Preaching to the choir.

April 26, 2013

Everybody recognizes that as the description of someone trying to make a sale to those who are already sold!  It relates not only to religion, but politics, education, and anyplace else where there are convictions and an audience!  It’s not necessarily a bad thing – we all like to be re-energized regarding our belief systems.  That’s one of the reasons, for example, why we go to church every week: to be refreshed and reminded of our faith.

Jesus started his ministry reaching out only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He was a Jew, come to save the Jews – in essence, to preach to the choir.  (Matt 10:6)  At his birth though, the angels said “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  (Luke 2:10)  And so it was, as the Gospels report, that over time, he healed Samaritans, Canaanites, Greeks, Syrophenicians, and even Romans.  And who knows how many other nationalities may have been in the multitudes that he fed – and loved!  At the end of his career, he expanded his ministry by telling his disciples “go ye into all the world…” (Mark 16:15)

It is certainly safer to share our faith and give testimony about our spiritual growth, to those within our own house, or even to our own lost sheep.  But if we wish to be obedient to Jesus’ final command, we need to preach to more than just the choir!  Jesus explained it this way: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about knocking on doors or standing on corners (and certainly no offense is meant to those who have chosen that pathway).  But I am talking about letting your very life shine as an example of what lives in your heart!  This is not for getting butts in pews – but simply because you can’t help expressing the divine joy that overflows your soul!

One of the easiest ways to sparkle is through gratitude!  Giving thanks, showing appreciation, acknowledging others brightens everyone’s day!  And you can do that no matter who you’re with – choir, congregation, or just passers-by.  A profound statement by Mary Baker Eddy, theologian and founder of my church, points out the power of gratitude – and its opposite.  She wrote in part: “…we cannot conceal the ingratitude of barren lives.”  (Science and Health page 4)  It doesn’t get any darker than that.

So, lighten up – preach to the choir and to the world.  Every moment is an opportunity to let your light shine.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.

And it was very good.

April 18, 2013

You may recognize that statement from the first chapter of the book of Genesis in the Bible.  According to the text, God, Spirit, repeatedly proclaims that each progressive step of His creation is good.  His ultimate act is making man in His image and likeness (see Gen 1:26,27) after which He declares that it is all VERY good!

The second chapter of Genesis is where we find the more familiar tale of Adam and Eve – an account whose ending is decidedly very bad.

What if, just for the sake of conversation, we consider the first chapter of Genesis the only version of creation? That “very good” was actually the end of the story?

One of the reasons for this exploration is Jesus’ own statement found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:48) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  Perfect here, according to Strong’s, is a Greek word meaning complete.  A very similar word is used to denote the creation story told in Genesis 1: finished, which includes as one of its meanings in Hebrew – you guessed it – complete.  (see actually Gen 2:1)

I see Jesus’ imperative as an invitation to try on and live up to a view of existence – including you and me – that is very good.  This powerful take on creation excludes the fall of man detailed in later chapters of Genesis.  That sorrowful saga is all about incompleteness and imperfection.  Certainly there are innumerable elements of both of those to be found in all directions.  But Jesus was telling us to look – not at the world around us – but at God.  And not just any god but perfect God, the God Jesus knew as Father, Abba.

You may find that what starts out as a huge stretch – just for the sake of conversation – could actually inspire you to learn something completely new about God and His very good creation.  And that kind of inspiration just might lead to healing.

For a more in-depth explanation of a very good creation click here.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.

You ever notice how everyone else lives their lives as if they’re the center of the universe – when that position really belongs to me?  Hah!  Doesn’t that seem like the way the drama plays out sometimes?  Everyone is so wrapped up in their own stories that my story doesn’t get any air time.  So I tell my story louder and longer just to make sure nobody misses any of the details!  Sheesh!

St. Paul explains that tendency in his letter to the Romans when he writes: “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (see chapter 8, verse 7)

Dictionary.com defines enmity as: hostility; hatred; ill will.  That means that the carnal mind – the self-centered fleshly mind – hates God, the same God who actually IS the center of the universe.  And because the carnal mind is so deluded by its own point of view and absolutely convinced of its own rightness, there’s no room for the law of God to operate.

The reality is that the law of God is the only solution to the drama!  And being willing to shift thought – even just a degree – away from the drama begins the healing.  Once the light of God’s law – the law of divine Love – begins to shine on the problem, the shadows of fearful preoccupation don’t seem so dark and heavy.  In fact, the Apostle John says as much: Perfect love casteth out fear.  (see 1st John 4:18)

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church, echoing Paul’s sentiment, wrote, “It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony.”  (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures page 390)

In other words, stop looking at the discord and get to know God better.  As you learn more about His infinitude and omnipotence – His ever present love and unending care – you will inevitably see a pathway out of the problem.

Jesus proved this.  Did he ever say, “your problem is too big;” or “you’re too far gone;” or “I don’t have time for you”?  No, of course not!  Jesus spent all his time recognizing the presence of God – the kingdom of heaven – right here on earth.  And that recognition healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, and cast out demons.  And he commanded that you and I do the same.  (see Matt 10:8)

So, let’s make God the center of our universe. Let’s look to Him for every solution.  Let’s keep thought focused on the truth which Jesus preached: “with God all things are possible.”  (see Mark 10:27 for example).

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.


April 4, 2013

Okay, so that’s not a word that Jesus actually used.  But don’t you get the sense that sometimes he just felt his disciples were clueless about the kingdom of heaven?  The Bible says he called them “faithless generation” and “fools.”  (see Mark 9:19 or Luke 24:25 for example)

These twelve hand-picked “fishers of men” struggled to understand the revolutionary viewpoint of creation that Jesus was teaching them.  They constantly questioned him, contradicted him, doubted him.  They just didn’t seem to get it.

Take the story of Jesus and the woman with the hemorrhage: she hoped to touch the Master’s garment without being noticed.  But he recognized the mental call-for-help and asked “who touched me?”  The disciples – more like handlers than students – said, “Uh Jesus.  You’re surrounded by dozens upon dozens of jostling followers, and you want to know which one touched you?  Really?”  Maybe they thought he was clueless!

They were more concerned about getting Jesus to the bedside of a dying little girl than stopping to pinpoint one errant touch.  But Jesus, ignoring their ignorance, sought out the woman, acknowledged her healing, and blessed her.  And still went on to save the little girl.  (see Mark 5:24-34)

The disciples imagined there was only a limited amount of good and a limited amount of time in which to take advantage of it.  And that it was quickly becoming too late.  Jesus, on the other hand, knew that good was unlimited – just like his heavenly Father who is the infinite bestower of all good.

Then there’s the story of Jesus’ conversation with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus.  They were so convinced Jesus had died on the cross that they couldn’t even recognize him as he walked along with them.  They recounted the horrific story, and even told the part about the empty tomb.  Jesus set them straight, opened their eyes, and continued on his way.  (see Luke 24:13-31)  As always, he never abandoned his followers to their own cluelessness.  Instead, he persisted in making plain the presence and power of God, the source of the Christ – the Truth – he manifested.  He even promised that they would never be comfortless!  (see John 14:18)

The disciples finally did get his message; they finally understood what he had taught them and shown them so clearly that, as he had predicted, they went on to do the works that he had done.

Isn’t that a marvelous example for you and me?  When we’re feeling clueless about any aspect of our lives, when we’re convinced that good is dead and gone, we can know instead, that the same comforting presence and power is still available, here and now.

Jesus never broke his promises to the disciples and they still stand today.  Let’s not be clueless about that.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.