Christmas presents – omniscience

December 28, 2016

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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.

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David and Absalom – In the House of Love forever

October 5th, 2016

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This Wednesday, we are finishing our series on King David, including finding some of David’s connections with the New Testament and with our textbook, Science and Health.  Have you noticed that Mrs. Eddy begins and ends the text of her book with a shepherd (p. vii) and a Psalm (p. 578)?  Throughout the triumphs and trials of his kingdom, David continued to sing his psalms of mercy and joy in the Lord — a joy that wasn’t the result of a supply of wants, but a joy having its source in God Himself.

Here are some Bible notes:

II Samuel 19:20 – House of Joseph, the northern tribes, Israel, as opposed to Judah.

II Samuel 19:25-30 – Ziba had accused Mephibosheth of plotting to take the throne. Mephibosheth here defends himself, saying that Ziba refused to help him to flee with David, and he could not leave on his own accord because of his physical condition. David’s decision indicates that he does not know which of them is telling the truth. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 474.)

Who do you think was telling the truth — Ziba, the servant; or Mephibosheth, the grandson of the anointed King Saul from the tribe of Benjamin? David told them to divide the land between them.  Did young King Solomon use a similar strategy when faced with two women — both claiming to be the mother of the same baby? If the true mother wouldn’t let Solomon divide the baby, then who might be the rightful owner of Saul’s land?   (I didn’t find this comparison in any commentary, although most scholars believe Mephibosheth’s affection was for his master, not for his property.)

Did a New Testament Saul, also from the tribe of Benjamin, originally choose the side that persecuted the Anointed One? Did this Saul let a “thorn in his side” stop him from claiming his place at the King’s table?  (The Bible doesn’t state exactly what Paul’s thorn was — some commentators think it might have been something physical such as poor eyesight; others think it was a strictly emotional battle over guilt which is why he writes so much on grace.)

We need the enthusiastic Pauls in our midst. Paul knew no borders in his outreach — geographic or cultural or religious. In my Bible study, I have really begun to see Paul as a symbol of the Comforter because, despite the thorn in his side, he was always “earnestly striving” to give birth to the real spiritual man. I think having that grace to see the real man in yourself and others is the true “primitive Christianity” desired in our Manual of The Mother Church (page 17).

Does anyone have anything to share from our study of David? There is a “leave a reply” link at the bottom of this blog, so I’d love to receive a response from those who have been reading along!

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.

 

Colossians – You are hid with Christ in God

August 5, 2015

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We are finishing our summer travels with Paul with his letter to the Colossians, a city in southern Asia Minor (present-day Turkey).  The authorship is uncertain. It was either written in Paul’s name by one of his disciples, or it was written by Paul himself while imprisoned in Rome near the end of his life. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 2067)
In Colossians 3:3, Paul writes, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”  That verse makes me think of being a transparency for Truth, as Mrs. Eddy wrote in Miscellaneous Writings:
That individual is the best healer who asserts himself the least, and thus becomes a transparency for the divine Mind, who is the only physician; the divine Mind is the scientific healer. (Mis. 59:26)
I also love Colossians 3:23, 24:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (English Standard Version)
That certainly puts our employment in proper perspective!

Comment from a reader – Thanks for your citations.  Your email citations point to patience and humility.

Thanks also for going out of the way for others. At times i cannot make it to my own areas Church Services, so, it is a comfort to read and study yours.
Have you considered posting on Thursdays, some testimonies?  I am sure you must have since you are keen to such things.  But maybe Your plate is full.
You guys have a great website page!

My reply – When I first started the website, the church committee felt that I should only use testimonies that have appeared from TMC. So, when someone local has a MC published testimony, then I do link to it. Many of our members are still hesitant about being on social media, but we are becoming more comfortable every day!

