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Let Jesus’ parables instruct you today!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on

“Christ Jesus”
for August 22-28, 2022

by John & Lindsey Biggs, C.S. of Maryland Heights, MO
541 418 1176 johnbiggscs@gmail.com
541 460 3515 biggs.lindsey@gmail.com


Introduction

This week’s Lesson focuses on many of Jesus’ parables. The figures vary, but according to some research Jesus spoke about 30 – 45 parables. A parable is “a short, simple story that teaches or explains an idea, especially a moral or religious idea.” (dictionary.cambridge.org)

The term parable is “applicable to a wide variety of picturesque forms of expression including simile, proverb, metaphor, illustrative story, similitude, allegory, and riddle. By such means it was sought to illuminate unfamiliar ideas by reference to something analogous in the experience of those addressed…

“All the forms of Hebrew parable except the riddle are found in the NT, chiefly in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Gospel of John, and in the epistles of Paul, apart from simple metaphors, the parables which occur are in the form of allegories…In the allegory each item of the story has a hidden meaning, so that all have to be decoded. Without the key supplied either by the historical context or verbally…the reader could not arrive at the meaning intended.”
(Dictionary of the Bible Revised Edition, Frederick C. Grant and H.H. Rowley, p. 725)

Parables are also used in the Old Testament as well. There they are meant to bring a sense of “comparison with a purpose…to quicken the mind of the hearer so that he makes a true assessment of the situation, or of his own actions” (Ibid, p. 724). Such is the case with the prophet Ezekiel, Micah, Jeremiah, and in the Proverbs. These types of parables bring an “energy of fulfillment…intended to stimulate the mind of the hearer or observer…only the insensitive would remain unaffected by the parable” (Ibid, p. 724).


Golden Text

Bible Lens Research has this to add about parables:
“Parables differ from fables in focusing on realistic beings and situations and from allegories in employing single direct comparisons. Christ Jesus’ parables borrow images from such daily tasks as farming, baking, and fishing—images of immediate relevance to his audience. In this verse [Matthew 13:35] the Gospel author cites Psalms 78:2 to explain the Master’s storytelling approach to teaching.” (Christian Science Sentinel)


Responsive Reading

The parable of the mustard seed appears in three of the gospels: Matthew 13:31–32; Mark 4:30–32; Luke 13:18–19.

Many scholars believe it illustrates the humble and meek beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven (exemplified through the size of the mustard seed), and then the expansive growth of God’s kingdom on earth (the seed growing into a tree with branches).

“The mustard seed was the smallest seed, but it grew into a huge plant. This is Mark’s third parable of growth. In this parable, Jesus teaches that although the Kingdom of God started small, with Jesus and the disciples, it would grow and spread across the world to unlimited numbers of followers. The birds represent Gentile people. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God will include other nations and not just God’s chosen people, the Jews.” (BBC Bitesize Religious Studies)

Mary Baker Eddy gives her explanation of the parable of the woman with the leaven in Science and Health. She writes:

“His parable of the ‘leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened,’ impels the inference that the spiritual leaven signifies the Science of Christ and its spiritual interpretation…

Ages pass, but this leaven of Truth is ever at work. It must destroy the entire mass of error, and so be eternally glorified in man’s spiritual freedom…” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 117:31; 118:10)

She writes that science, theology and medicine are three modes of thought where the leaven is at work – spiritualizing our concepts to a more metaphysical basis.

“In their spiritual significance, Science, Theology, and Medicine are means of divine thought, which include spiritual laws emanating from the invisible and infinite power and grace. The parable may import that these spiritual laws, perverted by a perverse material sense of law, are metaphysically presented as three measures of meal, — that is, three modes of mortal thought. … This continues until the leaven of Spirit changes the whole of mortal thought, as yeast changes the chemical properties of meal.”

(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 118:13–20, 23)

Where do you see the leaven at work in your communities?
What evidence of the leaven have you witnessed in your own experience?


