Most Christians will say that the Sermon on the Mount is among their favorite Scriptures, but how many of us actually practice what it preaches? Taken verse by verse, the Sermon on the Mount contains some of Christ Jesus' strictest (read: toughest) teachings. For example, he says, "And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matthew 5:40-42
I think Jesus asks something pretty extraordinary. He asks that we practice a Christianity where our personal losses can be a gain. It is a charity – a level of love that puts the needs of others above our own. Give, love, share, think of others. Do more than they ask, give more than they think they need or want. He says we need to do this. To enjoy giving to others. No self-justification, no feelings of injustice. No ME ME ME in our prayers and giving and doing.
Sound hard? The Sermon on the Mount does raise the bar very high. These lessons aren’t always easy to hear. They certainly aren’t always easy to practice. But how much do we want to be able to heal? How much do we really want to change the world? To be a blessing to others?
A man once told Jesus that he had followed the Ten Commandments since a child, but he wanted to know what more he needed to do to obtain eternal life. Matthew says, "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:21-22
His problem was not too much stuff. His problem was too much love for his stuff. More love for his stuff than for his own life. Think about it. Releasing materiality he would gain eternal life. Doesn't that sort of indicate that holding onto materiality is certain death? Like a death to freedom, death to joy, death to spiritual progress, death to stress-free, unburdened life?
Materiality - the ME ME ME, MINE MINE MINE - has got to go if we want to progress.
One day when I was 18, I read in Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “A great sacrifice of material things must precede this advanced spiritual understanding.”
I thought, “But I want to get married! I want a house, a nice car, a good life!” Then, I realized that this was a demand was for a sacrifice of material things - that which could be destroyed, that isn’t fixed or permanent. I realized that I would always have in my life whatever expressed the bounty of God and that supported my practice of prayer and healing – that which is permanent and spiritual.
I remembered this each time I bought a house or car, or even with each marriage. I would ask myself, "Is this just another thing I want? Or does this house or relationship support my spirituality and give me opportunities to serve God and to express good?"
If I could answer yes to the second question, I knew there was no risk of loss. Change and progress, yes. But loss, no.
In fact, husbands, wives, homes, bank accounts, transportation can be an expression of God's provision and care. We can put the arms of prayer around all the elements of good that supports spiritual progress in our lives. But stockpiling material things for one's personal, exclusive benefit is a deadly form of materialism.
One of the "Radical Acts" challenges on Time4thinkers.com is: Sell what you have and give to the poor. One commenter who is striving to put this challenge into practice wrote, "I realized that it wasn’t enough to just sell the stuff that I don’t really care about anymore. But that I needed to sell those things that I still feel have value and worth." Thanks for that, Kate.
I thought of my basement packed to the ceiling with boxes of the last treasures I didn't want to part with after our move - things of value, things I still love. Inspiration blew through me like a cool summer breeze. "Let it all go. Give it all to others who need it."
So I have started distributing. My goal this summer is to empty the basement of everything except the Christmas decor.
Whoa. This is big. And it feels just right.
Gertrude Stein wrote in her book Everybody's Autobiography (1937), "It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing."
I must say I do agree. At least it can look that way to an observer. And it often feels that way to the one going through the process of sitting, thinking, squirming, waiting, wondering, gazing out the window, staring at the wall, clipping fingernails, thinking... all the while waiting for some outward sign of forward movement.
Oh, how many times have I experienced just that. Each time I think I will discover some new way to circumvent the process. And then, here we go again.
A couple of years ago, I was in the middle of what looked and felt like a "doing nothing" patch. I had been staring at the walls for a decent chunk of time as January dragged into February. When it looked like February might pass into March without much to say for it, I reached out to a Christian Science practitioner for help.
Christian Science practitioners (like me) pray for people to help them out of stuck places in their lives. I wasn't sure what I was looking for from this prayer, other than the ability to trust that all this quiet, and thinking, and sitting, and doing nothing but scrutinize my white walls, was OK... And to know that I wasn't nuts. Because, frankly, I wondered what was wrong with me that nothing seemed to be going on in my life.
So she prayed for me until I saw the reinforcing power that develops in deep periods of quiet. I would describe what I saw this way:
Think of the formation of a wave. A wave develops well under the surface on the ocean floor. The current (think undertow, when it happens near the shore) pulls back, and finally pushes up, propelling the water forward with amazing force. We glory in the beauty of the activity on the surface, not always recognizing the invisible, silent, essential build-up of strength that precedes it.
I turn to Mary Baker Eddy for a clear description of the metaphysics of this wave development. She wrote, "Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 323)
No matter what it looks like on the surface, something powerful is happening.
I have been a pusher all my life. But I love to think now of these strength-yielding pauses. I believe it is absolutely essential to allow oneself the mental space - white wall space - to pause, to be - to think and wonder and even squirm (!), - as one waits on the onward push of God, omniactive good.
Its not really a time thing. I have had pauses that last but a second before the next breakers of inspiration jettison me forward onto the shore of some new adventure or activity. Others have been long. Really long. What looked, up close, to be a two month pause a couple of years ago, was really the last momentum-gathering undertow at the end of a six year deep-think pause. But the force of that build-up has carried me through some of my most productive and interesting years yet.
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_Moving from a 2000 square foot (186 m2) home in New Jersey, USA to a 700 square foot (65 m2) apartment in France wasn't so tricky. I left pretty much everything behind. And in doing so, I discovered that all those lovely appliances I thought I couldn't live without (which all had the wrong plugs anyway) could be replaced by a big spoon and a sharp knife.
Now, almost seven years later, I am dealing with all that stuff I apparently don't need as I empty my house to get it ready for sale.
Funny thing though. While logic says I don't need these things, I am having to deal with an emotional argument that says "I want them!"
But do I really? What is this tendency to hang on to stuff that no longer fits in one's life?
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no