Love and Sloth

December 5, 2002

We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things.

Science and Health, by Mary Baker Eddy

This was our last meeting juxtaposing deific synonym and deadly sin. Love and Sloth. The comic potential was great but somehow we skirted it to land on some serious conclusions.

Initially most of us thought sloth had to do with messy apartments and unkempt hair. You can imagine our relief to find that theologians like Aquinas saw it as spiritual negligence. Evagrios thought of it as hatred for one's everyday environment and activities when compared with imaginary possibilities. It could lead one to drop out of the spiritual fight.

As for Love, one member said it's the active life-force gong out to engage others. Another added we need Love as our motivating power in order to do anything well. Otherwise, activity becomes about doing something by rote or with a sense of obligation or simply because others are doing it.

Love in Science is seeing oneself and others as divine idea, the image of God. What greater gift could we give than that?

Our readings included the parable of the ten virgins as examples of spiritual dedication and sloth. Also we had descriptions of a couple of Jesus' interactions with Martha and Mary, who show different approaches to spiritual action.

The member who drew our attention to the stories pointed out that before Jesus raised Lazarus, he communicated with both sisters. First, he had quite an intense metaphysical exchange with Martha. Then he communed almost wordlessly with Mary at a deeper emotional, even gut-wrenching level. Several members felt these two complementary approaches were probably both required in such serious circumstances and track Mrs. Eddy's comments on Michael and Gabriel (see the readings from Science and Health, p. 566).

The Love versus sloth issue for us, whether we're following the Martha-Michael model or the Mary-Gabriel approach — or both, is that we not drift along with the general dualistic consensus, based on what our senses are saying and how our political or psychological tendencies are interpreting. The Science of Love or "non-sloth" requires us to evaluate and live all happenings and even musings inspirationally as Spirit.

Here are some happenings and musings that came up this week.

1) One member described his work on world problems (e.g., anti-LGBT rumblings in the new federal government line up; AIDS; Iraq; and terrorism). He prayed to see we don't live in matter or dualism, where good-evil abound, but in Spirit where good alone constitutes all being. In order to break the belief in powerful wicked personalities he recalled a "Christian Science koan" that came up in our group several years ago: "Let this Mind be in us which was also in Adolph Hitler." He added at this meeting, "Or Saddam Hussein or Trent Lott or Rick Santorum or me!" He said if we're recognizing one Mind or God alone, then we're living the First Commandment which heals.

2) Another member told of research he's pulling together for a book to address the problem of troubled kids attempting to make a life for themselves. He is able to draw on family experiences and the Christian Science that unfolded as various difficulties came up. We had an extended discussion of parenting techniques in the light of Science and referred to the prodigal son parable (see Luke 15: 11-32) as an example of a kid de-integrating from family entanglement to find through understanding — brought sometimes by suffering — his own true Father or place in the world.

3) Two members discussed how they felt their junk-laden apartments and lack of attention to grooming impacted their search for romance. They will help each other to confront this, while being sensitive to underlying "good reasons" (e.g., bad memories and early narcissistic wounds) for what may be protective dishevelment.

4) Our member whose beloved roommate passed away this year wanted to call the family of the departed one over the Thanksgiving holiday but was unable. He felt the sadness would be too much for him. In earlier times he might have handled this situation either by pushing forward with human will or perhaps by just forgetting the whole thing. This time, after talking to a practitioner he brought Christian Science to bear, getting a clear sense that no one had died in Truth, that there is but one Mind and that the Christ goes before us in prayerfully based activity. The call was wonderful and loving. There was some sadness but one of his roommate's deeply religious relatives said she was sure he was now in heaven because of his many good works. Our member felt upheld and guided by the Christ before, during and after the call.

5) Two members successfully united their prayerful efforts to help an errant mouse in one of their apartments find another address.

6) One member attended a luncheon seminar on "Vertical and Horizontal Religions". The conclusion was that any religion which engages in missionary (i.e., horizontal) work needs to encourage its practitioners to stay closely in touch with its fundamental (i.e., vertical) beliefs. This applies to Christian Science today as it reaches out perhaps beyond demonstrated understanding. It certainly applies to all religions, healers and helpers who may become merely manipulative and fail to help others find their own true way. Gleaming surface claims cast a shadow.

Near the end of the meeting a member read us an extract from a book containing statements attributed to God. One had to do with good sex. This intrigued us as a topic but our attempts to embellish the word of God (for instance, "Sex As A Bridge To Spirituality", "Having Spiritual Sex", "Sex With An Unattractive Person") brought rounds of laughter. Finally we threw up our hands and returned to Good Sex.

The Bible

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

Jesus wept.

Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy

The error of the ages is preaching without practice.

The best sermon ever preached is Truth practised and demonstrated by the destruction of sin, sickness, and death.

Mentally and silently plead the case scientifically for Truth.

At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity.

The Old Testament assigns to the angels, God's divine messages, different offices. Michael's characteristic is spiritual strength. He leads the hosts of heaven against the power of sin, Satan, and fights the holy wars. Gabriel has the more quiet task of imparting a sense of the ever-presence of ministering Love.

Miscellaneous Writings, by Mary Baker Eddy

There is no excellence without labor; and the time to work, is now. Only by persistent, unremitting, straightforward toil; by turning neither to the right nor to the left, seeking no other pursuit or pleasure than that which cometh from God, can you win and wear the crown of the faithful.

First purify thought, then put thought into words, and words into deeds; and after much slipping and clambering, you will go up the scale of Science to the second rule, and be made ruler over many things. Fidelity finds its reward and its strength in exalted purpose. Seeking is not sufficient whereby to arrive at the results of Science: you must strive; and the glory of the strife comes of honesty and humility.

The parable of "the ten virgins" serves to illustrate the evil of inaction and delay. This parable is drawn from the sad history of Vesta,—a little girl of eight years, who takes the most solemn vow of celibacy for thirty years, and is subject to terrible torture if the lamp she tends is not replenished with oil day and night, so that the flame never expires. The moral of the parable is pointed, and the diction purely Oriental.

We learn from this parable that neither the cares of this world nor the so-called pleasures or pains of material sense are adequate to plead for the neglect of spiritual light, that must be tended to keep aglow the flame of devotion whereby to enter into the joy of divine Science demonstrated.

The foolish virgins had no oil in their lamps: their way was material; thus they were in doubt and darkness. They heeded not their sloth, their fading warmth of action; hence the steady decline of spiritual light, until, the midnight gloom upon them, they must borrow the better-tended lamps of the faithful. By entering the guest-chamber of Truth, and beholding the bridal of Life and Love, they would be wedded to a higher understanding of God. Each moment's fair expectancy was to behold the bridegroom, the One "altogether lovely."

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