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“Listen to what Spirit is saying…”
Metaphysical Application Ideas for The Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on

“Spirit”
for January 31 to February 6, 2022

by Christie C. Hanzlik, C.S.   Boulder, Colorado
ccern@mac.com • christiecs.com


INTRODUCTION

This week’s Bible Lesson on “Spirit” is set up with seven sections, with each section containing a message to one of the seven churches from Revelation.  But only part of the message to each church is in the Bible Lesson.  To better understand the context of the letters, you may want to “read outside the chalk” or read beyond the citations offered in the Bible Lesson.

As I understand it, the book of Revelation is a vision of the supremacy of good—the inevitable triumph of good over evil—through our understanding of Christ—the communication from God, Spirit, to us.  For the author of Revelation to convey such a vision in writing is difficult. Now, consider that Revelation was written in a coded language to protect Christians from Roman persecution, and that this writing has passed through the centuries and been translated multiple times, and it becomes clear that we must read Revelation with inspiration.  It is well worth our effort to delve into Revelation’s message, but, again, it does take inspiration.  Fortunately for us, “Spirit”—the subject of this week’s Bible Lesson, is inextricably linked to inspiration.  “Spirit” and the word “inspiration” are etymologically entwined.

I’m certain you all will find your own insights from both Revelation and the Bible Lesson, and what I am sharing in this Met is my understanding of the letters to the seven churches. I am a student of the Bible, but I don’t consider myself a Bible scholar.  Please be patient with any mistakes I make here.

The seven churches of Asia lay along a common trade route in what is now modern-day Turkey.  Revelation addresses these churches in order starting clockwise from Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, to Laodicea.  The author commends and corrects the churches in the letters, and states that only two of the churches—Smyrna and Philadelphia—are on track and should continue and persevere as they are.  From one perspective, it could seem that the author is addressing the churches as they existed during the time that Revelation was written.  From another perspective, some Bible scholars suggest that each church represents a different span of time in the development of the Christian church. From a different perspective, the author could be addressing each church metaphorically to guide and warn us of how to build and maintain churches in broad sense.  And from yet another perspective, we could read the letters as speaking to us as individuals and infer that the author is telling us things we can develop within ourselves—as if each of us needs to embody true church within ourselves—so that we can best defend, fortify, and enrich our spiritual practice and devotion to healing.

In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy offers an inspired definition of church:

CHURCH. The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.  The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick. (cit. S5, 583:12–19)

Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of church applies to a shared community of church members, and it also applies to each one of us as individuals.  Each one of us can defend, fortify, and enrich ourselves by embodying healthy church.  As we’re expanding our understanding of church, we can also consider Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of “temple” in which the first part is the inspired understanding of “temple,” and the second part describes a limited counterfeit.

TEMPLE. Body; the idea of Life, substance, and intelligence; the superstructure of Truth; the shrine of Love; a material superstructure, where mortals congregate for worship. (SH 595:7)

As I understand it, to have a healthy temple (body) we must be in harmony with church (“the structure of Truth and Love”).  The ideas are entwined. To be effective healers, we must make peace with church.  This may often mean rediscovering what church means to us, praying through interpersonal struggles, overcoming disappointments, or finding renewed inspiration and dedication until we are able to love church and one another without exception.

Along these lines, the seven sections of this week’s Bible Lesson, which contain excerpts from the seven letters to the churches in Revelation give us timeless insight for defending, fortifying, and enriching our sense of true church, individually and collectively. And, of course, it is up to each one of us to discover our own inspiration from these messages.

The letters to the seven churches are in Revelation 2 and 3, and follow a symmetrical outline:

  • Each letter begins, “To the angel of the church of [the city],”
  • Each letter identifies Christ as the sender of the letter
  • Each message from Christ begins, “I know your works” (sometimes these works are commendable, some need correction)
  • Each letter ends with “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Golden Text) and encourages each church with promises to those who “overcome.” (the order of this last part is reversed in the last four letters)

Online under Downloads, I’ve attached a map of the churches and a chart of the letters.  A column of the chart is blank in case you want to make notes.

