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Pharisee or Christlike?

August 26, 2015

There’s a wonderful story in the book of Luke in the Bible (Chapter 7:25-50) about an interaction between Christ Jesus, a local prostitute, and Simon the Pharisee.  Simon had invited Jesus to dine with him, and the prostitute had come to show her gratitude for his healing of her.  Simon was aghast that Jesus would allow such a thing, since it flew in the face of all the rules.  But Jesus overturned all those human rules and operated at a more spiritual level.

So the question is, do we look at the world like Simon did, saying “here are the rules and if you don’t follow them you’re wrong?”  Or do we see the world through the eyes of grace as Jesus did, letting compassion be our guide?  Do we ask ourselves, “what would be the most progressive and helpful thing to do at this moment?” or do we simply say “no room for that kind of thing here.”

The Pharisees had a very rigid and harsh system of rules that maintained a sense of order but excluded spiritual insight and regeneration.  To their viewpoint, any deviation from their structure was sinful and to be punished. This closed the door on innovation, insight, and healing.  And it rejected the very Messiah they had been waiting centuries for, because it didn’t fit their confining model.

How are we doing the same thing?  How narrow and proscriptive are our views of ourselves and fellowman?  With that kind of outlook, there is no option but to fail since no one can measure up to those harsh restrictions.  But Jesus came to throw off those limitations.  He came to set the imprisoned thought free.  He encouraged his followers to be thinkers, not just automatons.  Isn’t the Golden Rule a perfect example?  And the rest of the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus loved the Ten Commandments and encouraged obedience to them.  But his ministry disrupted the officious regulations of the Pharisees. He accused them of hypocrisy because they only strove to appear to be law-abiding.   He said, “ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  (Luke 11:42)

Although it’s not clear if the Judaic sect of the Pharisees still survives today, certainly legalistic pharisaism is alive and well!  But it’s not too late to purge it from our churches and governments. our communities and our homes.  Jesus’ model of love, compassion, forgiveness, and expectation of reform all stemmed from his understanding of God’s unyielding love for him, and for us.

That kind of love heals.  Then, and now.

For a great exegesis of the story in Luke referred to above, click here.

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.

Disappointment

May 20, 2015

Dictionary.com defines it as, “the feeling of sadness or displeasure by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”  You know that feeling.  Things just aren’t working out the way you think they should.

Disappointment has been around for a long time.  It seems to be such a persistent part of human life that the early writers of the Bible even attributed it to God, in both the allegory of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah.  God was so disappointed with the behavior of His creation that He permanently evicted them from the Garden of Eden.  Seeing no improvement, but, in fact, a worsening, He drowned them all – except Noah and his family – in an epic flood.

If God Himself can be so disappointed, what chance have we for overcoming it?  And why should we bother if it’s inherent in us?

We need a new view of God and of His creation.  Actually, not a new view, but the right view.  That right view is found in the first chapter of Genesis.  There’s no bad behavior there, on either the part of man or God, so no reason for disappointment.

In the book of James in the Bible, the author calls God, “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (1:17)  That’s the God that Jesus knew.  His heavenly Father was consistently good and reliable, consistently life and love. And not just when Jesus prayed, but when his disciples and countless followers prayed, even for a number of generations after his ascension.  Even today.

 What does that mean for you and me?  That we can expect to overcome and move on from disappointment, regardless of the circumstances.  This even includes disappointment with ourselves.  It won’t necessarily be easy, but knowing that it’s possible is a great help.

How?  By remembering what Jesus knew.  His ministry – how he lived, what he taught – was filled with the healing of disappointment in every form: illness, unkindness, lack, fear, sin, death.  Those conditions all seemed so real to those who had them.  But Jesus proved them to be unreal.  He took each and its consequences away leaving his followers restored.

