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Easter renewal—showing us what we truly are

From the April 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

On the banks of Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau reflected, among other things, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (Walden, p. 8). Certainly there are punctuations of joy, and he recognized this, but I can see why Thoreau would have felt that way when considering the sum of man’s existence. A biblical writer put it this way: “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?… The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3, 9).

And yet, the writer of Ecclesiastes closed his book with a higher idea of man, and Mary Baker Eddy explained the passage like this: “This text in the book of Ecclesiastes conveys the Christian Science thought, especially when the word duty, which is not in the original, is omitted: ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’ In other words: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: love God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole of man in His image and likeness. Divine Love is infinite. Therefore all that really exists is in and of God, and manifests His love” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340).

That’s quite a contrast, to go from Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation” to man (meaning each person) declared to be wholly spiritual, the actual image and representative of God, divine Love. Man, as God’s spiritual expression, always has place and purpose, and would never be consigned to simply grinding out existence in some sort of rat race, never be doomed to failing health, nor stuck with a recipe for failure. The man and woman of God’s creating naturally reflect the joy, strength, and consciousness of purpose that are the attributes of God.

I had the opportunity to prove this recently, and I gained some new insights about past experiences at the same time. I was asked to participate in a project, and while I was grateful for the invitation and eagerly accepted, I quickly started to doubt my capacity to contribute effectively. I didn’t think I had anything valuable to give, and my delight in the project was quickly starting to sour. In the place of that initial joy, I felt purposeless.

We have the right to let Love love us.

The bleakness of that suggestion is actually what woke me up. When Thoreau’s statement about the desperation of men came glumly into my thought, I realized that, no matter what happened with this project, I had the right to take a stand for my God-given purpose. 

Christ Jesus made it explicitly clear that his mission, gospel, and entire life were not about himself or his own glory, but for the glory of his Father, God, and he expected his followers would live for God’s glory too. So if I wanted to find my own purpose, my capacity for giving, I needed to look to the same place Jesus always looked: to our heavenly Father-Mother, God.

I remembered a story in the Bible of two followers of Jesus walking to Emmaus after his crucifixion. They were saddened because they thought the wonderful new gospel message of Jesus had been cut short, and now they were left full of doubts. How often do we experience similar feelings? An inspiration strikes us, a healing happens, we do a lovely thing for someone, and we get carried on the glow of that for a while; but all too soon it seems to fade away, and we are left saddened by the departure of that inspiration and perhaps feel less sure of the permanence of good. It may even seem better to go quietly along, never really seeking that incredible sense of good, because it just hurts so much when things “go back to normal.” Isn’t that sentiment the crux of that feeling of desperation?

But then, in this Bible story, those two followers meet a stranger on the road. Astounded that he doesn’t know what’s happened, they tell the stranger about Jesus’ crucifixion. He then proceeds to show them in the Scriptures all the prophecies confirming his mission, awakening them to the depth and breadth of everything that Jesus and his gospel of the presence of heaven really meant. 

The stranger continued with them, and joined them for a meal. And as he continued talking with them, they were changed, overjoyed, as they suddenly realized they were talking with the resurrected Jesus. And then Jesus vanished. This time, though, the men understood that the vanishing of Jesus’ bodily presence didn’t mean the substance of his message had been lost. And they immediately went back to Jerusalem to rejoin the disciples and others, rejoicing in their risen sense of the permanence of Christ, the action and ideal of God, which Jesus represented perfectly.

Renewal doesn’t just mean new things start happening. God-inspired renewal shows us what was truly there the whole time—the freshness and permanence of God’s goodness, expressed in man and in all His creation. And it’s through spiritual sense, which Mrs. Eddy defines as “a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (Science and Health, p. 209), that we discern this goodness. Spiritual sense is native to each of us as the children of Spirit.

So what is it that would prevent us from feeling the presence and permanence of Spirit? The Bible account of Jesus’ resurrection tells of an actual blockade, a large stone in front of his tomb. But God sent an angel to remove the stone, not with a crowbar and a hard hat, but through divine power. For Mary Magdalene, what first stood out to her struggling human sense when she came to the tomb was the absence of the stone. Are we often the same? Perhaps we can’t imagine how a healing could be manifested: How could this mess really get cleaned up? I’ve made too many mistakes. I’ve just been in pain for so long. Even when inspiration is coming, I can’t seem to hold on to it.

