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[PSST: Be quick to fast (1); to forgive in any Gethsemane (4); to "cast" your thought aright (5)!]
Possible Sunday School Topics for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

for July 8, 2018

by Aubrey McMullin, C.S., Godfrey, Illinois
(618) 578-9407 aubrey.mcmullin3@gmail.com

Sacrament! I always like to start with defining what “Sacrament” means, which according to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary is “an oath; a binding promise.” What are some binding promises that we make as Christian Scientists?

Imagine a shepherd, sitting on the ground. He has a lamb in his arms and is looking trustingly upward in prayer. He is sure of his God, praising Him and thanking Him. The simple men and women of the Bible had such a deep reverence toward the one God. They had such trust in His goodness and His ability to meet their needs. They had a solid faith that God exists, that He is good, and that He takes care of His people. What were some sacraments that they made in their practice of shepherding?

PSST Golden Text: What does it mean for us to search for God with our “whole heart?” How are we blessing God with this whole-hearted searching? Think back to the shepherds mentioned earlier. They had an innate understanding of God, and we have that too because we are His spiritual likeness! Being His spiritual likeness enables us to have and cultivate faith in God’s goodness and love in our daily lives. Why does it seem like trust in God came more readily to the early Bible people than it sometimes does to us? Isn’t it really the simplicity and purity of people’s hearts that allows them to be receptive to God’s divine messages of guidance and protection? The golden text from the Psalmist speaks of this integrity of heart toward God when he wrote: “With my whole heart have I sought thee:… Blessed art thou, O Lord:” The honest, heartfelt desire to be good, to be Christly and nurture and strengthen the love and understanding of God that is already in us (no matter how deeply hidden they may seem), to search for God with our whole heart is exactly what the shepherds and early people from the Bible did. Do we need to return to earlier Biblical days or simpler ways in order to know the same loving faith and trust in God that those people of the Bible felt and experienced? How can we make a sacrament and yield to the love of God, divine and infinite good, and let that love (light) grow brighter and more active within us? Are our hearts pure enough to hear God and to seek Him out and find Him?

PSST Responsive Reading: There is a lot of oneness in this Responsive Reading! “One body… one Spirit… one hope… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God… unity of faith…” What does oneness have to do with sacrament? What are we promising to be one with? Why? What does this Responsive Reading tell us about our whole heritage? What is the “unity of faith,” the “perfect man,” and the “stature of the fulness of Christ” that Ephesians 4:13 mentions in the Responsive Reading? Can we honestly hope to do as well as someone else, only because we think that he or she has more intelligence, more love, more strength of character? Doesn’t all good come from the same inexhaustible Source equally available to us all? Is God partial? We know that God "is no respecter of persons," and that "to all mankind, and in every hour. Deity supplies all good" (Science and Health, p. 494). Do we limit ourselves by our false beliefs, fears, and false humility? What does this false sense of limitation have to do with sacrament? How does coming into the “unity of faith” help us “put on the new man”? This Responsive Reading teaches us to be strong and courageous in claiming our full heritage. Can we make a claim for ourselves that we would not make equally for all men (Eph. 4:4-8)? As we let the false claim of man fall away, we can demonstrate what Mrs. Eddy says (Miscellaneous Writings, 183), “Man is God’s image and likeness; whatever is possible to God is possible to Man, as God’s reflection.”

PSST Section 1: FASTING: What does it mean to “fast”? According to the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, it means to “abstain from, or express abstinence.” As Christian Scientists, what are we abstaining from (SH1)? What have we chosen to fast as we embrace our spiritual existence (B3)?

How are we expressing true worship? How are we expressing divine Love? How does letting our light shine relate to fasting? What do we need to let go of in order to let our light shine to its full capacity? Jesus did not intend for us to hide our candle (light) under a bushel. He specifically told us, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify YOUR FATHER which is in heaven” (B5, emphasis added).

This light is our understanding of Truth. Do we want to let the words of Truth/light shine forth, or do we hide the light? Why is it our Father that we glorify, rather than ourselves if they are our good works? This passage of Scripture works in accord with page 371 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “A just acknowledgement of Truth, and what it has done for us, is an effectual help.” How do we acknowledge how Truth has helped us and others through us? What good works do we do as Christian Scientists, and how do we show these works or share these works weekly? If we are to let our light shine fully, is there any part of us that is capable of not loving God (SH1)?

