A church congregation presents a Christian Science lecture, not for itself, but to bless its neighbor. In this way, lectures are gifts of unconditional love. And the impartial and universal love from the lecture not only blesses the attendees and community, but the givers of the lecture, because giving is itself a true gift.
Several years ago I was part of a camp at Burning Man, a large week-long societal experiment that takes place annually in a remote desert in Nevada. We arranged for several lectures to take place under the sponsorship of Churches of Christ, Scientist, in the region.
At one of these lectures the large domed tent in which the lecture was being held became very crowded. As the lecture began, an attendee stood up at the entrance and shouted: “There’s no more room! Everyone move forward so more people can get in!”
As the crowd moved closer together, I watched one of our camp members get up and walk outside to make more room in the tent. I felt his action was deeply selfless and Christlike. Part of me wanted to get up and follow him out, but another part of me felt self-conscious, not wanting to draw attention to myself, and selfish about wanting to hear the lecture clearly. I was even afraid the lecturer might think I wanted to leave! But after a few moments, I felt it was right to give up my seat—or rather, my spot on the floor—and I joined my fellow camp member outside.
Later, I learned that this fulfilled the spirit of an article in the Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy titled “Welcoming Strangers,” which says, “It shall be the duty and privilege of the local members of The Mother Church to give their seats, if necessary, to strangers who may come to attend the morning services” (p. 59). While this By-Law specifically references church services, the spirit of it can also be applied to welcoming strangers with unconditional love at lectures, in Sunday Schools, in Reading Rooms, and throughout all our daily interactions.
Are we willing to give up our seat—to relinquish all willfulness, selfishness, and preconceived notions—in order that we might love unconditionally, more impartially, more universally?
Are we willing to give up our seat—to relinquish all willfulness, selfishness, and preconceived notions—in order that we might love unconditionally, more impartially, more universally? When we do, we’re opening up avenues for overflowing lectures, church services, Sunday Schools, and Reading Rooms.
Mrs. Eddy writes in the textbook of Christian Science that we should support those in search of Truth: “Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 570).
We can humbly and lovingly expect every lecture to overflow when we are willing to give up our seat—when we give up the notion that we’re putting on a lecture so that we can get something, whether that’s more church attendees and members, or more recognition in the community. Because the lecture includes “a true and just reply to public topics condemning Christian Science,” and “facts pertaining to the life of the Pastor Emeritus [Mrs. Eddy]” (Manual, p. 93), we can trust these inclusions to attract and touch the receptive heart.
Jesus teaches in Matthew, chapter 6, that when we seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, everything else is added to us (see 6:33). When we seek God first, we are better able to recognize the universality of the truth of Christian Science; that divine Science is applicable and available to all mankind; and that all of humanity yearns for this truth.
Our own attendance at a lecture, or more visitors at our branch church, or any number of other benefits, may be “added unto” us as a reward for giving, but even if those outward benefits do not show, we are not lacking. When we give a Christian Science lecture to our community with unconditional love—without expectation of a reward of any kind except to bless others—we can never miss out on any good, because the very act of loving fulfills our purpose as Love’s idea.
Eventually there were more than 12 of us sitting outside the lecture venue/tent that day at Burning Man, listening as best we could. Although my campmate and I didn’t hear every word, we never felt we were missing out; we knew that, along with everyone else inside and outside of that tent, we were infinitely blessed. I felt God’s love. Love took away the sting of the sun overhead. And universal Love was in action when I had a French edition of Science and Health on hand to share with a young man asking questions in French after the next day’s lecture—even though I had only intended to bring English editions.
Hymn 182 by Richard C. Trench from the Christian Science Hymnal puts it beautifully:
… we must share, if we would keep
That blessing from above;
They cease to have who cease to give:
Such is the law of Love.