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Editor’s Note: The following background information and application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff see and demonstrate the great value of daily study of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp. If more information or the text of this Lesson is desired, please see the Director’s Note at the end. The citations referenced in the “met” (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. (Other reference books are fully noted at the end.)

It’s All About Love
Lesson application ideas for: Love
July 25-31, 2005
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S.
Bartlett, Illinois

Golden Text
“We love him, because he first loved us.” This brief statement is the keynote for the entire Lesson. It sets forth two things. First, the initiative to love always comes from God. Second, our response to that initiative is “demonstrated in visible acts of service to others” (Abingdon’s One Volume Bible Commentary).

Responsive Reading
It is said that if you want to get a point across, the best way to do it is through repetition and emphasis. This week’s Lesson does just that. Each section examines a citation found in the Responsive Reading. We don’t have to look far to get the point of this Lesson-It’s all about LOVE!

Love is often viewed as the cornerstone of Christianity itself. Continuing the commentary from Abingdon’s above, “In these acts [of service to others] religion culminates, and if such acts do not appear, the whole structure is futile…without love of man love of God cannot exist.” “Culminate” means “to be at the highest point of altitude” (Student’s Reference Dictionary). So to love is to be at the very highest point of religious practice. It seems obvious, but it is important enough to bear constant repeating.

Section I
It all starts with God’s love to us.

“Love is not merely an attribute of God, it is His very Being” (Dummelow). Abingdon’s notes that the passage from Jeremiah (B1) is an allusion to Hosea which says that “Israel is the child of Jehovah whom he has taught to walk, carrying the tired child in his arms.” Have you ever been so tired that one of your parents just swept you up and carried you the rest of the way? Isn’t it comforting to feel so cared for? The highest expression of God’s love for mankind was the life of Christ Jesus. The fullest sense of the intimate Father-Son relationship could only be revealed through God’s Son (ibid.). The Father always reveals Himself by and through the Son (B5). “This was the case even before the Incarnation.” It was the spiritual idea of son-ship, that was manifested to the Patriarchs, gave the Law to Moses, inspired the prophets, and enlightened the sages of the gentiles” (Dummelow).

Citations 2 though 5 in Science and Health underscore Jesus’ mission to “prove what God is and what He does for man.” Mrs. Eddy says, Jesus “threw upon mortals the truer reflection.” He “lifted their lives higher.” He “unveiled the Christ” and “revealed” the Science of being and “proved” our relation to God. He “demonstrated” Life and “defined” Love. Jesus was the supreme example of what God’s love means for man. It all starts with God’s love shown to us through Christ Jesus.

Section II
The Prodigal Son Part One-God’s Love for the Sinner

“I want what’s mine; and I want it now!” Have you ever felt that way? Most of us have at one time or another. As with the boy in the story (B8), sometimes we’re even within our rights to take what’s ours. But does that express love? This boy “wants all faculties and powers for his own control according to his own will and pleasure” (Dummelow). He wasn’t thinking about his father, brother, or anything but himself. He was anything but loving. In short, his behavior was irresponsible and immature. Did the father try to stop him? No, he let him go. The son was going to learn his lessons through experience. At first it must have seemed great to him. He had a pile of money, no curfew, no homework, no rules at all. The world was his oyster. He went to a far country-a “world of sin where God is forgotten” (ibid.) But eventually his freedom lost its luster. He blew all his money; he had no friends, and was starving. So he gives up his freedom and works at the worst of all jobs-tending pigs. This is symbolic of “rejecting the Law” of God (Interpreter’s). Eventually, he “came to himself.” This is a medical term meaning “he came to his senses after fainting” (Abingdon’s).

He decides to go back home and present himself as a servant. In those days “Hired servants were poor relations, taken into the house and paid for menial service, members of the family, though not on a level with the children” (ibid.) The father was anticipating his son’s return. As the son limped home, the father ran to him and showered him with love. He gave him: a robe (restored his privileges); a ring (a symbol of honor); shoes (spiritual freedom); and killed the fatted calf (gave him spiritual nourishment) (Dummelow).

The father’s response to his son’s return is an example of the “truer sense of love” (S6). This Love corrects, governs and reforms man (S7). Sensual pleasures do not give us freedom. They put us into bondage (S8). How many times have you finally got something you’ve wanted and found out it wasn’t so great after all? The only way to be really happy is to get in line with our Principle, Love. We need to turn away from sin and we will “come to” ourselves, and see who and what we really are (S9). Sometimes living irresponsibly seems pretty inviting. But doing so can turn sour and be disappointing and in some cases dangerous. But when things get rough, we’re forced to turn to God like the tired children (S10) mentioned in Hosea. We can always go back home. And yes the Father is waiting to scoop us up in His arms!

Section III
The Prodigal Son Part Two-God’s Love for the Self-righteous

The older brother (B9) represents all those who may be obedient on the outside- doing what is expected of them-but they do it without love. What’s more, they are angry and jealous when good things happen to those they don’t think deserve it. Haven’t you ever felt upset over someone who looks like they’re getting better than you think they deserve? The older brother is unaware of his own faults. He doesn’t even acknowledge the good that is always there for him. “He puts the worst construction on his brother’s past sins and shows himself incapable of forgiveness” (Dummelow). Do you think the older brother had the right to be mad? Is self-righteousness better than willfully disobeying and then honestly changing your mind?