Section 1 – Heaven is like a net

The parables are so precious to us, in part, because they are literal notes on how Jesus taught – the very way he taught those around him. And because he knew that “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27), he knew that all those who heard the voice of Christ, throughout all time, would be moved, instructed and challenged by his teachings.

When we’re reading these, let’s not fret about trying to decode the one true meaning of these stories. Just see what sparks in your heart as you consider these funny, challenging, simple stories and see what fresh view you are moved to. I’ll share what challenges me and what’s illuminated for me in these parables, and I am glad to know that we’re all reflecting together on these timeless stories! (I’ve appreciated Amy-Jill Levine’s book, Short stories by Jesus, published by Harper Collins, as a help in seeing new ways to appreciate these timeless stories.)

As I’m studying this today, I’m struck by how the parable of the net that was cast into the sea and caught all types of fish (cit. B3, Matthew 13:47,48) speaks to me about watching with caution for how eager I am to divide people up. The first thing I see in this story is “Oh goody, God is going to divide out the good people from the bad people, or even the good stuff in general from the bad stuff, so I can just make sure I’m on the good side.” But that’s not what the parable says, is it? The parable says that the kingdom of heaven is like a net. Does a trawler net do the dividing between tuna and trash? No. The net just catches everything. The net brings everything that’s underneath, into the light. The net is available to everyone. The net is actually a pretty simple thing. When everything is seen in it’s true light – because it’s brought up out of the murky ocean – then it’s clear what belongs and what doesn’t. Who does the dividing out? The fishermen – the ones who are following the call of the sea, you could say.

The “fishers of men” – those who are alert to what is being shown and taught to them by Christ – are watching consciousness to see what belongs and what doesn’t. It’s Christ’s nature, Christ’s light, which allows us to accurately see what truly belongs, and what is cast out. And this is what is crucial – and what the following citation, B4 (Matt. 10:1), illustrates: it is never people who are cast out, but only misconceptions and errors of thought about God’s creation, including man.

Now, if heaven is here, as Jesus consistently stated, then the net must be in constant action. How quick are we to discern the substance of what’s being shown to us, and to correctly see that anything that doesn’t belong, literally cannot belong to what God has made? We all are entitled to our own opinions – the kingdom of heaven is not magic dipsy land where everyone always and only wants custard and blueberries. But heaven allows us to see the substance of who we truly are – the substance of everything that God has made – and we can do accurate ‘dividing’ in thought and action between what belongs and what doesn’t belong.

A dear friend once told me that he loved working at camp (in this specific case, CedarS CampS, but the same idea I’m going to share has been expressed to me at all the Christian Science camps) he loved working at camp because he got to see, and to participate in, what life would be like if we all just were good. Simple, pure, good. Not some optimistic, challenge-free floaty thing, but just good-hearted, active, joyful good for the sake of good. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment!

I share this with permission. There was a little girl who came in to visit me when I was serving as practitioner at one of the camps years ago. She sat down, didn’t say a word, and just frowned. The counselor who brought her to me said she wasn’t feeling well. I asked if she wanted to talk about it and she just shook her head no. I asked if we should pray quietly and she nodded yes. Quickly after I closed my eyes, I heard God tell me clearly: “This is my little warrior. She is brave and bold and whole.” I was so happy! The substance of who this girl was, had been clearly discerned…and there was simply no way that anything less-than-whole could reside in her. We both opened our eyes a little later. She had a big smile on her face! I asked if she wanted to share what God had told her. She shook her head no. I asked if she wanted to hear what God had told me. She shook her head no. I asked if she wanted to go back outside and play. She grinned and nodded yes. Big hugs and off she goes. It was so precious to me, to see how being willing to turn to God wholeheartedly, just with love for good, rather than fretting about trying to convince myself or convince someone else, was so effective. This is the net of heaven, showing us what belongs…and thus, naturally, what doesn’t belong and never truly was ours (or another’s) in the first place.


Section 2 – Break up the fallow ground and plant good seeds

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground:” (cit. B2, Hosea 10:12)

“Fallow” has some interesting connotations. On one hand, fallow can refer to ground that is unoccupied, uncultivated, neglected; obsolete. This could be a state of thought that we want to “break up”! We want to plow that field, break it up, and plant some good seeds (thoughts from God / Word of God), and cultivate a beautiful harvest.

