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CedarS "Met"—Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

"Probation After Death"
for October 16-22, 2017

prepared by John Biggs, CS of Maryland Heights, MO (541.418.1176 / JohnBiggsCS@gmail.com / JohnBiggsCS.com)


What are we looking forward to, preparing for, hedging our bets about? Are we preparing for death by running the rat race so we can have a few comfortable years of retirement? Are we so focused on either the good or the evil which we are predicting for the future, that we miss our opportunities to bless and be blessed right now? I love the emphasis in Hebrews 12:1, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us." The race that IS set before us, not the race that we think is there. We do not have to run the rat race, the social ladder race, the Black Friday-esque race of commercialism and materialism. To run with patience really means, in the original Greek context, to run with persistence, steadfastness, and consistency; we are not being encouraged to sit around and wait for good to come, but rather to unreservedly engage with, and as, God's manifestation.

This week's Bible Lesson helps us consider how we can most effectively be intentionally and consciously present with God, and what this correct discernment and active reflection means for us, forever.

I'll be using the word 'unreservedly' a lot in this met. Some synonyms of 'unreservedly' are openly, voluntarily, willingly, without restriction, purposely, without prompting (and there's more at http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/unreservedly?s=t ).

Golden Text: Pretty straightforward. There is a lot of opportunity for conversation and engagement with this text: do we agree, disagree, mostly agree, think there needs to be an addendum…? Using this Golden Text as a lens through which to read the Bible Lesson, it seems clear that we'll only see the benefits, opportunities, fullness – indeed, the salvation – described in the Lesson as we unreservedly look to God and the teachings and example of our Master, Christ Jesus. As we consider the unreserved nature of our devotion which this Golden Text requires, I find inspiration in Mrs. Eddy's own example, which she describes on page 269 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"The testimony of the material senses is neither absolute nor divine. I therefore plant myself unreservedly on the teachings of Jesus, of his apostles, of the prophets, and on the testimony of the Science of Mind. Other foundations there are none." (269:21-24)

Responsive Reading: [PS#1 & PS#2–Jesus’ humility & his emphatic stilling of the din.]
In his own words, Jesus is telling us all that if we look to a personal corporeality (his, our own, a role model…) then we can't help but fall short. We must look to, be informed by, be utterly devoted to, God, good. Here is a wonderful example of the treasure that Christian Science brings to the table. When we think about how we can look to God, how all power is of Him, we are not looking to something we are just trying to imagine, some big person in the sky or some abstract, glorified sense of emotion. We are looking to see what Love is doing, what Mind knows and how we can know the same, how Principle is above person or place and is supreme.

Section 1: [PS#3—a Psalm resurrection prophesy for the unreservedly obedient, Acts 2, B3]
If we want to be unreserved in our devotion to God, to see the fullness of His glory both now and forever, then we must be obedient. Human sense, personal egotism, human will rebels against the call to obedience because it wants to be the center of success and doesn't actually know how to look outside of itself. So we don't need to fret if there seems to be resistance to humbly following God's Word, to learning to look to Him for our sense of health, fulfillment, success… We just press on with patience, as the author of Hebrews said (as I described above in the intro to this Met). The temptations to be self-centered are not truly our thought, so we don't need to be frustrated if those thoughts come (and they probably will come – remember, even Jesus was tempted, as described vividly in Matthew 4). We just need to discern what is truly ours – what comes from God and leads to God – and what is not ours.

Section 2: [PS#4 & #5overcome depression as David did (B6) & death as Elijah did (B7).]
Two aspects of obedience are brought into sharper relief in this section: devotion and restoration. Actively, with intention and proactiveness (close synonyms of that unreservedness of planting ourselves on the testimony of Mind, as Mrs. Eddy talked about), we look to God to know what is going on and where our sustenance, health and life comes from. We love to use every opportunity to nurture our spiritual sense so that we can see beyond the evidence of the material senses. Our health, our supply, our life is never defined by the evidence of the material senses. Rather, seeing what – and as – God sees is to partake in the freshness and inherent life that God eternally is. This allows our thought, and thus our experience, to be transformed. This transformation includes healing and even restoration to life. Since God is eternally present, it makes sense that devotion to Him will allow us to see Him and His manifestation – including health, supply and resurrection to newness of life– more clearly, now, and not feel that we have to wait till some future date to see such promised good.

