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Demonstrate your at-one-ment with God through love and grace!

Kathy Fitzer, St. Louis, MO & Park City, UT
Posted Monday, October 8th, 2012

Demonstrate your at-one-ment with God through love and grace!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on
"Doctrine of Atonement" for October 8-14, 2012
Prepared by Kathy Fitzer (kathyfitzer@gmail.com)
 
[These application ideas from a CedarS Camps' Resident Christian Science Practitioner are provided primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons daily throughout the year, not just at camp! You can sign up to have them emailed to you free -- by Monday each week in English; or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION: in German, thanks to Helga and Manfred; or in Spanish, thanks to a team of Ana, Erick, Claudia and Patricio. A voluntary French translation by Pascal or Denise cannot be guaranteed due to their busy schedules. An "official" version of the weekly Portuguese translation should be coming soon on a new webpage for CedarS Mets, but in the meantime you can email Orlando Trentini to be added to the list. YOU CAN ALSO SIGN UP for weekly emails from past CedarS staff of fun approaches & possible ways to teach lesson ideas to older and to younger Sunday School classes at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters  Enjoy! Warren Huff, CedarS Director & editor of these notes with bracketed, italic additions.]
 
As you study this week's lesson, realize how uncomplicated the subject really is. Think about it simply as the teachings (the Latin origin of "doctrine") of how to experience your oneness (at-one-ment) with God. Enjoy!
 
Golden Text: Consider Eugene Peterson's translation of this verse from The Message: "... the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way -- Jesus! -- a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place." The "law" referred to is the law presented by Moses, as outlined in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.  God gave it to the people to free them from getting lost in disobedience. As ages passed, however, the interpretation of this law became more restrictive than freeing. There was more concern about breaking the letter of the law and the strict consequences that would follow, than on how obedience to the spirit of the law frees mankind to feel God's presence. Jesus said clearly that it was not his intent to destroy this law, but to fulfill it. Through his expression of grace and love, he demonstrated his oneness with God and showed us all how obedience to divine law enables us to experience this same oneness. Healing and freedom results!
 
Responsive Reading: The Responsive Reading elaborates on the message of the Golden Text. Sacrifice is a key element in aligning one's life with God. But, sacrificing animal blood over and over (as was the early Hebrew practice) wasn't enough to truly connect the one making the sacrifices to God. Jesus' example shows that we have to give of ourselves. Doing God's will (as Jesus did) allows us to "go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts, fully trusting him." It's not a come and go arrangement .... choosing when to think about and listen to God and leaning on our own understanding the rest of the time. According to the new covenant (or agreement between God and man) God put His laws into the hearts of man, writing them "on their minds." Then God promises not to remember our mistakes. With God's law always with us (the kingdom of God within) we can trust that He is always there to keep His promise to care for us, His children. By paying attention to the inner voice that is in tune with God's constant directing, we can trust that even if the road seems a little hilly at times, Love is leading and blessing, and surely bringing us into safety. In response, it will be natural for us to lead a life of "love and good works" - which brings lasting joy and satisfaction.   If we start to wander, angels will always be there to wake us up and bring us back (like rumble strips on the highway that alert us if we are going off the road.) The question is -- are we willing to respond, AND are we willing to perform the role of angel if we see someone else starting to wander? That's grace. Love will show us how.

Section 1: Love for God leads to obedience to God
Although the early Hebrews believed animal sacrifices to be the highest sense of how to honor God and ask forgiveness for sins, Love was leading them to a more expansive view. The first step was to instruct them (through Moses) that they could trust that God was caring for them and they didn't need to continually offer sacrifices. Once a year Aaron, Moses' older brother and chief priest, was to come into the innermost part of the tabernacle (the holy place behind the veil) and make a sacrifice that would bring forgiveness (and restore a right relationship with God) for the other priests and all the other people. To me, the most important line in this story is: "And he did as the Lord commanded Moses." (B-1) Aaron didn't second guess, or argue that things should continue in the way it had always been done. He listened (even to his younger brother) and obeyed. As thought progressed, and understanding of God grew, more enlightenment on the subject came. Samuel recognized that listening to and obeying God was way more important than the outward action of sacrificing a ram. Obedience requires sacrificing of self - of human will - and trusting God's constancy. Mrs. Eddy discerned this relationship between obedience, love, and understanding. She says we will obey and adore in proportion as we love God understandingly. Then, we won't battle at the material level (worrying about the outward appearance of things,) but will rather rejoice in the richness of God -- that can do all things. (S-1) We'll no longer think of God as a judgmental God, from whom we have to earn love or to whose heart we have to worm our way in. It is impossible to be separated from God -- except in the false beliefs of the human mind. (S-2) Viewing a perfect reflection in a still pond, there is no division. The reflection is perfectly aligned -- perfectly obedient -- to the original. Similarly, as thought is still -- as we "rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated from God" -- we will experience the atonement that exemplifies our "unity with God, whereby [we] reflect divine Truth, Life, and Love." (S-5 & S-6) No division -- just the unity of Love!
 