For effective prayer, honest motives are necessary. In Science and Health of this section, we are told that “what we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace…” (SH6). What is fervency? What is the importance of fervency here? Why do we need to have a fervent desire to grow in grace? Can grace be defined as the understanding of divine Love? If we seem to need larger capacity, greater ability, wider opportunities, the joy of real achievement, we can find that they are abundantly supplied when the presence and availability of divine Love becomes real to us.

Could the word "fasting" mean to refrain from believing or accepting any suggestion of sin, disease, lack, limitation, poverty, sorrow, or death as real? What would to believe these suggestions mean for our attempts to demonstrate the truth of being? Fasting involves self-correction and self-discipline, but what do we gain through fasting? Does this act of fasting, a right thinking which allows false beliefs of lack and limitation to fall away, bless the cause of Christian Science? Mary Baker Eddy knew how to pray and fast and showed us how to do so also. How can we pray and fast, abstaining from the beliefs of hate, malice, envy, and prejudice?

PSST Section 2: BAPTISM: What is baptism? According to the definition that Mary Baker Eddy gives us on page 581 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, baptism is: “Purification by Spirit; submergence in Spirit. We are ‘willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians v. 8.). We know that in the Bible there is lots of baptism with water, but what does it mean to be baptized “with the Holy Ghost” (B9)? What is the “Holy Ghost”? What does it mean to be baptized of Spirit (SH9)? How do we move away from matter and towards Spirit? How does this give us freedom (SH9)?

What does spiritual baptism have to do with putting on Christ? What does it mean to “put on Christ” (B10)? Is this a demonstration of true devoutness? On page 140 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy says, "Spiritual devoutness is the soul of Christianity." Continuous adoration does not demand continuous kneeling before an altar, but it does demand a respectful humility before God, whether the individual is in the grocery store, church, or school etc.

Mrs. Eddy writes on page 241 of Science and Health: "The substance of all devotion is the reflection and demonstration of divine Love, healing sickness and destroying sin" (SH9). How is Christian Science healing spiritually devotional? How does trusting Christ, Truth, deny any seeming-value to matter?

Shortly after Mary Baker Eddy had established her home at Pleasant View, some of her students and their students were given the privilege to have a pond made on her grounds, because they wanted to give her a little pleasure and express their love and gratitude for Christian Science. Soon after it was completed, they received a copy of the pamphlet Pond and Purpose, which she had written in acknowledgment of their gift. In Pond and Purpose, Mrs. Eddy starts with a symbol much like she does in other writings, in this case water, and quickly lifts thought to its spiritual significance. She presents the idea of baptism as metaphysically observed, beginning with the baptism of repentance, then the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and finally points her students to that glorious completion of Christianity, the baptism of Spirit, in which materiality disappears. What is the baptism of repentance? What is the baptism of the Holy Ghost? What is the baptism of Spirit? How are these three baptisms related, and how do we experience them?

After telling of the purifying influence of Truth, Mary Baker Eddy says, "Through the accession of spirituality, God, the divine Principle of Christian Science, literally governs the aims, ambition, and acts of the Scientist. The Divine ruling gives prudence and energy; it banishes forever all envy, rivalry, evil thinking, evil speaking and acting; and mortal mind thus purged, obtains peace and power outside of itself" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 204).

PSST Section 3: SYMBOLIC FEEDING: Why were ideas taught using symbols in Jesus’ time, and how do we use symbols in our teaching of Christian Science today (B12 & B13)? How are we fed with the “great truth of spiritual being…” and therefore recognizing our ability to heal the sick and cast out error (SH16)? How do we drink of Christ’s cup of “practical Truth” (SH17)? `

What symbols did Jesus use in this evening meal when he shared with his students the bread and wine of the feast? Why did he ask them to partake of these as symbols of the true sacrament? What was the true sacrament to aid men to realize?