GOLDEN TEXT AND RESPONSIVE READING

The Golden Text, or primary theme, of the Bible Lesson is the words that concludes each of the seven letters to the churches, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29)

For insight into the Golden Text, we can turn to Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of Spirit from the glossary of Science and Health: “SPIRIT. Divine substance; Mind; divine Principle; all that is good; God; that only which is perfect, everlasting, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite.”  (cit. S1, 594:19) And also in the Glossary of Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy defines ears: “EARS. Not organs of the so-called corporeal senses, but spiritual understanding. (SH 585:1)

If we apply Mary Baker Eddy’s definitions for ears, Spirit, and church to this sentence that concludes each of the seven letters, the Golden Text could read:
“Let anyone who has [spiritual understanding] listen to what [divine substance] is saying to the [The structure of Truth and Love]”

The Responsive Reading is essentially the introduction to the seven letters in Revelation, and reminds us that those who read and hear the prophetic message of Revelation are blessed. This is great news for us as we are seven-times-seven blessed this week since the seven sections of this Lesson include the letters and we have seven days in our week in which to read them.


SECTION 1: REMEMBER YOUR FIRST LOVE…THE CORE MISSION OF CHURCH

The first section of the lesson includes parts of the letter to Ephesus, which emphasizes the church’s need to rediscover its “first love.”  In the letter, Christ states that although the church in Ephesus is doing some things well, it has lost track of its original purpose. And the author advises the church to wake up, remember its core mission, and “do the first works.”  (cit. B5, Rev. 2:1-5)

As a summary of the church’s “core mission,” the first section also includes Christ Jesus’ words recorded in the book of Luke, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (cit. B5, Luke 10:27)

Mary Baker Eddy offers a way to understand a deeper commitment to the core mission of church.  She writes, “We shall obey and adore in proportion as we apprehend the divine nature and love Him understandingly, warring no more over the corporeality, but rejoicing in the affluence of our God. Religion will then be of the heart and not of the head. We worship spiritually, only as we cease to worship materially.  Spiritual devoutness is the soul of Christianity.” (cit. S2, 140:8–13, 16–18)

The first section concludes with the definition of church, which emphasizes the fact that true church must include an active demonstration of healing.  In Mary Baker Eddy’s words, church must include the “demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.” (cit. S5, 583:12–19)


SECTION 2: BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED FOR THEY LEARN THE MOST ABOUT LOVE.

 The second section contains excerpts from the letter to Smyrna.  It is one of two letters in Revelation in which the church is commended without critique.  Christ commends the Smyrna church for gracefully bearing persecution.  Its followers are promised that their endurance, dedication, and perseverance in the face of great tribulation protects them from “the second death.”  Mary Baker Eddy mentions “the second death” five times in her published writings.  She writes, for example, “Those upon whom ‘the second death hath no power’ are those who progress here and hereafter out of evil, their mortal element, and into good that is immortal; thus laying off the material beliefs that war against Spirit, and putting on the spiritual elements in divine Science.”  (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 2:26) Escaping the “second death” is a concept worth pondering, and as I understand it, the phrase means that as we effectively triumph over the belief of death (an end point) and suffering (separation from good) now, we do not face it again.

The second section includes a message from the book of James, which is an encouragement to those undergoing hardships to lean upon their church (“the structure of Truth and Love”).  In James we read, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (Cit B9, James 5: 13-16 NRSV) It’s comforting to think of church as a resource to turn to when we’re struggling.  Some of us may have accepted a belief that we have to have our ducks in a row before we go to church, but James is letting us know that church is a resource to turn to when we need help with our ducks, or any other issue.

Mary Baker Eddy describes the value of persevering through trials.  She writes, “Every trial of our faith in God makes us stronger. The more difficult seems the material condition to be overcome by Spirit, the stronger should be our faith and the purer our love.” (cit. S6, 410:14–17)

Elsewhere she states, “The true understanding of God is spiritual. It robs the grave of victory. It destroys the false evidence that misleads thought and points to other gods, or other so-called powers, such as matter, disease, sin, and death, superior or contrary to the one Spirit.” (cit. S8, 275:26)


SECTION 3: SET YOUR CHURCH UPON A ROCK.