Section 3: [PS#6a divinely defined “23 and me”; PS#7stay with Elias to see spiritually.]
I love the power of the opening and closing Bible citations in this section. Again, we should feel free to engage in conversation with these texts, and during that conversation, remember to pray to really feel God's Word inform and move you; we're not really interested in purely academic or theoretical wonderings. This section also continues a theme of the previous section. Death is not a friend, and we do not need to feel we are inexorably heading to – or currently in – some cessation of our health or goodness. God is here, all of Him, and we can see that as we devote ourselves to our Father-Mother.

To continue the image of running a race, from Hebrews 12: when a runner races, do they prepare to stop? Are they thinking, "OK, I'm halfway there, I'd better start preparing to stop." Even at the finish line, do they stop or do they run through the line? So, in our lives, in our practice of Christian Science, are we devoted to the spiritual excellence that is present right here, or are we looking ahead and determining our present by those future imaginings? Staying present [ right with "Elias… Christian Science…"] and being willing to trust spiritual sense is what enabled Elisha to see Elijah's transition and his whole sense of being and capacity was transformed. We can do the same.

Section 4: [PS#8–Jesus prays for himself; PS#9-10–early church growth; PS#11–5th Tenet]
Citation B12 is Jesus' well-known call to repentance. Many people are familiar with the Greek word metanoia which translates more or less to this word repent, in the New Testament. The word means to turn around, to reconsider one's position and move forward from this new vantage point. It also implies a singular, more individual notion of this turning around and transformation of thought and life. However, we should also consider the Hebrew word for repent, shuv, which sees repentance as an active participation in justice, which necessarily implies a much more communal engagement. Jesus most likely would have spoken Aramaic, but also would have been very comfortable with Hebrew, so it is perfectly reasonable to consider the Hebrew here and not just the Greek which the text was written in. In any case, metanoia does not exclude shuv, but if we ignore the more communal and active implications of shuv*, we risk missing the depth of a lived repentance.

We should not just ask to see more clearly – practice our spiritual sense and unreserved leaning on God – so our own lives can be bettered, but instead to live in such a way that all may see the sustenance of the bread of life. This is what citation B13 is getting at, when Jesus says, "They shall be all taught of God." We do not have personal responsibility for others' salvation, but we do have the responsibility to demonstrate with our lives what it's like to eat of the bread of life. The old parable that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is certainly true, but if we forget the communal effect of true repentance, we risk missing the deep importance of drinking so deeply at the well of life that others can clearly see how wonderful it is and are indeed blessed by your engagement with the Word. Mrs. Eddy hints at this community when she concludes her brief article, "What our Leader says," with,

"Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited." (My. 210:7)

If we are truly present, truly engaged in repentance and leaning more and more unreservedly on God, this unites us more closely with a true, uplifted sense of community – no matter how few or how many people are around us.

To bring the specific focus of the Lesson into sharp relief, the belief in death is one that seems like the ultimate separation. Jesus’ crucifixion seemed like the ultimate separation, from mission, family, and friends [—but he showed us how he prepared for this event by praying for himself, his disciples and us in the 17th chapter of John (B14, PS#8.] Citations from the 1st and 2nd chapters of Acts (B16 and B15, PS#9 & #10) show how crucial Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were in the explosive growth of the early Christian church. Mary Baker Eddy in the Fifth Tenet of Christian Science (S16) states how rather than being the death-knell of the hope of salvation, the crucifixion and the resurrection lift us out of the belief of death and the government of mortality. [This is the middle of three Bible Lessons that each bring out one of more of our Six Tenets whose development is traced in a download in the upper right of CedarS online Met.] We should come to appreciate more deeply each tenet (and this week stop overlooking the importance of the crucifixion and resurrection to us and the world. Just as it is unhelpful to ignore situations in our lives when they are challenging, so here we instead need to dig deeper and pray more unreservedly to feel that transformation, that resurrection moment. This, in part, is what the Fifth Tenet assures us: that the crucifixion (or those moments in our lives that feel like the ultimate tragedy) are not the end of the story. Jesus’ sacrifice, and his example that nothing is lost and everything gained in that humble trust in God’s care, was a gift to us all, and we should let his example always be a shining light for us.