Section 2: The role of grace in overcoming temptation and demonstrating oneness with God.
John the Baptist was quick to say that he was not the long-awaited Christ. But, he was also quick to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. (B-3)  Humbly baptizing him, John witnessed, along with the others around, the voice identifying Jesus as God's "beloved son." This pronouncement, however, did not relieve Jesus of having to face the same temptations that we all face from time to time. Jesus was immediately "driven into the wilderness." And, right there with the "wild beasts" and the temptations "of Satan" were the angels -- ministering to him. Jesus proved for himself what he would later preach.... "the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  He understood what it means to repent -- to shift thought from the temptations of Satan to the ministry of the angels -- and so could freely encourage others to do the same. (B-4)  As Paul later wrote to the Hebrews, Jesus experienced the grace of God -- emerging from temptation without sin -- and in turn showed others to find such grace in their time of need. (B-6) As Mrs. Eddy says, Jesus was "tempted in all points." (S-8) But, he faced down those temptations (of sin, disease, and death) and, in mercy to mortals, showed others (that's us) how to act "boldly" and face them down, too. We have to do the work, as he did -- but we have everything we need to do it. (S-7, S-8, & S-11) And, it's not a burden -- because Jesus demonstrated for us God's grace (the divine influence upon the heart and it's reflection in the life - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.)  Mrs. Eddy gives clear instruction as to how to emerge unscathed from all temptation -- understand, claim, and accept only ONE Mind (God, good) and recognize that the suppositional opposite of this Mind (devil or evil) has no power, intelligence, or reality at all!  (S-9) Recognizing our oneness with Mind, Love, we're safe.
 
Section 3: Christ's purpose
Jesus' mission was to turn thought to God -- "to call sinners to repentance." (B-8) Jesus spoke through parables to the people, assuring them that God seeks out and rejoices over those who are "lost" as a shepherd seeks out the lost sheep. (B-9)  But, lest we are tempted to indulge in the "older brother" complex and resent the idea of the shepherd leaving the 99 righteous sheep in the wilderness, let's remember the second part of Mrs. Eddy's definition of wilderness: "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence." [SH, 597]  Even though the shepherd is not physically present, those 99 sheep (and every righteous thought) is safe -- as the ever-presence of God, and the oneness of God and His creation is unfolded. The purpose of Christ, Truth, as demonstrated by Jesus has always been to reconcile man to God, by revealing a higher view than the mortal thought-model allows. (S-12 & S-13) Although God and man can never truly be separated, human thought has a tendency to yield to temptation and turn away from God. Just as we may lose sight of a friend (who is right with us) if we turn our back and let our thought drift elsewhere, we may lose sight of being in the presence of God if we turn away from Him.  But, if we truly love being with that friend, we wouldn't turn our back on him or her, would we -- or let our thought drift? And so, "Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love." (S-14) If we truly love God and our fellow man, we won't turn our back on either.  Rather, through "practical repentance," we will see a reformation of heart (our innermost feelings) as evidenced in a change of speech and action. Then we will stay face-to-face (at-one) with God. As a foundation of our work, we can lean on the "doctrine of Christian Science." (S-15, p. 304) It is true that the "perfect man" of God's creating -- governed by God -- is "sinless and eternal."  But this fact needs to be lived.  Christ enables us to hold to the perfect model and not turn away from it -- demonstrating our at-one-ment with God-good.