The third section contains excerpts from the letter written to Pergamum.  The letter critiques the Pergamum church for compromising their foundations by indulging in other belief systems floating around, specifically that some members follow the teachings of the Nicolaitans and Balaam, and eat foods sacrificed to idols.  In other words, many in the Pergamum church had lost their foundation and were loosie-goosy with their dedication.  Christ tells the Pergamum church to repent

To illustrate this idea of sticking to the core foundations of church, the third section includes the account of the Christ Jesus questioning the disciples asking them who they thought he was.  The disciples replied that some other people think he was John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremias, or one of the other prophets.  And Jesus asked them again, “But who do you think that I am?”  Simon Peter answers him and says that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” At this point, Christ Jesus praises Simon, and says “thou art Peter”—the rock—and says “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (cit. B12, Matthew 16:13–18)

Seeing this story about Christ Jesus using the name Peter—the rock—in connection with the letter to Pergamum can help us to see new connections.  The struggle of the Pergamum church is to overcome the paganism and idolatry and to stick to the spiritual foundation—the rock—of the church.  And the letter states, “to those who overcome, will I give the hidden manna, a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows unless he is the one who receives it.” (cit. B11, Revelation 2:12 -17)

A spiritual foundation—rock—of the Christian Science church is the words from Matthew, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (cit. B13, Matthew 10:8)

As Mary Baker Eddy states, “Jesus established his church and maintained his mission on

a spiritual foundation of Christ-healing.”  (cit. S11, 136: 1—2) The disciple Peter learned that “divine Life, Truth, and Love, and not a human personality, was the healer of the sick and a rock, a firm foundation in the realm of harmony. On this spiritually scientific basis Jesus explained his cures, which appeared miraculous to outsiders. He showed that diseases were cast out neither by corporeality, by materia medica, nor by hygiene, but by the divine Spirit, casting out the errors of mortal mind. The supremacy of Spirit was the foundation on which Jesus built.” (cit. S13, 138:6–15)

While the Pergamum church may have faced the distracting influence of the Nicolaitans and followers of Balaam, and those who ate impure food, modern-day churches face the influences of “corporeality,” “materia medica,” and “hygiene” that seem to try to undermine the value of prayer-based healing.  The answer both then and now is spiritual clarity and standing firmly on the solid spiritual foundation—the rock—of healing that grounds us.


SECTION 4: BE ALERT TO CORRUPTION.

The fourth section includes excerpts from the letter to the Thyatira church, which Christ admonished for becoming corrupt and tolerating idolatry and immorality.  The letter contains strong threats about those who are corrupted, and then adds, “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this [false] teaching, who have not learned what some call ‘the deep things of Satan,’ to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden;  only hold fast to what you have until I come. To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And I will give him the morning star.” (cit. B13, 2: 14-28)

Each citation from Science and Health in this section offers insight for overcoming temptation and corruption. Mary Baker Eddy writes, “There is but one real attraction, that of Spirit. The pointing of the needle to the pole symbolizes this all-embracing power or the attraction of God, divine Mind.” (cit. S14, 102: 9) She also declares, “God controls man, and God is the only Spirit.” (cit. S15, 73:10) In other words, there is no force or influence other than good, and recognizing the powerlessness of any other influence enables us to overcome corruption.


SECTION 5: “WAKE UP, AND STRENGTHEN WHAT REMAINS”

The fifth section refers to the letter to Sardis.  In Revelation, the letter does not open gently.  Christ tells the Sardis church, “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.” Whoa.  That’s blunt.  But Christ continues, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains.” (cit. B18: Revelation 3:1-2)

Mary Baker Eddy’s writing offers insight into how a dead church can “wake up” and “strengthen what remains.”

If a church seems “dead,” we can “Reverse the case. Stand porter at the door of thought…. The issues of pain or pleasure must come through mind, and like a watchman forsaking his post, we admit the intruding belief, forgetting that through divine help we can forbid this entrance.” (cit. S21, 392:24, 32)

To wake up, we can “Be watchful, sober, and vigilant. The way is straight and narrow, which leads to the understanding that God is the only Life.”  (cit. B20, 324:13)

My sense is that by following the wisdom of Revelation and the prayer-based treatment that Mary Baker Eddy offers, a dead church or temple can revive and be rejuvenated in the same way as a mountain landscape is revived each spring after a deep winter freeze.


SECTION 6: “LIKE BROTHER BIRDS THAT SOAR AND SING” (Hymnal #30)

The sixth section centers on the letter to the church in Philadelphia, known for its brotherly love.  Christ expresses only praise for this church, filled with Love.  The letter makes me think of the poem/hymn called “Love” that Mary Baker Eddy wrote, which includes the words, “like brother birds, that soar and sing, and on the same branch bend.”  As I reread the hymn with the Philadelphia church in mind, I saw that it works perfectly as a description of a healthy church (and body) built on the rock (spiritual foundation) of love and healing.