Romans – Our Renewed Selfhood, the male and female of God’s creating

July 22, 2015

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     We are finishing the Letter to Romans tonight, but I have still been thinking about “first fruits” since it appeared in our readings last week.  The term appears again this week in identifying Epaenetus, one of the first Christian converts in Asia (Europe of today) in Romans 16:5.   In looking up Epaenetus, I discovered another definition of first fruits — that it is a sense of “first of many,” or “first with the prospect of more to follow.” Having followers and starting churches is definitely what Paul demonstrated, and his listing of helpers in Romans 16 includes many women.  In fact, there is a reference to our sister Phoebe, a church deacon, in Romans 16:1, and in the King James Version, there is a footnote at the end of Romans entrusting Phoebe with delivering this letter to Rome. If Jesus could trust the Samaritan woman at the well to tell her village that he was the Christ, then Paul, a follower of Jesus, could trust his communication to this Greek woman. No wonder scholars think that I Corinthians 14:34-35 (women should be silent in the churches) is a “later non-Pauline addition.” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, page 2019).
     You will find many sermons and commentaries on the names in Romans 16. Here’s a link to a pdf of one such list:
     Here’s a lovely thought –
Could our first fruits also be Genesis One – Man in God’s image, male and female?
     Romans 13 is about the “theology of the state” – that the civil authorities may punish, but the individual Christian may not.
     Romans 14 is about tolerance for others’ beliefs and observance. There was a time4thinkers blog applying this chapter to vegetarianism (or even eating sweets in front of someone on a diet). There are also some thoughtful verses about reasons to abstain from social drinking.
 
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 
(Romans 14:20, 21)
 
     Paul calls us “saints,” which the NRSV Glossary defines as “the term for all Christians or for what all Christians are called to be.”  So, my fellow saints, enjoy the readings.

Romans – Christ’s inescapable salvation applies to all of us

July 15, 2015

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     We are continuing with our readings through Romans with Mrs. Eddy’s references from Science and Health.
     Paul is amazing to me. He has given a glorious meaning to theological terms that we usually think of negatively.  Here is part of a testimony from a 1910 Christian Science Sentinel about the true meaning of predestination, a topic in Romans 8 & 9:
I wish I could enumerate the many wonderful proofs of the power of Truth to reduce all error to the nothingness from which it sprang. One of my old opinions to which I held in a sort of unconscious way, was the doctrine of predestination, and my thought was not wholly cleared up until last winter. In going over one of the Lesson-Sermons, the eighth chapter of Romans brought back the thought, and for a few minutes it seemed to be a stumbling-block; but as I read the context, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” like a flash of light came the thought, Why, that proves clearly that only good was predestined, and not both good and evil, and that I now believed in the doctrine of predestination in the truest way. I not only believed that good alone is predestined, but I knew it. To me, it is wonderful and beautiful that through spiritual discernment we can prove this truth, and reject all false beliefs.
     In chapter 9, Paul outlines the plan of salvation in the Bible, beginning with Abraham’s faith and including Pharaoh.  Gentiles were included because in Paul’s argument, the “seed of Abraham” was not descendants in the flesh. It was Abraham’s seed of faith which would call all people. None of us is ever excluded by God because we each have a remnant, a seed, remaining to be nurtured and grown by God’s grace. It occurs to me that this outlook explains why Paul could be such a good missionary — because he saw that Christ-seed in everyone.
The Message gives a great paraphrase for the stumblingstone in Romans 9:32:
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
    a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
    you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
Many companies and schools (and countries) have “diversity and inclusion” talks, and Paul gives a similar discussion in Romans 11:17 using an analogy about an olive tree grafted with wild branches. What a contemporary topic!
     The term “first fruits” appears in Romans 8:23, 11:16, and 16:5, as well as elsewhere in Paul’s writings and in James and in Revelation. It is not a term that I understood metaphysically, so I looked up the definition in Strong’s which was: “the first-fruits, the earliest crop of the year, hence also for example, the earliest converts in a district; there is evidence in rendering in some passages sacrifice, gift.”
     Romans 11:16 reads as follows in the New Revised Standard Version:  “If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.”
     The annotations had a footnote to Numbers 15:18 where the first dough is offered in worship, and this sacrificed dough purified the whole lump.
     Here is the Aramaic translation:  “But if the first fruits are holy, so is the substance. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
     So after walking through these references, I really love what Paul is telling us — that if Christ is the first fruit and holy, then we are of the same substance and also holy. If the root is the Christ-Truth, then all of us, all the branches, are the true man.  In other words, Paul took his understanding of Jesus Christ and applied it to himself, his life, and mankind.
     Sorry for such a long email today, but I have been very inspired by my trip to Rome!