Section 4: Rise into newness of life -- restored and whole -- without delay
I love the tie-in of the 4th Tenet [S-16] with the pool of Bethesda story [B-10] in this section.  Jesus' love was so pure that it immediately affected a shift in thought for the man -- from being a dependent victim to being an independent victor. The excuses were silenced, and the man responded to Jesus' love by obediently rising and walking away ­­ healed. When Jesus found the formerly-impotent man in the temple later, he must have sensed that the man needed to make further adjustments in his thought and activities. Out of love, he encouraged him to do so. (B10) Just as Jesus restored the man at the pool, so we are "saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love." Love unfolds "man's unity with God." As a result, the sick are healed and sin and death are overcome. (S-16) In citation S-17 Mrs. Eddy also specifies that it was Jesus' understanding of the "nothingness of material life and intelligence and the mighty actuality of all-inclusive God, good" that "armed" Jesus with Love. [**See Warren's P.P.S.]  Jesus did his work to show us what is possible. With practice we can follow his example and expect to see and experience similar results. (S-18) We can't afford to sit by the pool and wait for someone else to do the work. The real man is "linked by Science" (by practical Truth) to God. I like to think of a chain-linked fence... each link an integral part of the integrity of the whole fence. How do we demonstrate this linkage -- this unity? By turning away from sin (the belief of separation from God) and a false, limited (mortal) sense of self, we find Christ -- the divine sonship -- the unity of the real man and God.
 
Section 5: The necessity of the cross
Jesus selflessly demonstrated his love for both God and his fellow man by allowing himself to be killed in order to offer "proof of immortal life" through his resurrection. (S-22)  It's easy to understand how hard it would be for those who hadn't witnessed these events to believe that it had actually happened.  Some simply couldn't accept the concept of resurrection. Paul's mission was to humbly (and obediently) share with the Gentiles the good news of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and of those who had witnessed it. Although John had prepared thought for the coming of the Messiah by baptizing them with water, that wasn't good enough anymore. To understand the significance of Jesus' life and especially his sacrifice on the cross required a willingness to turn from old beliefs and be open to a whole new way of thinking.  Paul certainly understood this type of transformation! (B-12) Paul's mission was to let everyone see that resurrection is not only possible, but that Jesus' experience was a promise of what is to come for everyone. Life does not end! (B-14)  I found this explanation of "firstfruits" helpful:  Literally, it refers to the first portion of the harvest that is given to God. Firstfruits were: (1) the first to come in time; (2) a pledge or hope of the greater harvest to follow; and (3) specially dedicated to God. Jesus was the first to rise in resurrection, but the promise is that all who trust in him will also rise. (http://www.delusionresistance.org/christian/firstfruits.html) In working to convey his message, Paul understood, as we must, that preaching the gospel is more than words. (B-13) It involves living in accord with those words.  The message of at-one-ment needs to be demonstrated -- as Jesus demonstrated it, as the disciples and Paul demonstrated it, and as Christian Science teaches us to demonstrate it. We are grateful for Jesus' example as we accept the cross-experiences that come to us -- as we fearlessly face the trials -- knowing that we will be redeemed (saved or compensated) through the same Love that saved Jesus. (S-24)  We read in I Cor. 15 that "Christ died for our sins ..." (B-14) That can be a tough one to understand and explain from a Christian Science perspective (at least it has been for me.) Mrs. Eddy speaks about the "purpose of crucifixion" on page 24 of the textbook. In part, she talks about "the practical affection and goodness it demonstrated for mankind." (S-21) Are we willing to make a sacrifice of our own comfort for the welfare of others, which will ultimately bless us, too? Thinking about sin as the belief of separation (or turning away) from God, what better way to destroy sin than to show by example the rewards of putting full, unwavering faith in God's deliverance -- as Jesus did on the cross? "We must have trials and self-denials, as well as joys and victories, until all error is destroyed." (S-25) Following Jesus' example of love, let's support each other in this effort to trust and lean on our at-one-ment with God.