Section 5: [PS#12– powerful prayers for Paul’s resurrection and his probation after death]
One of the challenges of community is that it can be easy to be tempted to feel assessed, judged, or even excluded by others. Whether it's a weird look someone gave you as you passed in the hallway, an online discussion which has spiraled out of control, or simply comparisons to other people's lives and judging your worth and success based on those comparisons, we all deal with temptations to look to other people for assessments of ourselves.

As considered in the last section with Jesus’ crucifixion, and here in citation B19 with the stoning of Paul, we see how sometimes other people react disapprovingly, or even violently, against our fearless witness of divine Truth. But the consistency of prayer, demonstrated here by Paul and his companion apostles, brought healing and the continuation of his mission. Whether we are praying for peace in the plight of the Rohingya**, global refugees, a challenge we are facing, or whatever communal or individual situations we are moved to pray about, we too can persist in our faithful witness, just as Paul and the apostles did.

We never need to let the actions or reactions of others be a deciding factor in whether or not we continue with steadfastness in our lived faith. Instead, as we see throughout the Book of Acts, that persistence does bear fruit in healing, community restoration, and individual transformation. Never quit!

Section 6: [PS#13–trace ancestry to God & escape a longing for what’s forbidden, B23+]

Our lives, our entire sense of ourselves, will be transformed. This is not contingent on any material assessments – poverty, location, or even organic life – but on the amazing fact that divine Love is so consistent, so reliable and present, that it is the Principle of the universe. Life, being God, is eternal; the Source being eternal, its reflection and manifestation simply reflects that divine nature. Although this beautiful article, "Always at Home" by Michelle Nanouche is specifically about home, it has great relevance and illustration about our sense of our own lives as well. One paragraph states,

"So what constitutes your home, really? While you may consider it the physical place where you live—a house, apartment, boat, tent, hut, motor home, a temporary shelter, or even a cave—in reality, we all reside in Spirit, the realm of Mind, in God, where the consciousness of divine goodness dwells. Put simply, our home consists of the substantial spiritual ideas of good we live and companion with. These ideas are what produce an atmosphere of well-being. Home, therefore, is nonlocal. It isn't bounded by a particular address. Home is centered in consciousness, in our individual awareness of good. We can each feel at home anywhere, because in truth, we take our consciousness of God's presence with us everywhere."***

Our sense of our lives can be deepened and broadened – even completely transformed – when applying these ideas about what truly constitutes home, to what we think constitutes ourselves.

The transformation of Spirit is not really something that can be hypothesized about, and citation B22 is very honest in Paul's refusal to use imagination to try to convince his readers of what will happen. Instead, he invites us all to be devoted to putting off the corruption of material sense, and Peter concludes this lesson’s Biblical blessings for us by uplifting our hearts and encouraging us to really practice this unreserved leaning on God. This is a great day to accept these timeless invitations and “exceeding great and precious promises”! (B23)

John’s P.S. – During this met, I have included several links embedded in the text. In case you missed them, or you are reading this from a printout, here are the links in full:

* From Section 4, I found the information on shuv from Danielle Shroyer's book Original Blessing.

**From Section 5, talking about prayers for the world, I mention the Rohingya. Here is a Christian Science Monitor article (one of several, in fact) which details the current situation: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2017/1003/Bangladesh-opens-doors-and-hearts-to-fleeing-Rohingya

***From Section 6, an article from the July 24, 2006 Christian Science Sentinel by Michelle Nanouche (accessible even without a subscription to JSH-Online): https://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/1gzrq0sx8re?s=t

***You may also be interested to see the development of the tenets of Christian Science, including the many transitions the fifth tenet went through as Mrs. Eddy sought to make them better understood. (The fifth tenet is specifically quoted in Section 4 of this week’s Bible Lesson.) The Mary Baker Eddy Library has a clear document online showing their transitions; their researchers are also always available to take an email question if you would like further insight into any of these changes. That document can be found here: https://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/research/the-evolution-of-christian-science-tenets/

Click here for Warren Huff’s additions of insights by Cobbey Crisler and The Mary Baker Eddy Library on some citations in the Christian Science Bible Lesson on “Probation After Death” for October 22, 2017


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