Is this possible for us?  Jesus said it was.  “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”  (John 14:12) Take him at his word.  Challenge disappointment.  Overturn it.  Heal it.  Move on from it.  See it as he did: an imposition on the beloved child of God.  This promise from Revelation guarantees it: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (21:4)

 Disappointment?  No.  Peace.  And joy.  And satisfaction.  All the natural outcome of a better view of God and man.

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.

Lulu’s dilemma

May 7, 2015

Lulu was frantically pulling things out from under the bed which was strewn with overturned drawers.  She stood up, wild-eyed, quickly scanning the room.  “Where are they?” she screeched.

Lulu had run out of twos.  She had plenty of ones and threes, and all the other numbers, but not enough twos to do her daily multiplication tables.  And surely not enough twos to get her favorite latte and go grocery shopping.  She thought she had a hidden stash of them in some dark corner of her room, but they simply were not to be found.

She sunk down to the floor and covered her face with her hands.  What was she to do?  Lulu thought perhaps she could recite her times table and just avoid those that had twos in them.   Way more work than she was prepared for. Or she could call a friend and borrow some but then she’d have to return the favor, which could be tricky.  Or she could go online and buy more – but she’d need twos to do that – and it would take too much time.

There just wasn’t a good solution.  Maybe she should just go back to bed.

Wearily, Lulu shoved everything on the floor, climbed under the covers and pulled them over her head.

Aren’t you grateful that numbers aren’t things that can be lost or used up?  Numbers are ideas and there’s no limit to how many you can have or use.  You don’t have to hoard them or use them sparingly.

Interestingly, God’s creation works the same way.  It’s filled with infinite ideas that are all as good as God is.  Ideas like intelligence, harmony, stability, progress, health, strength, courage, delight, and so on.  God’s beloved children – you and I – have access to and express these infinite ideas, infinitely!  The Psalmist says, “How precious…are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand…”  (139:17,18)

When things seem hard, and it would be easier to pull the covers over your head, remember that God fills all space.  And just as there’s no shortage of numbers, there’s no limit to God’s goodness.  It’s as available as 2, or 3, or 4.

And you can count on it!

This is part 3 of the Lulu saga.  To see part 1, click here, and part 2 click here.

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.

“Oh come on, the Sabbath’s my day off.  Tell them to come back tomorrow.”

“Don’t overdo it.  Forgive once or twice, and then nail them.”

“Did you see the way that Pharisee looked at me?  And when he leaned over to the scribe next to him I was outta there.”

“There were only five and I was hungry too.  What am I supposed to do?  Share?”

“Hey guys, take your swords and hold off Judas and his gang while I sneak out the back gate and get away.”

“Look, I’m happy to come and heal your son.  Don’t get me wrong.  But does it have to be right now?”

“That man at the pool was extremely ungrateful.  It just wasn’t worth my time.”

“People, stop crowding me.  I am too busy and important for you to be this close.”

“Sure, I can jump from this pinnacle.  There’re angels down there to catch me, right?”

“I’m not going to leave these ninety-nine sheep just to go find one careless one that wandered off.”

Anybody who knows the teachings of Christ Jesus knows that he would never say any of these things.  His words, and especially his works, were intended to bless and heal.  And they did, in countless ways.    Even today, they still do.

Here are some things he actually said:

  • Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (Matt 11:28)
  • Love one another.  (John 13:35)
  • I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10)
  • Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.  (Luke 6:20)
  • Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.  (Mark 2:11)

The Christly power behind Jesus’ words and works is still active today.  And if we catch ourselves being unkind in word or deed, or thinking only of our own needs and not more inclusively of others, we can simply turn to his example.  Every effort to bless others blesses us too.  And that’s a good thing.

Ask yourself: what would Jesus say?  You can say it too, and mean it!  (John 14:12)

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.

Sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it.  You’ve given it your best shot, for as long as you felt you could, and things are just the same.  Or maybe worse.  You have an idea about how things should be.  But no way to bring it about.  You’ve run out of options.  If you just had a little help, you might pull it off.  Sometimes you just wonder what’s the use?