Section 6: Run the race with patience and joy -- HEAL!
We continue with Paul's message to the Hebrews [in citation B-15] and the Romans [in B-16] and can take it to heart as if it were being spoken directly to us today. It is just as relevant. We have a race to run, but it's not a race with a finish line. We run it for the joy of running and for all the wonderful victories along the way. The objective? To not ignore any form or error that crosses our path -- big or little.  To not let any form of error allow us to "be turned out of the way" [or detoured, but "rather be healed." To heal (or to correct thought) view "the scientific unity which exists between God and man" until the situation aligns with that standard of at-one-ment which Jesus illustrated so completely and selflessly. (B-14, B-15, S-28) I love how Mrs. Eddy makes healing a moment-by-moment thing.  I find working to answer these questions is a great way to be sure I'm on the right track: is Truth overcoming error in my "daily walk and conversation"?; and, am I striving to enter in to the consciousness of Love, turning away from material sense and looking towards the "imperishable things of Spirit?" (See S-29, p. 21)  The "name" or size of the error is irrelevant.  Just taking it step-by-step*, we can rest assured that Love will lead us, care for us, and raise us up to feel our at-one-ment with God.  That's all there is!
 

[*Warren's P.S. "step by step, since time began, we see the steady gain of man." (Hymn 238) "Step by step will those who trust Him find that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'" (SH, 444, see whole 2nd paragraph about God guiding "into the right use of temporary and eternal means")  Instead of demanding a 5-year plan, we can follow the Biblical, oil lamp model and trust God to show us just the very next step that we need to take. To make sure we never run out of oil, we can daily "Drill, baby, drill"... tapping into our divine, inexhaustible supply of "OIL: Consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration" (SH 592) As we make sure that our lives are aflame these elements of our oneness with God, we will never take a misstep and will go about our daily work and walk as confidently and freely as "Jesus... the most scientific man that ever trod the globe". (SH, 313:23]
 
[**Warren's P.P.S. on the cardinals (not the St. Louis Cardinals who are still in the World Series Playoffs, but on "the two cardinal points of Mind-healing") in Section 4 (S-17, p. 52): This citation can be a good prep for Halloween month, even for teens and adults. Every hour unreal illusions come, in all kinds of convincing-looking disguises, knocking on the door of thought to TRICK us into believing in the presence and power of evil.  On Halloween, you always know the game being played and so are not fooled, no matter how outlandishly ugly (or beautiful) the costumes are.  Throughout the rest of this month and year, be just as aware that you are always at-one with all powerful Good and that evil is ALWAYS an unreal illusion.  However it comes masked to TRICK you, give it a solid Christian Science TREATment!  Remember that every good C.S. treatment includes BOTH of "the two cardinal points of . . . Christian Science . . . the nothingness of material life and intelligence and the mighty actuality of all-inclusive God, good." (S-17, S&H 52:19)]
 
[If you couldn't come to CedarS for either the College Summit weekend or the Midwest Bible Conference, you can STILL come to CedarS this fall (Oct. 16-20), if you are a C.E.O. wishing to lead your company in more democratic ways based upon principles successfully practiced by WorldBlu Founder and Principia College graduate Traci Fenton.  Click here to communicate with Traci about BluCamp or here to find out more and to enroll today to become one of  potential participants. (URL: http://www.worldblu.com/blucamp/ )]
 
[Camp Director's Note: This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 11-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "Mets" (Metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  (Ask and look for "Possible Sunday School Topics "and "Possible Younger Class Lessons" in subsequent emails.) These weekly offerings are intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets "and Sunday School ideas are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension and background as well as new angles (and angels) on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson.com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e.B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "Met" (Metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-30). The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.]
 
[Thanks for sending to the address below your appreciated & still needed gift to help support summer & fall programs that nurture the spiritual growth of Christian Science youth:
CedarS Camps, 19772 Sugar Drive, Lebanon, MO 65536
or call us at 417-532-6699]

[PYCL:  "Go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him."]
CedarS PYCLs--Possible Younger Class Lessons for:  
"
Doctrine of Atonement?"
The Christian Science Bible Lesson for Oct. 14, 2012
by Kerry Jenkins, CS, House Springs, MO (314) 406-0041 [Bracketed inserts by Warren Huff]
 