The father was impartial and loved both sons. Rather than worry about what other people are getting, keeping our eyes open to the good God is giving us will be more beneficial. The Lord gives us life, shows us how to live it and crowns it with joy and delight (B10) (Interpreter’s). Righteousness is rewarded (B11). We are God’s children (B12) “not only in name, but in fact” (Abingdon’s).

Mrs. Eddy reminds us of the need to be grateful for what we have (S12). She says, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds”. If we are concentrating on those qualities, we will be more alive to love. She says that love works like a solvent (S13) to remove self-will (like the younger brother) and self-justification (like the older brother) and self-love (like both of them). Selfishness never helps us (S14). Believing we are separate from God causes us trouble. Getting rid of that belief, and obeying only God (S15) is the “great point of departure for all true spiritual growth.” Obedience is more than going through the motions. In order to really receive the blessings, we have to have our heart in it. Otherwise, we’ll miss the party!

Section IV
Love Heals

Since God is love, we show our love for God by our love for man (B13). “To live in love is to live victoriously over all error and all anxiety” (Interpreter’s). That paraphrase accurately describes the power of prayerful treatment based on the omnipotence of Love. Jesus lived that way. His actions were motivated by the “power of the Spirit” (B14). It gave him authority over every challenge. He was “at one” with love. By contrast, the man possessed with demons, believed there were many influences working in him. He addresses Jesus in the plural. When we are faced with a challenge, it often seems like there are a multitude of factors working against us. These factors may appear to make us feel inadequate. “What have we to do with thee?” But Jesus told such lies to “Hold thy peace. “The power of love reduces the lie to nothingness. Whether it was a belief of many demons in one man or many people with one demon, Jesus healed them all. He expected his followers to do the same (B15).

Science and Health reminds us that divine Love meets every need (S16). Because divine love is omnipotent (S17) we can meet disease fearlessly (S18). Love gives us power, health, peace, harmony and restoration (S18-20). Love can do it all.

Section V
The Supreme Example

The citations in this section contain some critical theological elements of Christianity. Volumes have been written on these passages; and denominations and doctrines have been formed by them and around them. “Hereby know we what love is…” (B17) Traditional Christianity emphasizes that God’s love to us is manifested by His willing sacrifice of His “only” Son. By so doing, it is believed that through the crucifixion, Jesus took our sins away by bearing them in his own body. Mrs. Eddy writes, “The efficacy of the crucifixion lay in the practical affection and goodness it demonstrated for mankind” (S22). Jesus’ sacrifice does not mean that we are relieved from doing our own work. Interpreter’s comments, “the man who is born of God is set in the right direction-of doing what is right and of loving his brother. Sin is a matter not of nature but of conduct. Love is the test of those who are truly born of God.” To the early Christians, the disciples’ “witnessing” of the events established that they really took place (B18). The “only begotten” literally means, “unique, one who is like no other” (Abingdon’s).

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy acknowledges, that Jesus was truly unique. If we read the rest of the citations in Science and Health carefully, we can also see that Mrs. Eddy was sensitive to the traditional theological views and to what are termed “The Dimensions of the Cross.” She says, “We need Christ, and him crucified” (S21). This sentence indicates that Mrs. Eddy did not want us to forget our Christian heritage. We acknowledge that, “Jesus bore our sins in his body” and he “felt our infirmities” (S23). There’s nothing “pie in the sky” about that. Jesus’ sacrifice was “intense” (S24). He suffered for love. He endured challenges beyond our imaginations. He did it so he could show us what love meant and how strong it is. It overcomes sickness, sin, and even death (S25). So we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay the role of the crucifixion. It was Jesus’ supreme example of love.

Section VI
“Who do you love?”

“If we love one another we have proof both of His presence with us and of our love to Him” (Dummelow). Our love for God and man must be shown in practical demonstration (B20). The parable of the Good Samaritan (B21) teaches that we should love everyone. In the “met” for the Lesson on Love last January, it was noted that the Samaritan was an unlikely hero to the Jews. Besides representing “racial impurity and religious heresy” (Interpreter’s), he went out of his way during a business trip to help a stranger when the Priest and Levite, who had nothing else to do, passed by. In this Lesson Jesus is our example of how to love. With that in mind, there is a traditional allegorical view of this story that bears a look. The man on the road symbolizes mortal man or the race of Adam on the descent or “fall” from grace. The thieves are the demons who strip us of spirituality and virtue causing us to sin. Indulging in sin, we are not fully alive to the Christ and are therefore, “half dead.” The Priest and Levite symbolize the Law of Moses and the doctrinal prophetic teaching. The Good Samaritan represents the Christ that cares for us, takes us to the inn (the church) and offers two pence (the Old and New Testaments) to minister to us until he returns (Dummelow).

Our Leader expected us to follow the Christly example set forth in this Lesson (S26, 27). She wanted everyone to recognize and utilize the healing power of Love. She knew that having one God would bring peace to the world (S28). Isn’t much of the strife in the world today over the nature of God and how to serve Him? We are expected to assist our brothers in every way (S29). The Lesson ends pretty much as it begins. “God is Love” (S30). We can’t ask for more, look higher, or go farther. So there it is. It’s all about LOVE!

Camp Director’s Note: The above sharing is the latest in a long series of CedarS Bible Lesson “mets” (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms.Originally sent JUST to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson “mets” are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson in the books. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.)  

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