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[PSST: Use Helpful Tools to Combat Sin, Disease and Death]

Possible Sunday School Topics for the Christian Science Bible Lesson – April 14, 2013

By: Heather K. Libbe, CS (heather.libbe@gmail.com)

Subject – ARE SIN, DISEASE AND DEATH REAL?   

Sometimes when this particular subject rolls around, I write a big “NO!” in the margins just as a reminder. This week’s Lesson gives us some great tools to combat all these suggestions – sin, disease and death – and presents many different avenues to talk about the effectiveness of turning to prayer and Christian Science for healing. Furthermore, this week’s Lesson is also a wonderful treatment for what challenges have been presenting themselves across the world. Below are a few questions and activities that might be helpful to consider in preparing for Sunday school this week.

Hope you have an uplifting class!

Golden Text (Psalms 9:2 I will sing, 3) 
“…I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.”

What might it look like to “sing praise” to God’s name and how might we be able to do this in our everyday life? Who is our enemy and why would this enemy perish at the presence of God? (Note: Jay and Tessa Frost’s performance of their song “Love ‘em till it’s gone” during the Weekly Musician Concert at the College Summit at CedarS Camp this past Labor Day weekend is being featured on the Time4Thinkers, which might help answer that question.)

Responsive Reading (Psalms 97:1 (to 1st ;), 5, 7 (to :), 9 (to :); 91: 1,9,10; 95: 1, 2, 7 (to 😉
In thinking about the 91st Psalm, what might it look like to “dwell in the secret place of the most High?” If you could translate the verses from this Psalm that are included in the Responsive Reading into modern-day language, what might that include? Do you any experiences come to mind of God being a refuge from evil and plagues? How do these specific verses connect with different sections in the Lesson?

RADICAL ACT: Heal the sick, cast out evil, raise the dead
Because this particular Radical Act ties in so well with the three parts of this week’s Lesson – sin, disease and death, it could be nice to spend some time diving deeper into this particular teaching. Depending on how many you have in your class, I’ve had success in using a rendition of the Radical Acts Game. If you have 6+ students, you can pair them up and assign each pair one part of that Radical Act: heal the sick, cast out evil and raise the dead. (If you have fewer students, you can have them do it individually) Give them 10-12 minutes to discuss (or think about) what it means to them, how they might demonstrate it in their every day life and any examples/experiences that they may have of seeing it practice. Really encourage them to go deep, beyond what it might seem to suggest on the surface. Then, have the pairs (or individuals) find another pair to share what they have discussed for the next 12-15 minutes. During this time, individuals from the other pair are also welcome to contribute share their thoughts while the other pair is sharing, as well. Finally, come back as a group and share highlights together for the remainder of the class. Of course, this activity can be modified based on class size and time and Sunday school students can also be encouraged to draw ideas from the Lesson. There are also many helpful articles/links on Time4Thinkers.com if you have access to a computer during your class.

Below are a few other ideas or can be used in conjunction with the above activity and/or suggestions for other directions you might take… J

Section 1 – The Allness of God, Good à Unreality of Evil
If questions in your class have ever been raised about the “problem of evil,” using some ideas from this section might be a great place to start this week!

First of all, what is evil? One way that Mrs. Eddy defines evil that is included in this week’s Lesson is “the awful deception and unreality of existence.” (S4) Another can be found in Miscellaneous Writings where we read, “What is evil? It is suppositional absence of good. From a human standpoint of good, mortals must first choose between evils, and of two evils choose the less…” (pg 289) Using those two definitions, how can Mrs. Eddy use words such as “deception” and “suppositional” when evil seems so real, especially when we see it with our eyes? Is this reality? If evil isn’t reality, then what is? How does Section 1 handle the belief that there are two opposing powers? What does it mean that God is “infinite, therefore ever present,” (S1) All-in-all and good (S2) and “of purer eyes than to behold evil?” (B2)

