Keep forgiving

July 23, 2017

Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother.  He suggested seven times, since that seemed fairly generous according to Jewish law, which only required three times.  But Jesus said seven times was not nearly enough.  The Master put forth seventy times seven as a more appropriate number. (Matt 18:21,22)

Was Jesus meaning that we stop forgiving when we reach the magic number of 490?  Not likely.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5 – 7) is filled with his teachings that correlate, such as removing first the beam from our own eye before we even comment on the beam in our brother’s eye.  Wouldn’t that compel us to be more forgiving?

And what about leaving our gift on the alter while we explore with our brother what he has against us.  Doesn’t it seem like forgiveness in both directions might be the outcome?

Jesus’ example of forgiveness was astounding.  He introduced the concept of reciprocal forgiveness into the Lord’s prayer, which Mary Baker Eddy interprets spiritually to mean “and Love is reflected in love.” (See Science and Health p. 17)  And there is a profound story in Luke (7:36 to 50) about deep forgiveness going hand in hand with deep humility and affection.

But the ultimate teaching on forgiveness came when Jesus was on the cross. Speaking to his dear Father he said, “forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

How can we imagine our own hurts and annoyances are greater than what he experienced?  He said, “…the works that I do shall you do also; and greater works than these shall you do…” (John 14:12)

That includes forgiving 490 times.

And forgetting that many times too.

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.

Gone fishin’

July 9, 2017

That’s the sign the disciples put up after Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was the only way they could think of to cope with the fear, sorrow, and confusion of that awful event. They were soon to learn that Jesus had already equipped them with what they needed to turn those sad feelings around.

They’d fished all night and caught nothing.  Then a stranger on the shore suggested they move their nets to the other side of the boat.  Doing so, there were so many fish their net was in danger of breaking.  Had the fish been there all along and they just weren’t paying attention?

That same “stranger” had, several years earlier, turned several fishes into enough to feed five thousand.  Was that the case now?  They were struggling to remember what they had learned: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” (John 6:27)

Jumping from the boat, they swam to shore to greet the stranger.  It was Jesus, whom they thought was long gone.  But he had earlier said of himself, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (ibid v. 36) They had forgotten his promise.  They had forgotten his commitment to them.

But it all came flooding back that morning on that shore.  Everything he had taught them about God’s infinite Fatherhood and the necessity of worshipping Him in spirit and truth; of eternal life and the kingdom of heaven on earth; of doing to one’s neighbor as one hoped to receive; and of loving each other as he had loved them: it was all fresh and new and finally real.

During Jesus’ brief ministry he had been as a shepherd to all that yearned for salvation.  He had preached and healed and loved.  Now it was the disciples’ turn.  With this brief command, “feed my sheep,” he put his precious followers into their care. They finally understood what that meant.

That historical morning is worth celebrating, don’t you think?

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.

7000 Reasons

June 23, 2017

Elijah was suicidal.  He’d just had a big showdown with a group that opposed the God of Israel.  Even though he’d been the victor in that event, he felt tired, overwhelmed, and alone.  Especially alone.  He saw no reason to go on living if he was the only one who believed in God.

But that very God of Israel had other plans.  He did several wonderful things to get Elijah’s attention.  But none of them worked until God said, “You are not the only one.  There are 7000 more just like you, who are totally devoted to Me.”  (see 1 Kings chapters 18 and 19)  Elijah was roused from his fear and went on to do more great things to honor the God who had saved him.

How often do we feel like we’re the only one; that we’re alone in accomplishing some great thing – or even a small thing: that everyone else has abandoned us – or the ideals we used to share?

The same God that delivered Elijah from his despondence, that saved Moses from the Egyptians, that resurrected Jesus from the tomb, that promised a Comforter: that same God of love and goodness will give you as many reasons as you need – even 7000 – to keep going.

The fact is, it’s always better than circumstances would seem to suggest.  Our own small viewpoint sees barely to the horizon of our limited experience. God – our dear heavenly Father – has the big picture, along with infinite resources with which to bless mankind, at His command.  There is nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32: 17).  So not only can He bring to bear all of the help that you need right where you are, He can also make you aware of it.  You need not fear that you will miss God’s great provision.

Jesus proved the abundance of God’s fullness of supply by feeding the multitude, healing the sick, and raising the dead.  Even when it seemed that those options were not only not available, but not even possible.  Yet he reassured his followers that “with God all things are possible.”  (Matt. 19: 26)

That same reassurance is here for you too, as many times as you need to be reminded – tenderly and persistently – that you are not alone, you are valuable, you have what you need.

And it’s enough.

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.

What cannot Love do?

August 16, 2015

Love is another name for God that comes straight from the Bible (1 John 4:8). It’s not just a facet of His being or something that He does.  It’s who He is. And I could just as easily say it’s who She is too, since Love is no more a gender based idea than God is.  God is all and includes all, but not in a pantheistic way.  God, Love, simply is.

What does that mean to you and me?  We can expect to be comforted by Love, tenderly and persistently.  We can hope for and have consistent protection and direction, right from Love.  We can receive and be blessed by an unending abundance of helpful ideas leading to useful solutions, poured forth by Love. We can even reflect that infinite Love in caring for each other in meaningful and harmonious ways.