[PYCL: Be like a child: "go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him"]
It's awesome that kids come free of doctrine, dogma or tradition.  This is stuff we develop over years of experience, and often our actions are based on dogma or rules instead of a living and vital purpose.  This is not to say that kids do all things with a purpose, for sure!  But it would seem that much of their activities and play springs from their natural energy and need to express it physically, mentally, vocally, their need to tell a story in words and play, their love of physical movement or expression for the sake of just doing it.  In other words they aren't trying to follow some rule about how they should develop, or what they are supposed to be doing at some age, they are doing what comes naturally to them under the best circumstances.   This week's subject is a reminder to keep uppermost in thought the reason that Jesus appeared to man as he did.  We are reminded in this lesson that he helped us see that the only seeming barrier between us and God is materialistic thinking, materialistic views of man and life.  He helped us see that we can "...go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him." (R.R)  This is a beautifully poetic rendering of what children, in their highest form, do naturally.  And aren't we all children? [And aren't we also "the sheep of his pasture" (Ps. 100:3) with "sincere hearts trusting him". We should trust our Shepherd's promises and commands so much that we will come together to charge any wolves in our midst as sheep do as cited in A Song of Our Syrian Guest.  CedarS has borrowed sheep from neighbors when they are referenced in the lesson.  When we do we educate campers and staff in how trusting and brave normally-apprehensive sheep can be as told by a Syrian shepherd in the free download of the book: A Song of Our Syrian Guest, by William Allen Knight.]
 
[PYCL: Let's talk about how to: be close to God; stop materializing worship; list barriers to break- see B10]
Since the kids won't naturally relate to the need for our lives, our sense of church, our approach to God and our understanding of Christian Science to be free from theological dogma, we can look at this lesson from a slightly different angle and still address the importance of this subject!  You may not need to talk about the theological roots of this subject with the kids, it depends on the age of the class you have.  But if they are old enough, you can discuss the importance of keeping our worship pure and straight to God.  With the youngest let's talk about how we can be close to God.  Look at the story of the man by the pool in the 4th section (B10).  What did he think was preventing him from getting healed for these 35 years?  Essentially he thought that God put him in a situation where healing was out of reach for a man in his circumstance. There would always be someone quicker, someone with more help or support, someone more loved that would get to the water first right?  And he really thought that God was doing this because it was God's angels that "troubled the water" and made it somehow contain healing.  So not only could he not get to this healing water in time, but the water itself was a source of healing to him and to many others.  Isn't this a form of materializing worship?  Would God put healing power into matter? Jesus completely erased all these mistaken views by healing the man through an understanding of God as Love.  How do we do what this man did today?  Wasn't the water then, and his lack of ability to get to it, a barrier between himself and God?  Talk about how we often create barriers in our thought that prevent us from feeling close to God.  Can you make a simple list of common ones?  How did Jesus break these barriers?
 
[PYCL: Build walls with hymnals and then take each barrier down with spiritual thoughts & healings.]
With the littler ones try talking about how matter builds walls between us and God.  Use blocks or hymnals to build a wall each time you come up with something that blocks God's thoughts from reaching us.  Now take at least twice the time to take this barrier down with spiritual thoughts that remove each obstacle that we just put up.  Remember healings!  This lesson reminds us that demonstration is how we understand and feel close to God.  Certainly this is what Jesus did to show us our oneness right?  Make sure they get to "build" and take apart the wall, one block at a time (not violently:-).  This is something that you can do verbally with older kids who may not need things to busy their hands with while in class.  Why did Jesus say to the man "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."?  This is followed by citation B11 where we are reminded that we can be made new in Christ.  Since repentance of sin involves rethinking our sense of who we are, a new sense of self, and purity (freedom from materialistic thought) is how we approach God, then giving up sin makes us a new person, a Christ-like person.  And we aren't susceptible to looking to matter for solutions that are with God.  
 
[PYCL: List ways that we show our unity with God as a living presence in our lives, rather than a dogma.]
While kids may not know what the "ordinary theological views of atonement" (S4) are, they can be introduced to what Mrs. Eddy's view of atonement is.  In citation S5 she makes it clear that it is the way we show our unity with God, the way we show our God-likeness!  Talk about how this view of atonement is active in our day to day lives.  Can you come up with a list of ways that atonement is a living presence in our lives, rather than a dogma  or theological detail?  I hadn't ever thought about atonement exactly like this.  It would show how our religion is a living religion. Never a bad thing!  We have to go beyond just believing, either in God, or in Christian Science. (S3)  
 
[PYCL: Sacrifice to feel new closeness to God -"daily good to do... an offering pure of Love..." Hymn 253]
Along these lines, the GT, RR and the first sections address the traditional idea of sacrifice and the "new" sense of this word.  You can discuss what sacrifice was, it's purpose.  Make sure you see it in a charitable light when thinking of its origins.  It was a way to give up materially valuable things to indicate your love for God.  What happened over the years and why?  What happens every time we lose sight of the spiritual motive behind what we do?  How can this destroy church (obviously a question for the older ones)? Sacrifice can be seen as the need to be always new, always renewing our sense of self, moving farther and farther from a limited sense of self in matter with its barriers to feeling our unity with God!
 