Another connotation of fallow would be when the ground has been allowed to rest for a season, getting rid of the weeds and rendering it suitable for planting. This may be a time when we focus on prayer and study, finding a greater sense of quiet and stillness, and allowing the field of “our consciousness” to rest for a season before planting new seeds and getting ready for a new season and a new harvest. One definition states: “To plow, harrow and break land without seeding it, for the purpose of destroying weeds and insects, and rendering it mellow.” (1828 Webster’s Dictionary)

Regardless, we want to strive to be “the good soil wherein the seed of Truth springs up and bears much fruit” as Christ Jesus did (cit. S7, p. 270).

This parable of the sower is one of the few parables that Jesus explained. “The Master often refused to explain his words, because it was difficult in a material age to apprehend spiritual Truth.” (cit. S8, p. 350) Sometimes he explained the message to his disciples, but not to the other people.

What are the qualities of thought that are receptive to understanding the message of the parables? Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 ESV)

In addition Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The spiritual sense of truth must be gained before Truth can be understood. This sense is assimilated only as we are honest, unselfish, loving, and meek.” (cit. S9, p. 272)

A well-loved hymn sums it up nicely:

“Come, walk with Love along the way,
Let childlike trust be yours today;
Uplift your thought, with courage go,
Give of your heart’s rich overflow,
And peace shall crown your joy-filled day.
Come, walk with Love along the way.”
(Christian Science Hymnal, No.  139:3)


Section 3 – God adores us. We should adore God!

 This story from Luke, of the penitent woman who comes to wash Jesus’ feet, is pivotal to our practice of Christian Science (cit. B12, Luke 7:36–48). As you know from reading the rest of this section’s citations from Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy introduces her whole chapter on Christian Science Practice with an explanation and study of this story.

The parable included in this Bible story used to really confuse me. Now it just challenges me! But, I used to think that Jesus was almost encouraging us to do lots of stuff that needed forgiving later. After all, if Jesus is commending the standpoint of the one who is forgiven much, and therefore loves much, maybe I need to really lean into doing stuff that later needs forgiving…so that I’ll be able to love more…hmmm. There’s some swirly logic there! So we dig deeper. Of course we know from Jesus’ life and teachings that he always encourages and advocates doing good and loving your neighbor as yourself, so the lesson can’t be, to do bad stuff. So what is going on with this creditor and his debtors? What if it’s simply an illustration – a picture – and not an allegory at all? What if Jesus is just saying, “hey, it’s obvious that when you know how much you owe, and you’re freed, you’re going to be grateful.” Then in real life, he is commending the woman for her expressions of honor and adoration. She is signaling her desire to give up false views of herself and only have the love of God as her identifying status.

We ALL owe everything to God. How could it be otherwise? Cause and effect means that effect simply, IS NOT, without the cause. Now, this is not the corruption of the “prosperity gospel” which says that God gives man stuff in proportion to how good he is. God doesn’t give us “stuff.” God gives…and we ARE what God, divine Love, has given. In full-on adoration of Life, of Love, of Spirit, we give up identifying ourselves by the accolades we’ve received, the stuff we have, the experiences that have happened to us, the discord that seems to follow us, and we accept the freedom of God. Or, as Jesus was trying to illustrate to Simon the Pharisee, if we adore Life a bit, and hold on to a worldly sense of ourselves with the rest of our attention, then naturally we’ll feel less of the perfect love which Life has already freely given.

How can we adore God, Christ, heaven, more? That’s a fun question! This week, let’s see!


