Wednesday, October 29, 2008

everlasting punishment or everlasting redemption?

This week's lesson, filled with inspiring stories, also includes the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. This was a gathering place for those 'impotent folk' with chronic illnesses. They waited for a disturbance in the water that they attributed to an angel. Whoever got in first was healed. Jesus was walking by there when he noticed a man who had been bothered by an infirmity for 38 years.

Most of us start working in our early twenties and will probably do so until our sixties, a good 40 years. Imagine if you choose some wrong path at the beginning, made some poor choices. It might have involved an ethical decision, some dishonesty or cheating. That might have been part of an educational experience. It might have involved drugs or drinking or smoking Whatever it was, once done it was harder to resist the temptation to repeat it and over the years things just got worse. It eventually ruined your health.

A by-product might have been that it cost you your friends and even your family. That man was alone beside the pool. When Jesus approached him and asked if he wanted to be whole, the man blamed his misfortunes on the fact that he had no one to help him. He felt discouraged because someone else got to the pool before he did. This implies that he had been coming to this pool for healing on other occasions.

What needed to change was his thought that this healing was going to have to come from the efforts of someone else. He needed to change his own thought, about himself, about his past, about what awaited him in the future. With the Christ beside him, he was able to follow Jesus' command to rise, take up his bed, and walk. He needed to arise, stand up, straighten up. He needed to feel his strength. If his problem had been sensual, he even needed to purify his thoughts about that bed. He was to walk, to move forward. Jesus didn't tell him to go home, just to walk.

But this was not the end of their encounter. Like the woman who was healed of a long-standing issue of blood, this man needed to see the real source of that healing. She had been healed by her faith, not by touching Jesus' clothing. Next time she needed help, he might not be available, but her faith was there and that would do it. Jesus sought out the man and found him in the temple. That is encouraging. Maybe he was there to give thanks for his healing, maybe he was making amends for his behaviour. Jesus reminded him that he was whole....but he must not sin again. A healing of something that was the result of wrong thinking or acting did not give someone permission to repeat the offence. We are to recognize the wrong and keep it out of our life.

I beleive that man heeded Jesus. How wonderful it must have felt to be freed after so many years of suffering. It was every bit as dramatic as if he had stepped into the pool and been made whole. He had been face to face with Christ and that must have changed him. We all have the same opportunity. We can stop dragging around, or being dragged around by, something that occured long ago. The change just needs to take place in our thought. And then, we must choose never to go that way again. We need to see the truth about who we are as God's beloved idea. We need to recognize how wonderful divine Love is. Rise. Take up. Walk.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This week's Bible lesson, Everlasting Punishment, is all about redeeming, who is redeemed and how that happens. There are several examples given and today I am working with the story of Naaman. It is found in II Kings 5. He is described as a mighty man of valour, great courage. He is high favor with his master, an honorable man. His prowess as a military man are without question. He was instrumental in conquering Israel for the King of Syria. But he does have one enemy he has been unable to conquer, he is a leper.

There is much to admire about Naaman. He is much beloved by his King, his wife, and his troops. On one of the raids they took away a little Hebrew girl. She was given to Naaman's wife as a servant. This little maid tells her mistress that there is a prophet in Israel who could cure Naaman of leprosy. That is quite a claim, as no one else has done that. Someone overhears this conversation as brings the information to his master. It says something about Naaman that he believes this and acts upon it, heeding the word of a servant.

He goes to Elisha's house, arriving in great state in a chariot pulled by horses and accompanied by his servants. The conqueror shows up and expects to be treated with respect. Elisha doesn't even come out of the house, he sends his servant with a message. This is not what Naaman, a man of action and showy victories was expecting. This is an adversary he has not been able to overcome, so whoever can beat it must do it in a big way. The message is to go to the nearby Jordan river and dip himself in it seven times. Not very dignified. Naaman is outraged and in a fit of temper turns aside to sulk. But he didn't leave. Maybe he was plotting how he might force Elisha to bring about this healing the way Naaman wanted it to happen in front of everyone. He has conquered this land and surely the rivers in his own country must be more powerful, if that was all that was needed. But it wasn't. It was going to take a change of thought.

At this point, his servants approach and try to reason with him. They refer to him as Father, certainly a loving view of this complex man. They care deeply about him. They say that if the Prophet had asked him to do some great thing, it would have done that without question. How little a thing to follow instructions and get his healing. That should be worth any price. He listens and then does what Elisha had directed. The result is that his flesh is restored, but more importantly, his soul is redeemed. He has been washed clean.

Sometimes the answer to our problems is a simple matter of prayer and trust. We would like a much flashier solution, something to amaze our family or friends. Maybe our pride is in the way of the healing. Maybe we feel it is our responsibility to overcome this error and we are not willing to trust God. Maybe we are not willing to listen to someone's suggestions. Maybe even those angel messages that are coming to us.

Redemption is all about a change of thought. It is receptivity to good. It is a purification of mind and body. I look forward to the other stories in this week's lesson

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It was when Gideon and his 300 soldiers broke their pitchers that the hidden light shone forth and led to victory. It was when the widow was willilng to break the seal on her last pot of oil that she was able to fill all the empty pots, multipying instead of dividing her supply. It was when Jesus took break, blessed it, and brake it that a multitude was fed, with 12 baskets left over.

When I find myself hesitant to 'break' that last $20.00 bill, when I am reluctant to break a silence, when I need to break off my time at the computer....these are the times when the action brings the most blessing. I find that the money stretches far and then more comes in. Truth is voiced and healing and blessing follow. When something has engrossed our attentin to the point of keeping one away from prayer and study, that must be broken. Once awakened and aware, the mind fills with right ideas.

Don't be fearful or reluctant to 'break' that which is holding you back.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Cherith experience

In the story of Elijah he warns the people about a coming drought. He himself is directed by God to go to a brook, Cherith, where he will continue to have water when others do not. This story is in I Kings 17. Elijah is given a great gift, a time to experience God's supply when material sources run out. And he will need this lesson because 'it came to pass...that the brook dried up'. Have you had that happen? Other sources of income disappear for one reason or another and you fall back on savings. Or maybe you fall back on friends or relatives when a relationship dries up.

Then there comes a time when that 'brook' no longer is enough. You have learned to trust the gift, now you will have to trust in the Giver. One of our hymns says 'when all material streams are dried Thy fullness is the same'. You might wonder why you go through a 'Cherith' time, a time without right employment, adequate funds, a strong relationship. But maybe this is the gift of discovering the true sense of employment, the true idea of supply, the true source of companionship.

Just when you get comfortable with things, the darn brook dries up! Now what? Elijah was told to go to Zarephath. He needs to go forward, he is to take what he has learned with him. There a widow woman, thinking she is down to her last meal, preparing to starve to death, will discover what Elijah knows about right employment, true supply. One wonders if he would have been as well prepared without his 'Cherith' time. That experience made him a better prophet, what Mrs. Eddy calls a 'spiritual seer', a spiritual see-er. This can be true for each of us.

Profit by your 'Cherith' moments.