[PYCL Section 6:  Talk about the race we're in & the need to take up challenges of pain, frustration, fatigue..]
Finally, you could certainly look at the 6th section with its athletic references and talk about the race that we all are in.  What kind of a race are we running?  Is it dependent on our physical prowess? What does a race or competition require of us?  Is it ever easy?  Is it ever without challenge or sometimes even the suggestion of pain, frustration, fatigue, etc?  This is where we must make an effort to demonstrate these spiritual qualities that we talk about through being always kind, seeking opportunity to bless others and to heal. This is how we demonstrate our unity or oneness with God.  Citations S27-29 really drives home the point that we must strive to make our life practice the expression of our understanding of what Jesus showed us.  I think we can really dwell a minute with the kids on the fact that in any endeavor for success in some area, sport, academic, artistic, we are required to take up a significant challenge.  In this way we show our gratitude practically for Jesus and for God in our life today.  And in this way we find great joy and satisfaction (why we play sports, etc. to begin with!)
 
Have an awesome Sunday.

[PSST: Live the Sweet, Burden-free Promises of Atonement!- see 6th s.]
Possible Sunday School Topics for the Christian Science Bible Lesson
October 14, 2012
By: Heather K. Libbe, CS [mailto:heather.libbe@gmail.com]
 
Subject - DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT
 
Hopefully the following questions and ideas will spark some fruitful conversation in your classes, though I wouldn't want to "spare you your individual experience" (S24) in preparing for Sunday morning!
 
As always, this week's Bible Lesson is rich with Possible Sunday School Topics!
First, though, it might help to talk with your students about this week's subject: Doctrine of Atonement. What do you think of when you see the word "atonement?" Have you ever had an experience where you feel at one with God? What do you think about when you see the word "doctrine?" What are some doctrines with which you are familiar? Does the word "doctrine" always have the most positive connotations? What might the phrase "doctrine of atonement" mean? This doctrine might have slightly less negative connotations than other religious doctrines!
 
Golden Text (Hebrews 7:19 the)  
How do we "draw nigh" unto God?
 
Responsive Reading (Hebrews 10:1, 4, 5, 9, 15-17 the, 22 (to 1st.), 23, 24)
Much of this week's Responsive Reading alludes to the sacrifices that we learn about in the Old Testament. This could be a really neat opportunity to talk about sacrifices (especially if you have mostly boys in your Sunday school class) and how sacrifices were made back in biblical times (ie. by killing your most beloved kid in your herd and offering it to the Lord) as compared to the types of sacrifices we might be making today. We read, "For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4) - why not?
 
The Responsive Reading also alludes to the idea that what stems from the "law of Moses" (Hebrew 10:1) is only a preview of what was to come. This could also be a neat opportunity to point out some differences between the Old and the New Testament. For example, the Jews were very bound to abiding by the laws of the times, many of which can be found in Leviticus, whereas Jesus specifically addresses these laws on several different occasions throughout his ministry like when he says, "Take no thought for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink..." (Matthew 6:25).
 
The "new covenant" is spoken about in Hebrews 10:16 and the question could be asked of your students: Have you ever felt like you have had the law of God in your heart? Which laws does Jesus talk about as being the two most important laws, as opposed to the 613 commandments that the Hebrews had to abide by? (Love God and love your neighbor as yourself) Do you hold these two laws in your heart? What might it mean to have a "sincere heart?" (Hebrews 10:22) Finally, ask your students: what "acts of love" and "good works" have you done this week? How can we motivate and encourage each other? What additional "acts of Love" and "good works" might you be able to do for those around you?
 
PSST for Section 1
The Israelites were expected to atone for their sins once per year. (B1) However, also mentioned is that obeying is God is more important than making sacrifices. (B2)  How does Mrs. Eddy define atonement? (S5) What does it mean to worship spiritually, as opposed to worshiping materially? What are some biblical examples of both?
 
