Friday, February 5, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit - Part Four

Our Bible Lesson continues on with another interesting healing, further proof of the 'fruit of the Spirit'. Jesus is teaching in the synogogue this time. He sees a woman there who is struggling with a physical problem. Luke, himself a doctor, describes her as having 'a spirit of infirmity' that had been going on for 18 years with the result that she was bowed together and could in no way lift herself up. What could have happened 18 years earlier that could have weighed on her all this time? The birth of a child? The loss of a child? The passing of her husband? Some awful mistake in judgment? How about in your life? The failure of a business? A disagreement with a friend? Disruption in your church?

Whatever had happened, it had weighed on her to such an extent that the sorrow of it kept her bent over, always looking at the ground. But, she was in the temple. We can surmise that she had come there to pray. Like the man brought to Jesus by his friends, this woman does not speak. She does not ask Jesus to heal her. Could it be she does not believe she deserves to be healed? Has she accepted this disability as a punishment? Does she think this disease is incurable? Whatever is going on in her thought, we know what was going on in his.

He calls her to himself. The Christ, the great Comforter, is waiting. If he calls out to you, you must choose to respond. She must have gone to him. She must have been willing to make that move. And what does he do? He puts his hands on her, probably on her bowed shoulders, the outward symbol of her inner conflict and pain. Interestingly, unlike the man who he called 'son', he addresses her as 'woman'. He might have said daughter but I do not think she had alienated herself from God for she was in the temple. He tells her that she is 'loosed' from her affirmity. Her burden has been lifted, the weight of guilt is removed, the hold of disease is gone. Would you like to be 'loosed' from something? He can do that for you.

How long did it take to reverse the accumulated effects of an 18-year-long problem? She was healed immediately. She was 'made straight'. She stood upright without therapy or the need to retrain muscles or strengthen bent bones. As soon as he assured her that she was free......she was free. She did not suddenly start leaping around but she did glorify God.

When you experience healing, what is your immediate reaction? Do you turn back, as that leper did when he saw that his leprosy had vanished? Do you say thank you? Do you acknowledge the divine Love that was behind that healing? Do you go back to mourning or feeling guilty? I should hope not!

Righteousness simply means right-thinking. I like to think of it as Truth-knowing. Jesus was always right-thinking and Truth-knowing and the fruits of that were healing. At all times. Under all circumstances. And it is every bit as accessible today. Mrs. Eddy writes: "Consciousness contructs a better body when faith in matter has been conquered. Correct material belief by spiritual understanding, and Spirit will form you anew."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit - Part Three

This morning I used some Bible translations to research the qualities listed as 'the fruit of the Spirit' by Paul in Galatians 5. Here's what I found:

love affection for others
joy exuberance about life
peace serenity
longsuffering patience, willingness to stick to things
gentleness kindness, compassion
goodness conviction that holiness permeates things and people
faith loyal commitments
meekness gentleness, not forcing our way
temperance self control, directing our energies wisely

This letter to the Galatians is universally recognized as an authentic message from Paul. Galatia was a Roman province that included many cities Paul had visited like Phrygia, Lycanonia, Antioch, Iconium, Derbe and Lystra. Christian communities had been founded during his first missionary journey. He later revisited them to support these converts in their new faith. The population of that area were heathens, Greek and Roman colonists which explains why Paul and Barnabus were taken to be Jupiter and Mercury. The heathen priests dominated the people and imposed harsh laws. These young churches wanted to know whether or not the observance of Jewish law was binding upon the Gentiles who became disciples of Christ. It caused much controvery. Paul must defend his authority. Having heard of their troubles, he wrote them this letter explaining the superiority of the Gospel to the law. He applies sthe truth he has been establishing to the different relations and duties of life. He denounces foreign practices and gives this list of qualities that come as the 'fruit of the Spirit', following the Christian religion.

Those, like myself, who are not raised in Christian Science, come to it with preconceived notions about religion and worship. Some of its teachings seem strange and confusing at first. But as one continues reading Science and Health, studies the Bible Lesson and reads the periodicals, it becomes clearer and dearer. One's whole outlook on life is brighter and more postitive. There are physical healings. We see God in a new light and begin to glimpse our relationship to Him. As a natural outcome we express more of that 'fruit of the Spirit'. The changes come from deep within and others can see them as we express more love, patience, gentleness. The 'seeds' fall on 'good soil'.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit - Part Two

The Bible Lesson takes an interesting turn following up on the parable of the Sower and the Seed. Jesus had shared that parable with his listeners. What we study next is an incident that occurs while Jesus is speaking with a different group. Among those who have come to hear him were Pharisees and doctors of the law. Such a crowd had gathered at that house that all the entrances were blocked. Those who got there late could not get anywhere near Jesus. Four men arrived carrying their paralyzed friend on a stretcher. When they couldn't get inside they used the stairs on the outside of the house and climbed to the roof. A portion was removed and they lowered their friend down to Jesus. That must have created a bit of a stir. If we assume that many of those gathered were local people, it is likely that they knew this man and his friends.

