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With Love as your Shepherd, what more could you want?

Notes on “Love”  Bible lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly for July 26 – August 1, 2004

by  Julie Ward, C.S. (Westwood, Massachusetts).

 “The King of Love my Shepherd is,

  Whose goodness faileth never;

  I  nothing lack, for I am His

  And He is mine forever.”      (Hymn  330)

 GOLDEN TEXT – This tender promise runs like a golden thread throughout this lesson.  As you read, look for the many  ways in which God shepherds His children, feeding,  guiding,  guarding, and healing them.

 RESPONSIVE READING – Every  verse contains a promise. Try claiming one of these promises each day this week. Notice how the Shepherd seeks out His sheep.  He  doesn’t wait for us to come to Him! Notice the fullness of these promises  a fat pasture, a good fold, showers of blessings. There’s nothing stingy about God’s love. Love loves to love us, loves to pour out its blessings fully and freely.

 SECTION I – Love is our Father and Mother.

“…We  are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.”  This section is full of the tender care given to us by our Father-Mother God. God says, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”  According to the Interpreter’s Bible, this referred to a custom of marking the name of a loved one on the hands as a token of constant remembrance. (Hymn 76 has a beautiful reference to this verse.) God is both Father and Mother, expressing the perfect balance of powerful wisdom  and protection with tender, nurturing love. His work is done,  and He is satisfied with it.. “Thus the ideas of God in  universal being are complete and forever expressed,  for Science reveals infinity and the fatherhood and motherhood of Love.”

 SECTION II – Love seeks out the wandering sheep.

“The design of Love is to reform the sinner.”(SH6) The parable of the prodigal son illustrates the tender Shepherd’s love, a love that never gives up on one of its sheep, no matter how far the sheep may stray. The prodigal thought that he could separate himself from his father. When he asked for his portion of the inheritance, he was acting as if his father were already dead. Sometimes we think that we can separate ourselves from our loving Father-Mother,  the source and substance of all that we are. We wander away mentally and waste our substance with “riotous living.” This doesn’t just  apply to the more obvious forms of sin.  “Riotous living” may  be as simple as a life that is too busy, pressured and unfocused to give us time to be still and pray. This sort of living wastes our substance – our spiritual  understanding. Is it any wonder that “a mighty famine” arose in the land?  All that riotous living was essentially empty, having no spiritual source. But the prodigal “came to himself” –  he woke up to his true identity. And he only had to head for home for his father to head  for him. “”But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion,  and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” His acceptance was so full and unconditional.  He didn’t just let him come home. He had a party! He put the best robe on  him, and shoes on  his feet, and a ring on his hand.  He was fully restored.

 Love loves us so much that it won’t leave us one whit short of complete restoration. The “universal solvent of Love” must  dissolve every single thing (or thought)  that is not loving, lovable, loved, and lovely. (SH7)

 It’s a good thing to ask yourself often, “Would existence without personal friends be to me a blank?” It’s also good to  realize that we aren’t asked to give up  friends – just the personal sense of them. Whenever a relationship seems to  end, we can know that “this SEEMING vacuum is already  filled with divine Love.” There’s never really a vacuum,  because there’s never really a spot where Love is not. “When this hour of development comes….” (Notice that  she doesn’t say “if,” but “when.”),  we can  remember that it’s an hour of development, not loss or sorrow. “Develop” comes from the Latin that means “to unwrap or unroll.”  As you’re unwrapping, unrolling, unfolding an ever greater sense of God as Love,  remember that “each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love.” (SH10)  Be  alert to these new views day by day. Expect  them. Embrace them.

 SECTION III – Love tenderly meets every need.

Just as the prodigal’s father had compassion and ran out to meet his dear son,  Jesus was “moved with compassion” when he saw the multitudes “because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.”  He saw in them the same disorder and disorganized thought that the prodigal  had expressed as “riotous living.” But Jesus didn’t leave it at that. “He began to  teach them many things.” He lovingly guided their thought and fed them with right ideas. His teaching wasn’t just theory. It  was backed up by  practical love for them. He fed their hunger physically as well as spiritually. He didn’t just send them away to fend for themselves. He showed the disciples that they didn’t have to go somewhere and get something to feed them.  They already had enough. When we think we’re in need of a healing,  it’s not “out there” somewhere. We already have every right idea.  Jesus took  the five loaves and the two fishes gratefully. Then the people “sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.”  Note the calmness and order that this expresses.  They were no longer  “as sheep not having a shepherd.”  They expected their shepherd to feed them “in a fat pasture.” And he did! Notice what Jesus did with the loaves and fishes.  It will help you if you don’t think you have enough (money, time, intelligence, inspiration, love…). He took what  he had without criticism or fear (grateful acceptance). He looked up to heaven – not down to  his watch, his scales, his checkbook. He blessed it (recognized its divine source). He broke the loaves (made them ready for sharing). Then he GAVE them. We can all do  this. We can feed the multitudes with our healing love. The most wonderful thing is that the leftovers were twelve basketsful – far  more than they had to begin with.  Was this a miracle? No. “The miracle of grace is no miracle to Love.” (SH11)

 SECTION IV – Love knows no  fear.

Fear and Love cannot coexist.  The more we love, the less we fear.  It’s that simple. And letting perfect love cast out fear is a vital part of Christian Science healing. In fact,  Mrs. Eddy  instructs us, “Always begin your treatment by allaying the fear  of patients….If you succeed in wholly removing the fear, your patient is healed.” This surely shows us the importance of casting out fear; but it isn’t enough to just tell someone not to  be afraid. That can just be an act of human will,  like whistling a happy tune. We have to actually cast out fear through perfect  love. There are many rules for healing in this section.  See if you can find one that really speaks to your heart and apply it all through the week. And remember that “stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments” are “but  so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science,  aflame with  divine Love.” (SH19) If it’s not “aflame with divine Love,” it isn’t legitimate Christian Science.

 SECTION V – Love heals,  because Love never  dies.

Again we see our Master “moved with compassion.”  Think of this when you think of the Christian Science movement. What moves it is compassion, and nothing else can.  The inevitable result of this compassion is healing. When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, the centurion recognized the true authority of the Christ. He likened it to his military  experience, where he expected his orders to be quickly and completely obeyed, because he stood for the law of the state.  In a sense, Jesus stood for the law of God, and the centurion  fully acknowledged the power of that  law. He had full faith in  it. His servant was immediately healed.

 Ask  yourself, What does it mean that Jesus is “the door of the sheep”? Because Jesus had full faith in Life, he had no  faith in death. He attributed no power to it whatsoever. He  said, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”  This is a promise. “Love alone is Life.” (Hymn 30)

 SECTION VI – “The Lord is my  Shepherd; I  shall  not want.”

Recently I was told a story about a little girl  in Sunday  School who was asked if she could recite the entire Twenty-third Psalm. She got up before the class and said: “The Lord is my Shepherd.  That’s all I want,” and then sat down  This, to me, is a perfect parallel to (SH26) “‘God is Love.’ More than  this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.”  What more can we say?

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