The citations from Science & Health speak about how false notions that have "originated in the human mind" (S2) and "ordinary theological views" (S3) will both be fading away.  What are some of these false notions and ordinary theological views?  What standpoint do we come from as Christian Scientists? What is Truth - a belief in separation from God or an acknowledgment of our Oneness?  What does Mrs. Eddy say is "the great point of departure for all true spiritual growth?" (S6)
 
Something I have found helpful, in addition to thinking about the archery term that means "missing the mark," is to think of sin as any belief in separation from God.  Sometimes we tend to gloss over how much Mrs. Eddy talks about healing sin, as we can be more eager to be healed of our physical challenges.  However, Mrs. Eddy talks a LOT about overcoming/healing sin throughout her writings, which is very relevant to this week's Lesson on atonement.  As we rid ourselves of the belief in sin (i.e. work to "rid ourselves of the belief that man is separated from God" (S6)), we can't help but grow spiritually.
 
As mentioned in citation S3, it is important that we are DEMOSNTRATING what we are learning in our study of Christian Science, instead of just believing it.  This could spark a really lively conversation about what it means to demonstrate and how we're able to do this knowing the laws of God. In Rudimental Divine Science, Mrs. Eddy defines Christian Science as, "As the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony." (p. 1)
 
 
PSST for Section 2
Jesus was considered to be the "Lamb of God," or the ultimate sacrifice. Distinctions between Old and New Testament theology may be found in this section.  For example, we read, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (B3)  How do these ideas relate to what Mrs. Eddy says about Jesus in this section?  What did Jesus teach us?  Again, notice the idea of oneness.  How did he do this?  By "acting boldly against the accredited evidence of the senses, again Pharisaical creeds and practices..." (S7)  What does this mean?  How can we act boldly ourselves, as Jesus wasn't doing all the work for us?  What were some of the "Pharisaical creeds and practices" that Jesus was refuting? (See Leviticus J)  How do we "come boldly unto the throne of grace" and how is grace weaved into the citations in these sections? (B6)
 
The story mentioned about Jesus being baptized, called God's beloved son and then immediately being driven into the wilderness creates some great opportunities to talk about what it means to "be in the wilderness."  How does Mrs. Eddy define wilderness?  [S&H p. 597] What type of "wilderness experiences" did she have throughout her lifetime?  Where else is the wilderness mentioned in the Bible? (example: the Israelites wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Land of Cana)  What types of wandering, tempting wilderness experiences have your students endured?  Notice that Psalms 23 says we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, not camping out there!  How are we being guided through the wilderness like Jesus was?  Notice we are told "the angels ministered unto him." (B4)  This could be a great opportunity to talk about angels and what it means to be ministered unto by God's angels, by the spiritual intuitions that are always there to guide us.
 
 
PSST for Section 3
What does it mean to "call the sinners to repentance?"  Who are these sinners? What does it mean to sin?  How is the idea of sin related to the concept of being a lost sheep?  Which parable connects to this idea of being a lost sheep?  Does the shepherd just forget about that sheep or does he go to find the sheep?
 
When I used to read this parable, I found myself often becoming frustrated because I wondered why the 99 were being deserted when they were well-behaved.  However, I had a friend share with me once that, in speaking to an international student from Africa who was a shepherd, each sheep is so precious to the shepherd.  In fact, their livelihood depends on caring for these sheep, as each of these sheep is important to bringing in income for the family.  Therefore, the shepherd will put great effort into bringing back a lost sheep.  She also shared that, when a group of sheep are together, they generally will not leave the flock, for fear of being separated from the others and the shepherd.  So, the sheep will actually do just fine if left alone together.  When a sheep discovers that it is lost, it literally will not move out of fear.  So, the shepherd has to go to that sheep, pick it up and carry it back.  How beautiful, then, becomes the image of the shepherd laying the sheep on his shoulders to bring him back to the herd! (B9)  Again, the shepherd rejoices when he finds this sheep because he loves the sheep so much.
 
How does this story relate to us and who is our real Shepherd?  Isn't that so dear that God makes great efforts to bring us back to the flock when we are lost?  Who is doing the finding?  Is it the other sheep's responsibility to go out and find the lost sheep or is that the job of the shepherd?  Does the shepherd ever put one of his sheep in charge of the flock?
 