Talking about the importance of praying for the world could be another direction to go, especially because of all the “evil” that seems to be happening each day. As you know, Mrs. Eddy stresses the importance of the Christian Science Bible Lesson in Article III, Section 1 of The Mother Church Manual when she says it is, “…a lesson on which the prosperity of Christian Science largely depends.” (pg 31) I have heard the Lesson called a “treatment for the world,” which might be an idea worth mentioning to students. Some have also said that, because it is so, the challenges arising around the world are surfacing –error is being uncovered – because of what’s included in the Christian Science Bible Lesson. So, how do we use it to combat evil, as well as sin, disease and death? What ideas from the Lesson might help us handle challenges in Korea, the US, Middle East and elsewhere? Finally, what are our charges as Christian Scientists and how might we go about “lessening evil?” What steps does Mrs. Eddy give us? (S5)

Section 2 & 3 – Combating Sin…
First, what is sin?

(This question could lead to a really interesting discussion with students and might tie in nicely with this week’s TMCYouth Question of the Week: How can I help a friend who’s addicted to alcohol?)

In many Christian traditions, “sin” is defined as simply wrongdoing and can also be tied to the belief of free will. Others define sin as a belief in separation from God. Still others base their definition of sin on the understanding that the word comes from an archery term that means, “to miss the mark.” Therefore, sin is anything that causes us to miss the mark – whether our arrows are just a little bit away from the bulls eye or completely off target. Furthermore, Mrs. Eddy defines sin as “the lying supposition that life, substance, and intelligence are both material and spiritual, yet are separate from God” in her article called “The Human Concept” in Retrospection & Introspection. (Note: This article includes many helpful ideas about sin and might be nice to incorporate into your class as a way to direct students to all the helpful resources that are available in Prose Works) So, perhaps you could take a bit of time to talk about the idea of sin with your class, especially because there are so many different theological claims tied with it.

Looking toward this week’s Lesson, being “born of God” (B6) and “made in the image and likeness of God,” (S6) why can’t we sin? How are we “above sin and frailty” (S7) especially when there seems to be so much sin in the world? What does it mean to repent? Why is repentance important (essential) to healing? What does Mrs. Eddy say about repenting? (Note: again, this could be another opportunity to direct students to explore some of the treasures in Prose Works such the “Extract from My First Address in The Mother Church, May 26, 1895” in Miscellaneous Writings where she specifically talks about repentance or “Ways That Are Vain” in Miscellany)

In looking at the story of the Prodigal son, what does this story teach us about repentance? What are some modern day examples of “wasting your substance with riotous living?” (B8) Do we find ourselves tempted to engage in these sorts of behaviors and activities? Have you ever felt like the Prodigal son? How about the older, well-behaved son who is not terribly pleased when his sinning brother is welcomed home with open arms? Having now experienced both, I am so grateful for what this story teaches us about God’s love and the fact that we are not born into sin. Isn’t it interesting, though, that the Father meets the son right where he is at with unconditional love and rejoicing? What does the father teach us about God’s love for us as his beloved children? (Note: If you are a member of PrayerfulLiving.com and have access to the “Grand and Noble Lives” notes, Mike Mooslin and Madelon Maupin do an incredible job relating the story of the Prodigal Son to Mrs. Eddy’s article in Miscellaneous Writings called “The Way,” tying each of the nine beautitudes into the story, as well – there are lots of great Sunday school resources out there J)

As Kathy Fitzer says in this week’s CedarS Met, we need to be demonstrating our sinless nature and proving the unreality of sin. And, what lovely encouragement we find in Romans (B9) and some of the citations in Science & Health to do so! What might it look like to “divest sin of any supposed mind or reality, and never to admit that sin can have intelligence or power, pain or pleasure,” (S14) especially when we are constantly presented with images from society that tell us otherwise. How do we overcome all the ideas that the media especially suggests of what will give us pleasure? Do these actually lead to pleasure? What are some “higher enjoyments” that we might chose to partake in instead of sinful activity and how do these lead to a more permanent sense of happiness? (S15)

Section 4 & 5 – Combating Disease…
How do the three, short passages in Section 4 serve as a treatment for disease? What can we learn from the 91st Psalm and how does infinite Love completely wipe out the possibility of sin, sickness and death? (S17)

In thinking about overcoming disease, I like to expand my sense of disease beyond just being very ill to also include anything that isn’t putting me at ease. And, as Mrs. Eddy says, “One disease is no more real than another.” (S19) What tools does this week’s Lesson give us to overcoming disease? Let’s start with the healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda!