As an example of love and healing at the temple, the sixth section includes the account of Peter (the rock) and John (the disciple known for his pure love for Christ) healing the lame man at the temple gate.  Note that this love and healing did not happen within the walls of the temple, but rather at the temple gate, showing that the love and healing of true church can happen anywhere. (cit. B21, Acts 3:1, 2, 6–8) When the lame man was immediately made whole and leapt and praised God, Peter, John, and this man must felt “like brother birds, that soar and sing.”

For Mary Baker Eddy, it wasn’t enough to know that healings like this one occurred; she needed to understand how it happened.  Her need to understand how healing happens led her to discover of the laws of healing, which she called the Science of the Christ or Christian Science.  She gives us these laws of healing throughout the textbook, Science and Health, so that we too can practice them.  She explains, “The law of Christ, or Truth, makes all things possible to Spirit; but the so-called laws of matter [or limitation] would render Spirit of no avail, and demand obedience to materialistic [or restrictive] codes, thus departing from the basis of one God, one lawmaker. To suppose that God constitutes laws of inharmony is a mistake; discords have no support from nature or divine law, however much is said to the contrary.”  (cit. S25, 182:32, the words in brackets are added)

As one example of these laws of healing, she writes, “Consciousness constructs a better body when faith in matter [or limitation] has been conquered. Correct material [or limited] belief by spiritual understanding, and Spirit will form you anew.”  (cit. S27, 23-26, the words in brackets are added)

And here, Mary Baker Eddy offers a connection between the temple and the body when she writes, “To divest thought of false trusts and material [or limited] evidences in order that the spiritual facts of being may appear, — this is the great attainment by means of which we shall sweep away the false and give place to the true. Thus we may establish in truth the temple, or body, ‘whose builder and maker is God.’”  (cit. S28, 428:8)


SECTION 7:  NO LUKEWARM CHURCHES! … “BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT!” (Ephesians 5:18)

The seventh section includes part of the letter to the Laodicea church.  In this letter, Christ rebukes the church for being lukewarm.  The Laodicea church was in an affluent city, and had become complacent—”neither cold nor hot.”   The church is told that the solution to not being like lukewarm milquetoast is simple: “be zealous.”  (cit. B23, Rev. 3:14-22)

Mary Baker Eddy offers this definition for zeal:

“ZEAL. The reflected animation of Life, Truth, and Love.” (cit. S29, 599:4)

She also gives a second part to the definition, which is a description of a counterfeit and false sense of zeal: “Blind enthusiasm; mortal will.” (SH 599)

 A church should have zeal—the “animation of Life, Truth, and Love,” which is genuine and should also be alert to a false sense of blind enthusiasm and mortal will.  Our zeal cannot help but to be genuine as our inspiration is guided by Life, Truth, and Love.

The Bible Lesson concludes with a wonderful description of church.  This description could serve as an excellent mission statement for our churches both literally and metaphorically. We can apply it to our places of worship, and we can also apply it to body or temple.  In Mary Baker Eddy’s words, “Our church is built on the divine Principle, Love. We can unite with this church only as we are new-born of Spirit, as we reach the Life which is Truth and the Truth which is Life by bringing forth the fruits of Love, — casting out error and healing the sick. … Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love — be it song, sermon, or Science — blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ’s table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty.  (cit. S30, 35:19–25 and cit. S31, 234:4)

If we feel discouraged that we’re not quite measuring up to this standard of church, we can be alert and claim our divine right to a full sense of Life in church.  If we feel like we need renewed selfhood, or a renewed sense of church, we can revive what we have by breathing in new life.  We can pray, “Let us feel the divine energy of Spirit, bringing us into newness of life and recognizing no mortal nor material power as able to destroy. Let us rejoice that we are subject to the divine ‘powers that be.’”  (cit. S 32, 249:6–9)

Amen!


CLICK HERE for more application ideas & Bible-based GEMs from Cobbey Crisler & others! [This is only partial completed and will be emailed later in the week]


Ken Cooper’s insightful “POETIC PRELUDE” brings Spirit-filled  EXAMPLES of the Science of Christ & its power to bless YOU & all mankind!

PDF copies are available under Downloads in the online version of  this Met.


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