Another approach you could take in discussing this section is talking about what it means to "reconcile man to God, not God to man?" (S13)  At a Wednesday evening testimony meeting, a church member shared some insight to this when she caught herself saying, "But, you don't understand how much I am suffering." Immediately she heard, "Are you My image and likeness or am I yours?" which brought about quick healing!  Later we read that Jesus was able to reconcile man to God by "giving man a truer sense of Love..." (S14)
 
 
PSST for Section 4
More sheep!  Well, at least the next bible story takes place by the sheep market at the pool of Bethesda.  In this story, Jesus does not give into any obstacles to healing that are presented, whether that be how long the man has been in this condition, the fact that he does not have anyone to put him in the pool or the man's unbelief.  Notice the order of the commands Jesus puts forth: "Rise.... take up thy bed... and walk" (B10)  He doesn't say, clean up all your stuff, get up and let's go.  I've always enjoyed thinking about how this relates to our own healings.  How often do we find ourselves trying to take care of our to-do list before stopping to acknowledge our oneness with God, listen to our Father's command and spiritualize consciousness?  Doing so is how healing results!
 
So, how does this story relate to II Corinthians 5 (B11) and the citations from Science & Health?  How do these ideas relate to our own experience?  A friend of mine has several signs up around his home that say, "Go and do likewise."  What a great reminder!  One fun activity that you could do with your class would be to create some of these signs as a reminder to be demonstrating what they are learning in both Sunday School and their own study of Christian Science.  This might also be a great opportunity to talk about TMCYouth's ecumenical project called Radical Acts.
 
Again, we see the idea of reconciliation and how Jesus helps reconcile us to God.  This is consistent with what we find in the included [4th and longest] Tenet. (S16)  What more do we learn about atonement?  How might this relate to our "doctrine of atonement" as Christian Scientists?  This could be a great opportunity to talk about some of the other Tenets directly related to Jesus with which people might be slightly less familiar.  It also could be a great opportunity to review what Mrs. Eddy says are the "two cardinal points of Mind-healing." (S17)  How does these related to atonement and a new understanding of sin as any belief in separation from God?
 
 
PSST for Section 5
"Great peace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." (B12)  What a lovely thought!
 
I found that the citations in Section 5 really tied together some of the ideas mentioned in the Lesson, though it might be helpful to start by talking a little bit about the crucifixion.  What does the crucifixion symbolize?  How does the crucifixion of Jesus connect with the idea of sin to other theologies? (S21)  Why do you think Jesus went through the crucifixion process when he could have either separated himself from those considered his enemies or just ascended in the first place? (S22)  Are we totally "let off the hook" by the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus?  Mrs. Eddy says, "We must have trials and self-denials, as well as joys and victories, until all error is destroyed." (S25)  What needs to be crucified in our experience?
 
Again, you can return to the topic of sin.  What is the opposite of atonement?  Believe in separation.  Fortunately, Mrs. Eddy states that, "The belief that man has existence or mind separate from God is a dying error." (S23)  How promising!  What else does Mrs. Eddy say will be fading out?  (S2 & S4)  Why might this be the case?
 
 
PSST for Section 6
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." (B15)  What does this mean? What might we do with our burdens?  Perhaps we could give them to God.  How might do so?  What enables us to do so?
 
I've found that any sense of burden I might be feeling stems from the idea that I might somehow have to be completing all my tasks on my own.  This is overwhelming.  This is sin.  What does it mean, though, to go about our work with patience?  Are you humbled as it is suggested that we look to all that Jesus did ("Since Jesus must have been tempted in all points, he, the immaculate, met and conquered sin in every form" (S8)) if we're ever feeling like we've got a lot on our plate.  This can be a very familiar feeling to Sunday school students, in middle school, high school and college.
 
Talking again about the importance of demonstration, the following might be highlighted: "The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God's will must be universally done." (S28)  How do we practice the unity between God and man?  How do we work to overcome sin?  I found that Mrs. Eddy's definition of a ‘good day' might be along the lines of seeing Truth "overcoming error in your daily walk and conversation." (S29)  What an awesome way we can be demonstrating atonement!  And, spiritual growth is inevitable as we work to acknowledgment our oneness with God!
 

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