How wonderful to know that it’s God who is holding on to us. Jesus didn’t throw up his hands in frustration and leave to look for a new crop of disciples who would “get it” better. He stuck around, he visited them, he had breakfast with them—and after his ascension the Holy Ghost fell on them so tangibly that they all experienced transformation. 

Easter shows us the permanence of God’s will, which is good and forever expressed in each of us. 

Today, that Holy Ghost has been revealed in the timeless efficacy of Christian Science, Jesus’ promised Comforter, which is freely available to all. The light of Love is here, and because of Mary Baker Eddy’s humble faithfulness in sharing with the world what God revealed to her, we are able to feel and share this light forever.

I began to see the promise of Easter as a celebration of the permanence of God, always imparting His purpose, His wholeness, His nature, to all His creation. Easter is a statement that it’s not about what clever thing we can individually come up with, and it’s not about personally trying to convince suffering people that it’s all going to work out. Instead, Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, is the assurance that man is loved, upright, and never doomed to decay or meaninglessness. God is the one who makes us able to feel His love and be healed.

Whenever we feel stuck—just staring at the “stone” that covers the “tomb,” or dark sense of our lives—we don’t have to try to come up with some human strategy for getting out of the doldrums. I love the tenderness Mrs. Eddy expressed so clearly; she said: “What is it that seems a stone between us and the resurrection morning? 

“It is the belief of mind in matter. We can only come into the spiritual resurrection by quitting the old consciousness of Soul in sense” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 179).

Instead of believing that we just can’t fit God, or permanence, or even hope into our hearts, we can gently let go of the misconception that God is in man, and instead realize that we are in God. We are not buckets of matter that accidentally sloshed all the Spirit out. We aren’t limited beings that can lose inspiration or creativity. Whatever is limited or mortal about our sense of ourselves and others is not what we are at all. Instead of trying to fix a broken material life, we can let God’s love open our eyes to see that we are the expressions of Him, eternal Life, the very outcome of God’s immortal goodness.

This isn’t a lifestyle or viewpoint that requires some rigmarole to figure out how to make it work. It’s the power of God that enables us to discern His being and nature. Our role is to recognize that we have the right to look to whatever we know of good, of love, of faithfulness—whatever speaks to something deeper than the changeable surface of material sense. Then the Life that is God, which undergirds and encompasses all that is good, will keep unfolding, keep showing us what God is and what we are as His image. We have the right to let Love love us. Like the travelers to Emmaus walking with Jesus, we can let the risen Christ embrace and comfort us.

Well, my sense of purposelessness and lack of anything to give completely gave way to simple joy in the presence of the Christ. I was also reminded at this time of another healing I had experienced years ago. I had sat, sad and lonely, on a hill where I had just finished pouring out my heart in frustration and anger, yelling at God. I just didn’t know where to look to find peace. Finally, all emptied out, my entire thought was flooded with the assurance that I was loved. So simple—almost too simple—and yet, I was filled with the promise and presence of perfect Love. This didn’t happen because of the arrangement of my words in speaking to God or because of me at all. It was because of God, and what God is. (I testified about this experience in greater detail in “An always present love” in the September 2010 issue of the Journal.

In light of this newfound love for Easter that’s blooming in my heart, in looking back at that experience, I am humbled to see that I was truly feeling the presence of our Savior—the Christ, Truth—never buried, forever risen, and always showing us what God is and that we are indeed His beloved children. My life was changed by that experience, and it’s a joy to properly and humbly tie that complete renewal to the perfect power of Christian Science, representing to all mankind the risen Christ and God’s perfect love.

So, Easter is about renewal—but not a renewal that involves fixing things once broken. It’s a renewal of our sense of things, showing us we were never broken. Easter shows us that God’s expression is never dipped into a well of desperation or lack. Easter shows us the permanence of God’s will, which is good and forever expressed in each of us. Christ Jesus demonstrated how to be what we truly are: the very image of our Father-Mother God, held forever in the perfect law of divine Love. 

Praise God, for our Redeemer lives!

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