There are many layers to this story, all worth discussing and applying in our everyday experience: What was the pool of Bethesda and what was the pool used for back in Jesus’ day? What does it mean to have five porches? (Note: You can look for images of the pool of Bethseda online to help with this) What was the belief associated with the pool? Did you know that this pool was used to clean the sheep and that the “troubling of the water” actually happened when the springs would bubble up, adding fresh water to the pool which made it more desirable to enter? What excuses does the man give Jesus as to why he’s not having his healing? Is Jesus impressed by all the obstacles that this man suggests? Do we often fall into the trap of making excuses instead of getting to work metaphysically? What might some of these excuses be? What is the order of Jesus’ instruction? 1. Rise, 2. Take up thy bed and 3. Walk. Notice, he doesn’t say, “Clean up all your stuff – take care of all the human stuff first – get up and let’s go….” How might this apply to the way that we approach challenges in our everyday life? How long it take this man to be healing, even after struggling with this problem for thirty eight years?

In thinking about disease – whether illnesses or otherwise – how can we demonstrate that one disease isn’t any more real than another, especially when it seems that there have been so many fashionable diseases such as swine and bird flu and chickenpox or so-called incurable diseases such as cancer and AIDS? (Note: A fun activity could be to look up a few testimonies of said diseases being healed on JSHOnline to share with your class) How was Jesus able to avoid speaking of disease “as dangerous or as difficult to heal” (S18) and what are some of the examples of Mrs. Eddy healings that are given in this week’s Lesson? (S20) What does Mrs. Eddy say restores harmony when there seems to be discord and disease? And, how do we defend ourselves again disease? (S21)

Section 6 & 7 & 8 – Combating Death…
Because of the magnitude of the topics in this week’s lesson – sin, disease and death – I might suggest picking one to focus on and going deep with that. Recently, in having the opportunity to lead discussion called “Dealing with Death” with both the teens and young adults at Easter Camp in Australia, there were some really fruitful ideas that were shared. A lot of the questions that got asked centered around the following: Fear of death – both dying and having loved ones pass away, thinking about what happens after death and the concept of infinitude. So, there are many different directions that you can go!

Of course, the Lesson includes some really great ideas to pray with about death. (B15, B18, B20, S25, S26, S28) And, here are a few other great resources, which might be helpful in leading a discussion with youth about death:

  • Time4Thinkers Articles on Death
  • “The Passing of the Sea Gull” (Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 1927) 
  • The “Overcoming Grief” pamphlet, sold at the Christian Science Reading Room
  • “Lasting Love” by Hillary Moser (Christian Science Journal, September 2009)
  • Jake Lowe’s Blog called “Grief Not Needed.”
  • Miscellaneous Writings pg 42: “After the change called death takes place, do we meet those gone before? – or does life continue in thought only as in a dream?”
  • • "Like Enoch" by Carl Welz (Christian Science Journal, March 1974)
    • "'Why Weepest Thou?'" by Elizabeth Earl Jones (Christian Science Journal, April 1917)
    • "Individuality — it's eternal presence" by Barbara Cook Spencer (Christian Science Journal, February 2001)
    • "Immutably Themselves" by Dorris Kerns Quinn (Christian Science Journal, May 1977)
    • "Continuing Drama" by Neil Millar (Christian Science Sentinel, May 25, 1968)

—–

Recently, I’ve been working to deepen my understanding of the purpose of Sunday School and have enjoyed cherishing the work that all of the Sunday School teachers are doing around the world. Someone once shared with me that, in simply visiting a Christian Science Sunday School with her daughter – they had friends who were Christian Scientists – a mother’s fears concerning Christian Scientists’ decision to rely solely on prayer for healing were completely allayed, as she realized that children were being taught from the Scriptures from an early age on how to pray for themselves and to be healers. So, thank you for your prayerful consideration, love for God and man, Christ-like expression, demonstration of Church and healing thought.

 

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