Jesus does not seem at all offended by their actions. In fact, he recognizes their faith in his ability to heal. He rewards their overcoming of every obstacle to get to him. The man himself had not spoken or asked anything. Jesus addresses him as 'Son'. He did not mean that this man was his son, but that he was beginning his healing work by recognizing in front of everyone there that this man is God's son. A child of God. He could have said so many things, but he who knew what was going on in everyone's heart and thoughts tells him that his sins are forgiven. That man must have been there with his full consent and with an anticipation that Jesus could help his paralysis. Jesus is about to do much more than that, and in front of the man's neighbors.

It would have been a great thing to heal this man of his palsy but it was going to be an even greater thing to get at the root of what caused it in the first place. This man may have made some choices of lifestyle that caused the illness, he may have done bad things as a result while under that influence, he certainly had alienated himself from his family for he was being cared for by his friends who still loved him. He might have seen being confined to that bed as a just punishment for his actions. He knew he had sinned. Jesus continues his treatment by letting him know that those sins are forgiven. He may have sensed repentance. Only God's forgiveness could truly heal this affliction in that man's thought. And Jesus phrased it that they were forgiven. Not just that at some point they would be.

His words had an effect on the man but also on those listening. The Pharisees and lawyers considered this blasphemy for this was something only God could do. Who did this man think he was! He had no right to do this! That honor belongs only to the Creator. They refused to accept Jesus for who he was, the Messiah. Jesus, who was aware of the thoughts the young man had, was just as aware of what these men were thinking. And he challenges them.

Did they think it was easier to make this declaration or to tell the man to get up and walk? They seemed to think that any pretender can say your sins are forgiven. What proof would there be? Jesus concludes the treatment by telling the man to 'Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house'. He lifts that man up spiritually and physically. He is to take the very item that had bound him for so long and carry it himself, as he would no longer need to be carried. And, he is to return home, his own house where he would be welcomed. This last was a signal to all those who knew this man that he was restored and forgiven and not to be identified as a sinner any longer.

Think of the seeds the Sower planted that day. Think of the different types of 'soil' that were present there. Those who came prepared to expose him as a fraud saw proof of his power. Those who came to hear this man speak of God's love for them saw how it heals and restores. Those who listened with an open heart and receptivity took in that precious seed and nurtured it. The Seed is being sown every day. The Sower continues his work. You can choose how you will prepare your heart and mind for that seed. And it can be, for you, fruitful beyond your imagination. Thirty fold. Sixty fold. An hundred fold. The seed of Truth bears fruit. There's no stopping it. The crop is up to you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit - part one

This week's Bible Lesson continues with studying the synonyms Mrs. Eddy has given us for God. It is about God as Spirit and as each of us as His spiritual image and likeness. We begin with one of Jesus' parables, the Sower and the Seed, an appropriate place to learn just what the result of being more spiritual brings to our human experience.

The Word of God reaches out to us through the Bible. You should have a copy to read, a copy you feel comfortable writing in, and at least one copy that is a translation. I turn to the 'clean' copy when I am seeking fresh inspiration and do not want to be distracted by things I have written from other times of study. I use the 'marked up' copy daily and love being reminded of things I have discovered. I have many translations but most recently hav been loving a Bible that includes four translations. I keep a paperback Bible in the car.

I am so grateful Mrs. Eddy set up our weekly Bible Lesson as over the years it has helped me be familiar with most of the Bible characters and their stories. It also has given me a sense of the progression of thought about God and worship moving through the Old Testament and into the New.

This Bible study is like that parable in the Responsive Reading. This morning I am looking back at my own growth as I have been studying the Word. There have been times when all my good thoughts and prayer seem to have fallen by the wayside. One Bible commentary describes that as the pathways that run beside cultivated fields, a place where things get trampled under foot. That was how I was feeling about my metaphysical work. Then I realized that none of God's words are ever wasted or unappreciated. Those who don't agree with what I believe cannot overwhelm me with their opposition or disregard. There have have times when I have felt like my prayers are a struggle with a stony reception or resistence as big as boulders. It is hard to dig down and find nourishment in such 'soil' or thinking. When I prepare a garden bed, I take time to rake it clean and work the soil to remove stones and debris. I add things to that soil to be sure whatever I plant there will be able to put down roots and find nourishment. I understand that this process takes time and even when it appears on the surface that not much is happening, there is really all kinds of activity going on. Then there are times when I have prayed about something using the same old familiar passages and gotten temporary relief, but when the claim asserts itself, it is tempting to give up and say, well, I did my best but it just isn't working. That is exactly when you have to refute that testimony and say, well, I did my best and it must be working because it is the law of God, the law of good, and nothing can stop it. No false claim can choke off my reliance on Christian Science or spiritual healing. Nothing anyone says can cause me pain or hurt my feelings. I am good soil, I know the value of the 'seeds' I have been given, I can expect strong growth and beautiful results.

Today, be sure you are seeing your life as a garden bed filled with good soil, free of rocks or obstructions, in a protected space, with deep roots anchoring you, and excellent fruitage. This lesson comes directly to you from the Master.