Christmas presents – omniscience

December 28, 2016

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

We’ve been unwrapping the wisemen’s presents — the gold or the indestructible man; the frankincense or the divine atmosphere of the universe of Spirit; and this week, the myrrh or “Science as applied to humanity” (Science and Health, p. 127).  Do you see a connection between the three gifts and the three omnis— the omnipotence, the omnipresence, and the omniscience? Actually, I didn’t see that connection until I started putting this third lesson together, and then I had this epiphany. (That’s some pun humor; the Feast of the Epiphany is also Three Kings Day.)   The spiritual meaning of the three gifts dates back to Origen, an early Christian theologian, who divided them this way: “gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.”

I love the concept of eternal Science interpreting God to make Him knowable to man. Paul was certainly a Scientist —  making God knowable with his speeches in Athens, and his writings and church-building throughout Asia Minor. Mrs. Eddy made God knowable as well. She admired the search for wisdom of Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BCE), and even included his hemlock cup when writing about the sacrifices of approaching the divine Principle (Science and Health, 215:17, 559:28). If Paul could quote Greek philosophers in making God understandable, then Mrs. Eddy could also compare Socrates’ sacrifice to that of later Christians. And how interesting that she combined the sacrifices of the Greeks (hemlock cup) and the Jews (bitter herbs), much as Paul also strived to be a unifier.

Below are Bible Notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible about Paul’s missionary work in Athens:

Acts 17:18 Babbler, a term of disparagement; the Greek word is literally used in reference to birds to mean “picking up seeds,” of persons “one who makes a living by picking up scraps” (here implied of learning). . . .19. Took him, could either imply arrest or friendly escort, and Areopagus could refer either to arraignment before the Council of the Areopagus (essentially the chief Roman court in Athens) or the Areopagus hill west of the Acropolis. The request “May we know…?” suggests a more relaxed setting for discussion, though allusions to Socrates before the Areopagus court are surely intended. 21: The curiosity of the Athenians was proverbial. . . .27. God created “all nations” to search for God. That God was near to all people was a Stoic belief. 28: Although the first quotation is sometimes attributed to Epimenides, its language is probably to be associated with Posidonius (based on Plato); the second quotation is from Aratus, a Greek poet of Cilicia educated as a Stoic. In Paul’s usage, the original pantheistic sense of both quotations is reinterpreted. . . .34: The conversion of Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, contributes to the theme of rulers attracted to Christianity. The note about Damaris conforms to a pattern found in both the Gospel and Acts of juxtaposing characters of both genders.

Christmas presents – the Universe of Spirit

December 21, 2016

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

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote, “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe…” (My. 262)  Last Wednesday’s service was on Christ Jesus’ gift of the indestructible man, indestructible Life and indestructible Love. This Wednesday’s service is about the gift of the glory of God’s presence, or the universe of Spirit where man dwells.

There is a theme of expansiveness in the Bible readings — the gentle Gihon Spring, and then the overflowing Euphrates RIver; Joseph’s angel, and then the multitudes of angels on Jesus’ birth; the voice in a burning bush speaking to Moses, and then the tongues of fire speaking to all at Pentecost; the one blessed womb becoming all who are receptive.

The readings from Science and Health begin and end with casting your anchor of hope “beyond the veil of matter into the Shekinah. .  .” (SH p. 41).

Shekinah is the divine manifestation through which God’s presence is felt by man. It is the radiance and glory of God manifested in the cloud and fire over Mount Sinai and over and within the tabernacle (see Ex. 19:16-18; 40:34-38). Shekinah derives from the Hebrew term shakan (to dwell), but does not appear directly in the Bible. Harper’s Bible Dictionary notes that “behind the Shekinah was the idea of the divine transcendence.” (October 12, 1968 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)

I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s autobiography, and his story about the Shekinah really helps me understand this term. (Peterson is an expert in Hebrew and Greek, and he is the author of The Message, a contemporary rendering of the Bible.) He wrote about how the Israelites wept when they returned from their Babylonian captivity and saw their replacement temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s glorious building had been replaced with what looked to them like a tarpaper shack.

As they wept, a dazzling, light-resplendent presence descended, the Shekinah – God’s personal presence – and filled that humble, modest, makeshift, sorry excuse for a temple with glory. They lifted their arms in praise. They were truly home. God was truly present. The Shekinah faded out. The glory stayed. (The Pastor, p. 101)

Then I was speaking with a friend about what I had gained from reading this description of Shekinah, and she remarked that it reminded her of the Romanian churches — plain as a chicken coop on the outside but full of color and beauty on the inside. The glory of those churches was what she remembered most about her visit to a country that was still bleak after years of Communism.

Now, you may wonder where I am going with this discussion of Shekinah, but I began thinking about how Mrs. Eddy only uses the word “Shekinah” once in Science and Health, but she uses the phrase “man in Science” many times. (Sometimes it appears with other words in between, such as “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.” SH 476). I am mentioning this because “man in Science” is the same concept as Shekinah to me — man dwelling in that glory beyond the veil of matter, man and the universe of Spirit.

