the envious King Saul. During this period, David spent a lot of his time hiding in caves which isn’t how I pictured the heroic David who ran toward the enemy Goliath. But after preparing these readings, I realized that these caves represented closet prayer times for David, who did not want to kill King Saul, the Lord’s anointed. These caves provided a sanctuary for David to compose many of his psalms.  Here is a favorite quote about prayer times:

“We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.” (Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon)

In today’s readings, when David was hungry, he ate the shewbread, thus identifying himself with the divine. No one could take away his victory, so he reclaimed Goliath’s sword. It seemed that his actions were irreverent toward God and country, but David’s holiness and reverence was toward Life, not toward a symbol.  That word “reverent” reminded me of the Scout Law:  “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” Being reverent in the wilderness was definitely a quality that David had to practice!

Recently I had a FaceBook posting: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.” That is what came to mind today when I read this line of the Lord’s Prayer with Mrs. Eddy’s interpretation: “Give us this day our daily bread; Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections” (Science and Health, p. 17). Certainly David’s psalms show how he was feeling crushed, yet beyond the broken bread/body symbol lies the grace. David had the Life and the Truth (the bread), and the Love (grace).

I’ve noticed that artists sometimes use femininity and youth to show the Comforter in Bible figures, so I’ve included a link to an interesting sculpture out of many in Florence, Italy, where David has Goliath’s head under his foot. Those sculptures remind me of the first verses of that enigmatic Psalm 110:

The word of God to my Lord:

“Sit alongside me here on my throne

until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.”

You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion;

now rule, though surrounded by enemies! (The Message Ps. 110:1, 2)

Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth. (New King James Version Ps. 110:3)