Philippians – Paul’s Recipe for Joyful Abundance

June 17, 2015

http://www.christianscienceneworleans.org/ArchiveWedReadings2015.html

     I was listening to an online Bible seminar by Madelon Maupin (a Christian Scientist with a graduate degree in Bible studies) who encouraged everyone to read Paul’s epistles. She said that people who took her seminars would tell her how fortunate she was to have attended seminary, but she would reply that studying Paul’s epistles was like having a year in seminary.  So, I thought we would travel along with Paul this summer by reading some of his letters to the early churches in Turkey, Greece, and Rome.
     I decided to start with Philippians because I had read a Sentinel article about how studying Philippians reveals Paul’s recipe for happiness. Another article mentioned that 10% of the “joy” references in the King James Bible appear in Philippians’ four short chapters. Here is how Eugene Peterson of The Message described Philippians:
“This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves — the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us. . . .
Christ is, among much else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this “spilling out” quality of Christ’s life that accounts for the happiness of Christians, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person.”
     The citations from Science and Health include Mrs. Eddy’s quotes from Philippians. At the end of the readings, there is a question from Miscellaneous Writings about Paul’s meaning of “to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) Mrs. Eddy gives a very loving response to the eternal blessings of those who have gone on, our “battle worn and Christian heroes.”

Christian Martyrdom

February 18, 2015

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     Last year my first Wednesday night readings as First Reader occurred on Ash Wednesday, so my subject was “Beauty for Ashes.”  This year we have another solemn topic in “Christian Martyrdom.”
     Mary Baker Eddy wrote quite a bit about this topic, and the readings from Science and Health begin with this quote attributed to Tertullian, a 2nd century author who lived in northern Africa and who is considered one of the fathers of the early Christian church. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  (SH 37 next to the marginal note “Martyrs inevitable”)  Mrs. Eddy also references Savonarola, an Italian friar from the late 1400s. (SH 40)  There is a wonderful series called “Mary Baker Eddy Mentions Them,” and so I enjoyed listening to their short and sweet summary of Savonarola’s life. (This link is included on the “Readings and Research” page.)
     In preparing these readings, I was impressed by how much Stephen’s speech influenced Saul/Paul, even to the point of Stephen’s final words “Lay not this sin to their charge,” being repeated by Paul at the end of his life. One of the Christian Science Journal articles about Stephen quotes Augustine, that “the church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen,” and so a Journal article about Stephen is also included on the readings page.
     On the day after the news that another US hostage had been executed, John Yemma, of The Christian Science Monitor, wrote an editorial quoting part of a letter received by the parents:
 “I have come to a place in my experience,” Kayla Mueller wrote, “where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no one else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free.”

Holy City

September 24, 2014

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This Wednesday we are concluding our series of readings about Abraham through the eyes of the New Testament apostle Paul.  Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that “To misunderstand Paul, was to be ignorant of the divine idea he taught.” (SH 560) This Wednesday’s readings are on the Holy City, which Mrs. Eddy describes as “the acme of this Science as the Bible reveals it” (SH 577). The Bible readings take you through some of the events that occurred when holiness was deemed to have occurred in a specific place, and I have included some photos connected to these stories. What a shift in thought it must have been when Jesus and his followers saw holy places differently!
On a personal note, the concept of the Holy City was very helpful to me awhile back when Nathan called to tell me that he was jumping out of a plane with a group of friends who had decided to go skydiving.  At the time, we were studying Revelation in our Time for Thinkers Book Club and discussing the Holy City, so it was comforting to place Nathan inside the walls of the Holy City, always surrounded and protected.  If you want to see Nathan joyously jumping out of plane, here it is (click on first box on right) :