The Bible is filled with the stories of those who struggled against the odds: Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah in the old testament, and Jesus, Peter, and Paul in the new testament – just to name a few.  Other people, circumstances, their own behavior threatened to bring their careers and in some instances, their lives, to an end.  And they certainly felt the burden and peril of their situations.  Elijah even opted for suicide.

But God had other plans.  In each case, a way forward was made plain.  And a new sense of life replaced the old.

Jesus told his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)  In other words, “if you want to live your life according to my teachings, and to do the works that I do, no matter how hard it seems, keep doing what needs to be done.  This is what it means to follow me.”  His own example of sticking with it changed the world.  It not only transformed him, it transformed us too.

Mary Baker Eddy knew a great deal about the misery of failure as well as constant unwarranted attacks thwarting her every move.  Yet, she humbly and persistently followed her Master, Christ Jesus, listening for and obeying the word of God at every step.  As a result, she proved that the teachings of Jesus are as viable and useful today as they were 2000 years ago.  And she clearly explained them for us to practice and prove as well.

Referring to the promise of salvation found in the Bible book of Revelation, she so tenderly wrote, “Take heart, dear sufferer, for this reality of being will surely appear sometime and in some way. There will be no more pain, and all tears will be wiped away. When you read this, remember Jesus’ words, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ This spiritual consciousness is therefore a present possibility.”  (Science and Health p. 573)

What a sweet promise, contradicting the futility engendered by “what difference does it make?”

You can take up your cross, you can keep moving onward.  Just one more time.  For God is with you, guaranteeing your success.  Yes, take heart…

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.

O ye of little faith.

February 8, 2015

Jesus only said that to his disciples, not the multitudes in general.  They were his students, his dear friends and closest companions.  They knew him the best, and even could do some of the works that he did.  They had the deepest understanding of his theology of anyone.  And yet, he knew – of all people – they should have more faith.

Sometimes though, much of what Jesus taught them seemed like theory.  He talked of things, and did things they simply couldn’t comprehend.  And, since he was there to do everything for them, they just didn’t quite connect the dots the way he’d like them to.  He was going to be around forever, right?  They had plenty of time!

All too soon, he was taken from them.  And it felt very permanent.  The disciples even feared for their own lives.  Going back to fishing seemed like a practical – and perhaps the only – option.  Yet, when Jesus presented himself to them, risen and alive, after the crucifixion, his teachings were no longer theory but demonstrable Christianity.  And he expected them to go into all the world and do as he had done.  (Mark 16:15)  Talk about a job requiring a lot of faith!

Mary Baker Eddy explains it this way, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, “His resurrection was also their resurrection. It helped them to raise themselves and others from spiritual dulness and blind belief in God into the perception of infinite possibilities.”  p.34

Is our faith too little?  Jesus’ resurrection was not just for his disciples but for all mankind, and for all time.  The very fact that he overcame the last enemy (see 1 Cor. 15:26) and expected us to do the same (see John 14:12) indicates that our spiritual dullness and blind belief in God can melt away too.  The Apostle Paul was convinced that Jesus’ resurrection was real and repeatable and it was a major piece of his preaching.  You’ll find it throughout many of his letters.

How are you understanding and practicing the resurrection in your life?  How are you overcoming and transforming your lack of faith in Jesus’ word and works?  How are you growing beyond reading the words to proving their principle?

When Jesus said “O ye of little faith” to his disciples, it wasn’t so much a criticism as a means of waking them up to accept the possibility of what Jesus was doing.  Let that same wake-up call be like a resurrection to you, helping you to shake off the routine and rise into the heavenly fresh; to look away from the fear-induced impossibility, lifting your eyes to the all-things-are-possible-to-Love reality.

O ye of little faith is for those who do not know the risen Christ.  Get to know him and let your life be filled with his salvation.  Let your faith make you whole.

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.