For centuries, Christian churches have used bread and wine in administering the sacrament at the communion services in holy remembrance of Jesus’ last supper. Jesus indicated that this service was more than a ceremonial rite when he foretold the fulfillment of the deep significance of communion—the realization of man's unity with God and all of His ideas. Christian Science teaches that matter, the flesh, is the supposititious opposite of Spirit, God. Therefore, matter cannot be spiritualized under any circumstances. Material symbols are temporal. They disappear as our understanding of man's forever unity with God increases.

In Science and Health we read that "spiritual teaching must always be by symbols" (SH13), and in addition to this statement there are many others which explain very fully what symbolic teaching means. Symbol is defined in the dictionaries as "a visible sign or representation of an idea; anything which suggests an idea or quality, etc." From this definition we can see that symbols are meaningless apart from Mind, and while it is generally believed that they must appeal to the senses, they are material, and a truer sense reveals the fact that they are the language by which divine Mind communicates with its own ideas. Of course, these symbols are human concepts, and for this very reason they are limited in their application.

To understand the meaning of a symbol we must look away from matter to Mind, to Spirit, ever remembering that purity is "the symbol of Life and Love" (Science and Health, p. 561). When we do this, the divine ideas flood in, telling us that "the law of the Lord is perfect," and that it brings perfection to all, both within and without. It begins by healing all discord, as Jesus did, pointing to the symbols presented in flower and fruit, in sower and seed, in the shepherd and sheep, the fishermen and fish, all his lessons lifting thought to understand the real object of his ministry, namely, "the healing of the nations." Error would capture our attention with symbols of evil, or by misinterpreting the types of spiritual ideas presented in nature and making them seem material, but Truth rebukes all lies by revealing the real with its unvarying demand for perfection, which means health, harmony, and immortality. Once apparent, the divine idea lifts thought into the closest communion with Principle, in whose presence no shadow of material darkness can linger. Sense vanishes before the light of Spirit, and Soul is reflected in its own pure and perfect ideas.

PSST Section 4: SPIRITUAL FEAST: How does the story in this section show that Love conquers hate always and, in all ways, (SH20)? Even when she was persecuted, Mary Baker Eddy demonstrated the great spiritual fact that man, the reflection of God, Love, expresses only love. To remain loving under seeming persecution is to learn something of Jesus’ experience in the garden of Gethsemane. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy gives the spiritual meaning of "Gethsemane" (p. 586): "Patient woe; the human yielding to the divine; love meeting no response, but still remaining love." Jesus had his hour of woe at Gethsemane before he faced his most difficult problem, crucifixion, and gave to the world the proof of life eternal in his resurrection. Have you ever had a moment of woe? Have you been able to give the world the proof of life and love?

In this Gethsemane, this hour in which the human yielded to the divine, Jesus surrendered all human yearning as he turned completely away from his disciples to God for comfort and support. The disciples were so mesmerized by the forces of evil that they escaped into sleep. They did not awake fully when he tried to wake them; but he was able to say to them (B15, Matt. 26:45), "Sleep on now, and take your rest," because he had risen to the fullness of Love. He had turned from human love to the divine. This experience of Jesus must have been a great comfort Mary Baker Eddy in her hours of trial, during which she did not hate or fear, but loved more. Are there examples when we should love more?

We may appear at times to walk in the garden of Gethsemane when mortal mind would harass us. But when we remember that Christ Jesus and Mary Baker Eddy remained loving under persecuting circumstances, can we do less? If we seem to be the object of jealousy, envy, or revenge, we need only to realize that it is error endeavoring to deny the Christ we are striving to demonstrate, the Christ that changes our love from the human to the divine. Evil would divide families, churches, nations, but it is powerless before Truth. Divine Love unites, and love maintained will encircle the universe. Evil has no identity as a person, either as a member of a family, as a church member, or as a friend. When our love and the right understanding of man, the image and likeness of God, Love, remain in our consciousness, we pass through Gethsemane awake and untouched.

PSST Section 5: COMMUNION: What is communion? How do we celebrate Truth? How does casting our nets on the right side for Truth relate to communion and celebrate Truth?

A small group of fishermen were on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at a time when their faith had been very traumatized. Their experience and communication with Christ demonstrates for us an important order of procedure essential to the successful and harmonious conduct of our lives and the solution of all human problems. It reads: "He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes" (B20). We have both a reason for failure and limitation and a basis for abundance and success in this story.