The Apostle Paul talked about that kind of caring in his magnificent first letter to the Corinthians (13th chapter).  He explained that we could be totally awesome, but if it was without love it would be hollow and ultimately in vain. His portrayal of love included these qualities: steadfast, unselfish, untiring, faithful, true, perpetual, fair, unyielding, immediate, continual, quiet, and so on.

Jesus knew how to love so deeply that it healed.  But the Master’s love wasn’t just human goodness amplified.  It was God’s love made manifest in him as the Christ.  And that Christ-love is still active today.  Didn’t Jesus remind his followers, and therefore us, that “the works I am doing you will do too.  And even greater works will you do…”  (John 14:12)  He was making plain that the infinite love of Love is as active and powerful and ever present today as it was then.

Divine Love is loving us and saving us and giving to us and helping us and guarding us and sustaining us and delivering us and lifting us and whatever else we need whenever else we need it.  This is how Love operates.

We don’t have to earn this love, but we do have to expect it.  We don’t have to deserve it, but we do have to make room for it.  We don’t have to wait for it, but we do have to watch for it.  And more and more as we attune our thoughts to infinite Love filling all space, will our space be filled with love too.  We will find it because Love will have already found us.

The Apostle Paul asked his readers to let this profound observation – this mind of Christ – be in them.  (Phil 2:5)  In other words, let this understanding of divine Love that Christ Jesus lived and taught be what you live and teach through your example.  What better way is there to do the works he did, than to start with love?

Love is loving you.  Let yourself be loved.

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.

 You’ve heard the joke: a policeman pulls a driver over and takes them into custody.  After a few hours at the jailhouse, the officer releases the individual with an apology and an explanation: “when I heard you lean on the horn, and saw you flip that other driver off and curse them, and then saw the fish emblem and Jesus is Lord bumper stickers, I thought you must have stolen the car.”

Do we justify that kind of behavior by saying, “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven,” and then make no effort to live more perfectly, just doing things that need to be forgiven instead?

Christians have an example before them of the kind of behavior that is expected, in Christ Jesus himself.  He set the standard, and he set it very high. And he accepted no excuses for not measuring up.  How many times did he chastise his disciples and the Pharisees, both who should have known better, for not “getting” it?  And yet, he tenderly, patiently, and persistently encouraged his disciples to measure up.  His encouragement of the Pharisees was of a different sort, but no less persistent, even compassionate: if he could only awaken them to their hypocrisy he could show them the Kingdom of Heaven.  And he wanted everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven.

As Christians, we want everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven too.  That’s why it’s so important to be an example of it, to point the way as tenderly and patiently and persistently as he did, through kindness and affection and humility.  And healing.  What better way is there to let others know how awesome it is?

Here’s a step you can take right now.  Ask yourself if the things you post on Facebook actually reflect your Christianity.  Are they demeaning of anyone? Of a political party, politician, or celebrity?  Or race or gender or culture?  Are you willing to give them up in order to more rightly influence the world?  That doesn’t mean you have to flood Facebook with Scripture.  Just don’t flood it with unkindness.

Jesus said, “You will know my disciples because they love one another.”  (John 13:35) Let’s show the world that we know what that means and then live as if we agree with it.

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.

It was a model of hospitality to provide guests with a means of rinsing their feet upon entering your home.  Jesus alluded to it in his conversation with Simon the Pharisee (see Luke 7:44).  But when he washed the disciples feet following the last supper, it wasn’t just about removing the day’s dust.  He was giving them an example of humble affection.  (see John 13:1-16) It’s our example too.

Let’s go back to that night: 12 disciples of varying degrees of spiritual aptitude.  One was a betrayer, one a doubter, one a denier, several who argued amongst themselves, all of them frequently faithless and dull.   Yet, the Bible in no way indicates that Jesus avoided or only cursorily cleansed the feet of any of them.  Jesus made no determination in his care that some were less worthy than the others.  He washed them all.  And then he followed up with the profound imperative: love one another as I have loved you.  (John 13:34)

If we confine our own humble affection to a yearly ritual of foot washing – or even to regular and ongoing acts of kindness – we miss the most important point of his directive: emulating the deep, pure, unconditional and transforming love of the Christ.

What if we truly washed the feet of everyone in our sphere?  I don’t mean the soapy water, bucket, and towel routine, but the more private mental one?  What if we strove to wipe away – in thought – whatever dirt and dust had accumulated on the mental images we hold of others?  Isn’t that really the kind of love Jesus was talking about?

That would include not only co-workers, neighbors, family members, and those with whom we go to church, but politicians, TV personalities, community, national, and world leaders.  In other words, everyone.

Everything in Jesus’ teachings points to this thorough individual spiritual work: the Sermon on the Mount; his healing ministry; his resurrection.  Is there anything in his record that says just love those that love you?  No, in fact he rebukes that. (see Luke 6:32)  He also rebuked just cleaning the outside and leaving the inside untouched.  (Matt. 23:26)

One of his final statements to his followers – and hence to us – makes clear what his expectation was: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  (John 13:35)  That must include universal humanity if we are to be truly obedient.

And that’s a lot more than just clean feet!  It’s a sparkling new world.

Here’s a lovely thought from 19th century theologian (and the founder of the religion I follow), Mary Baker Eddy:  “Cleanse every stain from this wanderer’s soiled garments, wipe the dust from his feet and the tears from his eyes, that you may behold the real man, the fellow-saint of a holy household.”  (Retrospection and Introspection, page 86)

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.