Section 4 – Reject unbelief and make room for Truth

There is a lovely article in the Christian Science Journal article titled “Break the ‘fourth wall’ of unbelief” which talks about overcoming unbelief. It also quotes another article from the Journal describing the difference between disbelief and unbelief. It says:

“We could say disbelief is total distrust and rejection of a concept. In disbelief, one might argue that the fundamental premise of an idea is flawed…The unbelief which stands in the way of spiritual progress is not so much disbelief of the truth which has been presented, as it is the occupation of the mind with beliefs which are contrary to the truth. Since the mind is thus preoccupied, it has no hospitality for the truth.” (Unbelief and Faith, Rev. William P. Mc Kenzie, Christian Science Journal, July 1910)

“Prayer and fasting” can be considered fasting from the material senses and “feasting” on Soul (spiritual sense). What types of fasting can you practice on a day-to-day basis? Where do we look for satisfaction? Answers? Our self-worth and value? How can we turn more to Soul, God, to guide us rightly – to give us those spiritual and satisfying views of the Kingdom of Heaven that is already within us. This could be one way of fasting.

Looking to God, Spirit, is the only real, reliable vantage point to look to to find out more of who we are as the image and likeness of God. So, it make sense that in healing we want to look away from the material sense of things into the spiritual sense – the deeper, spiritual reality. We want to have a “famine of sense” and a “feast of Soul” (Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 263)

“Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.”

(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 261:2)


Section 5 – A merchant man who’s no longer a merchant man

Wow! What a Bible Lesson this has been! Full of teachings straight from Jesus, and with Mary Baker Eddy’s inspired, wonderful explications of the Science behind his teaching. We close this week’s Lesson with a fascinating parable, one of my favorites!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (cit. B17, Matthew 13:45,46)

There are SO many ways to look at this parable, so as I implied before, don’t take this as the only way or the definitive way to look at this parable. Jesus’ teachings speak to every single one of us, moving us to a new view – not just comforting us, but moving us to see more clearly! I think it’s common to view this parable as Jesus saying that the kingdom of heaven is worth sacrificing everything for – that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl, which is of inestimable value. And that’s certainly true! Heaven is valuable! But….that’s not exactly what the parable says. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man…” Um. That’s…interesting. And the story actually gets even stranger, because usually, a merchant who’s seeking pearls is doing so in the cycle of commerce – finding a pearl of great price….so that he can then sell it for a greater price in a different market…but, if heaven is the pearl, then that makes heaven a commodity to be bought and sold…oh boy. But in THIS story, the merchant finds a pearl which is so fine, so perfect, that he SELLS (not sacrifices, not destroys, not leaves in the dust…just, sells) everything he had, in order to buy the pearl. He’s no longer a merchant man at this point – he has no storefront, no transport for his goods, no back-up capital. He’s a man who has been changed – who, upon seeing something that he knew was the most valuable thing in his entire world, he did everything he needed to do, to have that value. This man is not a superhero, and he’s not a “suffering saint.” But he’s showing what the kingdom of heaven does: it changes us. It transforms our sense of things, and it allows us to act from a newfound standpoint.

We thought we were merchants, but actually we’re devoted to something even more precious. We thought we were mortals, but then Christ Jesus showed us how to be born again of water and Spirit (see John 3). What do we think we are, and how willing are we to let heaven move us to a new view?

Mary Baker Eddy defines for us, “HEAVEN. Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul.” (Science and Health, p. 587:25) This is active, present, HERE. Let us be awake and aware – fundamental aspects of that merchant who clearly saw something that was worth everything – let us be awake and aware to see clearer views of who we truly are, of what heaven really is. Not something to be bought through personal effort. Not something that could ever be lost. Not something that excludes some. Heaven is the truth, the locality of divine Truth. What a joy to see fresh views, every day, discovering more of who we truly are, seen in the sunlight of Truth and standing together in heaven, one with our Father-Mother.


GEMs of BIBLE-BASED application ideas from COBBEY CRISLER & others are “in the works” to be POSTED, at least in part, on Monday. They will be SENT in full later this week. Check the  current GEMs at CedarS INSPIRATION website, or later in your email, if you have  SUBSCRIBED on this webpage to receive this offering.


Ken Cooper POETIC POSTLUDE contributions related to this Bible Lesson will ARRIVE LATER IN THE WEEK. When they do arrive, the poems will be POSTED on CedarS INSPIRATION website & be EMAILED TO THOSE WHO SUBSCRIBE FOR THEM HERE.


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