Are we fishing for men the way that we are instructed to? Are we casting the net in the direction that Jesus directs us? Are the nets that we throw out without rips and holes big enough for potential catches to slip through? Is the boat that we stand in stable and strong enough to handle the load of a great catch?

Mary Baker Eddy, speaking of this event in the textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has this to say (SH21): "Convinced of the fruitlessness of their toil in the dark and wakened by their Master's voice, they changed their methods, turned away from material things, and cast their net on the right side." What a helpful statement of assurance for those who yearn for freedom from fear and uncertainty and for those who are seeking health and peace. Have you proved this lesson’s true value and practicability through your demonstration of Christian Science?

Mrs. Eddy was a devoted follower of Jesus' teachings. She sought earnestly the deeper meaning of his words and works and then followed at all costs. Do we do the same? Are we capable of doing so? She knew that only as one conforms his thinking to the divine does he accomplish anything worthwhile. She says (SH25), "Those, who are willing to leave their nets or to cast them on the right side for Truth, have the opportunity now, as aforetime, to learn and to practice Christian healing." Therefore, whoever is holding steadfastly to Truth and Love need not be disturbed over the outcome of his undertakings, whether they be large or small.

We are sometimes confronted with what seems to be a stubborn physical problem, an arrogant neighbor, or an unfair associate. Then our net must be cast on the right side. Where and how do you begin to cast the net on the right side? A rule in Christian Science which underlies all correct thinking and knowing is one relating to the present perfection of God, and recognizing man as God's image, or reflection.

A tendency of mortal mind is to look to matter to see some specific discord ruined. We need to learn that the destruction of so-called evil takes place in our own consciousness when our faith is so strongly rooted in spiritual understanding that it can have no belief in evil as real. God's work is perfect and complete! There is nothing to change or correct in all that God has created. Perfect man, God's reflection, has only one purpose. What is that purpose? It is to reflect God's being and activity, now and always. Jesus definitely refused to see or admit anything as having existence apart from Spirit. He did not reason or argue about material conditions or make excuses for human frailties. To him they had neither place nor power.

How does casting the net on the right side not only ensure the absence of failure, but enable us to prove the presence of Love, which meets every need? What does Scientific reliance upon God bring us? Our Father-Mother spreads a table where we are, laden with a feast of things that satisfy spiritual hunger, a table clearly marked, "Come and dine." What is set at this table? When we sit at this table of plenty in proportion to our spiritual understanding, which is kept active through consecration, gratitude, and selflessness, what will we gain and join our brothers and sisters in experiencing?

PSST Section 6: CHURCH: What is church? What is church built on? According to Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of Church, given to us on page 583 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, church is: “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.” How does this definition relate to what the lesson has told us so far about Sacrament?

We have grown to know that without baptism, or the purification of thought, we could not comprehend the truth of being, the practical Science of Christianity; nor could we, without communion, the realization of at-one-ment with God, make any conscious use of our Science or our Christianity.

"Our Eucharist," writes Mary Baker Eddy, "is spiritual communion with the one God. Our bread, 'which cometh down from heaven,' is Truth. Our cup is the cross. Our wine the inspiration of Love, the draught our Master drank and commended to his followers" (SH 26). True communion is a spiritual experience. God is divine Mind; therefore, we cannot communicate with Him through the medium of matter. Dwelling on the things of Spirit—harmony, holiness, and love—we commune with God, and this communion is prayer and church – a structure of Truth and Love. Church is attained only when thought is lifted above materiality, through spiritual sense, to the consciousness of God's allness. Reaching out to our heavenly Father-Mother in holy, consecrated thought, we become aware of His presence. Only as we express the qualities of God in daily living do we prove the sincerity of our communion.

Consecrated, daily communion (church) with God is essential to ensure the continual, spiritual progress of the student of Christian Science. How are we experiencing church? Are we purifying our thoughts, aims, and desires and drawing nearer to God? Are we proving man's unity with divine Mind and being lifted above error? Or are we allowing fear, doubt, sickness, or sin to dwell in our thought, therefore seemingly separating ourselves from God? The results of such thinking are often harmful to mind and body.

Thought filled with the consciousness of divine Truth and Love is in communion with the Father-Mother, and such spirituality heals and blesses all who come within the radius of its light

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