The following Bible Notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible are helpful in understanding the symbolism about the rivers in the Book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:3-9 The end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. A fuller is a person who processes wool. The location refers to the Gihon spring, Jerusalem’s water source, which was located beyond the fortified wall of the city in the Kidron Valley immediately east of the city of David. All ancient cities faced the problem of access to water in times of siege. Like several ancient Israelite cities, Jerusalem had a tunnel that would allow protected access to the Gihon from inside the walls of the city. Ahaz was inspecting Jerusalem’s defenses when Isaiah arrived with his son, symbolically named Shear-jashub (“a remnant will return”). The symbolic name is both a reassurance that the Lord would defend Jerusalem in keeping with the Davidic/Zion tradition, and also an acknowledgment of Judah’s losses. . . . Isaiah 7:10-25 the narrative suggests that Ahaz is skeptical, prompting the prophet to demand that the king ask a “sign” of the Lord. Although Ahaz rejects Isaiah’s advice, his response to the prophet is a model of piety insofar as he will not put the Lord to the test. 14: Isaiah’s reply emphasizes the Lord’s own sign, the birth of the child Immanuel (“God is with us”) to express the Lord’s commitment to defend Jerusalem.

 

Isaiah 8:5-8 The prophet makes clear the Lord’s dissatisfaction with Ahaz’s refusal to accept the divine offer of protection. The waters of Shiloah, the stream fed by the Gihon spring that symbolizes the Lord’s sustenance of Jerusalem and the house of David. The oracle plays on the imagery of the protective stream that now becomes a threatening force as it overflows its banks to flood the land. 7: The River, the Euphrates, in western Assyria. 8: Whereas Immanuel, “God is with us,” earlier signified God’s protection of Judah, the name now symbolizes the Lord’s punishment of the land.

 

I Corinthians 1:21 Paul shapes a playful contrast between two types of wisdom: on the one hand, a divine attribute; on the other, a human attainment. 22: The desire for wisdom among the Greeks was proverbial. 23: The first-century BCE orator Cicero attests the constraint upon discourse about the cross among persons of higher social class: “The mere mention of the word ‘cross’ is shameful to a Roman citizen and a free man.”

 

Christmas presents – Christ “presents” the indestructible man

December 14, 2016

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

We’re continuing our series on “Christmas gifts” with Jesus presents (pronounced like what is found under Christmas trees) or the verb pronunciation used in this sentence from Science and Health: “Jesus presents the indestructible man. . . “(p. 316).  This week we are focusing on “man” from Mary Baker Eddy’s statement: “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe. . . (Miscellany, p. 262).

The scribes and the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, and Jesus responded that there shall be no sign except “the sign of the prophet Jonas.” (Matthew 12:38, 39). Jonah was rescued after three days and nights in the fish’s belly, but are there other signs besides the obvious resurrection comparison? Does Jonah remind you of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son, especially since both stories are open-ended, leaving you to complete them with your own lives?

How forgiving was Jonah compared to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?  (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34)  Does the gift of an indestructible Life require an indestructible Love (recognized by us humanly as forgiveness)? And has your indestructible Life presented to you by Christ become this life of forgiveness which Jesus stressed in his words and deeds? Or in other words, are you wearing your Christmas gift?

The Book of Jonah is read in synagogues on Yom Kipper, the Jewish Day of Atonement, because one of its major themes is forgiveness. (“Jonah and the Whale, Why the Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kipper” by Nahum Sarna, Bible History Daily, 10/10/2016)  And one of the best Christian inspirational books I have read on the subject of forgiveness is The Shack by William Young, which is coming out as a movie in the Spring in case you want to read the book first.

So now I am pondering that phrase “indestructible man” differently in Science and Health. It is not just the obvious indestructible Life but also man’s indestructible Love “for Love alone is Life.” (Eddy’s poem “Love,” which is also a hymn).

Here are some footnotes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible about the Pharisee Paul’s reference to his own ascending vision:

2. Corinthians 12:.2 -3: I know a person, an oblique reference to himself, following the apocalyptic convention of anonymous authorship. . .Third heaven, Paradise, where according to mystical Judaism one is granted a vision of the blessed.

Christmas – Gifts

December 7, 2016

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

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote the following opening in her essay entitled “Christmas” in Miscellaneous Writings:   “This interesting day, crowned with the history of Truth’s idea, — its earthly advent and nativity, — is especially dear to the heart of Christian Scientists; to whom Christ’s appearing in a fuller sense is so precious, and fraught with divine benedictions for mankind” (Mis. 320).  During our Wednesday services leading up to Christmas, we’ll be symbolically lighting the candles of our own advent wreath by learning more about some of the symbols of Christmas. We’re beginning this Wednesday with Christmas gifts of which Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe…” (My. 262).

Here are some Bible Notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible:

Psalm 72 A royal psalm that may have been used at the king’s coronation or anniversary. It views the Israelite king as the instrument of divine justice and protector of the poor, ensuring that the riches of creation are available to all; and he is the icon of God’s universal rule. Nonetheless, he is still a human being in constant need of divine help.

Psalm 72:2 The existence of the poor is contrary to the divine will, so the king is to be an instrument of the more equitable distribution of the world’s goods.  72:8 The River, the Euphrates.

Matthew 17:24 Temple tax, equivalent to half a shekel,..used in Jesus’ day for sacrifices and the upkeep of the Temple. 17:26 Just as a king’s children are tax-exempt, so too are God’s children. 17:27 Give offense, offend the devout people who collect the tax.

Many of you have heard the story of Joshua Bell in the DC Metro Station — a talented violinist ignored by the busy throngs. If you don’t know the story, here is a report and youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM21gPmkDpI

Last week, a similar violin story popped up on my FaceBook feed, but this video included an uplifting spiritual conclusion. The message at the end is such a gift — how someone always sees the beauty in you — and I thought it was just perfect for this holiday season.  It is actually what inspired me to do a series of readings on Christmas gifts!

http://www.barkvines.com/hallelujah-violin-cover/