At the Sunday service in all Churches of Christ, Scientist, a two-paragraph explanation is read by the First Reader immediately before he or she announces the subject of that week's Lesson-Sermon. This Explanatory Note, included in each edition of the Christian Science Quarterly and written by Mary Baker Eddy, begins, "The Bible and the Christian Science textbook are our only preachers." And it concludes, "The canonical writings, together with the word of our textbook, corroborating and explaining the Bible texts in their spiritual import and application to all ages, past, present, and future, constitute a sermon undivorced from truth, uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses, and divinely authorized."Quarterly, p. 2 .
Why can it be said that these sermons are "divinely authorized"? The origin of the books from which the sermons are drawn is one reason. Another is the manner in which the Bible, and Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy, were chosen as the only preachers of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
The Scriptures present the very Word of God. The Word has been described as the self-revealing activity of God. This self-revealing activity was further manifested to humanity in the latter part of the nineteenth century through the revelation that came to Mrs. Eddy as she pored over the Scriptures. She writes regarding her Biblical research to understand the laws of spiritual healing, "The revelation of Truth in the understanding came to me gradually and apparently through divine power."Science and Health,p. 109. She has described herself as one who simply indited the messages given her by God. Science and Health is the record of this revelation.
Because the citations in the Lesson-Sermons consist of verses from the Scriptures and correlative passages in Science and Health, the healing power of God's Word inheres in each of these divinely inspired sermons.
The way in which Mrs. Eddy came to ordain the Bible and Science and Health as impersonal pastor of her Church is described in this reminiscence by one of her students: "In regard to our Lesson-Sermon, which is carrying the inspired Word over the entire world, no one doubts the divine appointment of its message. Mrs. Eddy once told us how this appointment came about. 'My students were preaching,' she said, 'and were sending me copies of their sermons. They grew worse and worse. Finally one came which was so great a mixture that if I had not known the fact, I should not have been able to tell whether the writer were a Christian Scientist, a spiritualist or a theosophist. I said to myself, "Something must be done and at once." I withdrew from all other work, and in solitude and almost ceaseless prayer I sought and found God's will. At the end of three weeks I received the answer, and it came to me as naturally as dawns the morning light. "Why, of course, the Bible and Science and Health." ' And now every week it is read to us from the Christian Science Quarterly that these sermons are 'divinely authorized.'"We Knew Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1979), p. 123 .
In The Mother Church the new, impersonal pastor took the place of personal preaching in January 1895, immediately after the Original Edifice had been built. In the branch churches this occurred in April of the same year. At the Annual Meeting of The Mother Church in October 1895, the Clerk reported: "The sermons from our new Pastor, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ordained by our Pastor Emeritus, the Rev. Mary Baker Eddy, are doing incalculable good. Many cases have been reported of persons who, through years of invalidism had become tired of this life, have come to the services in despair, but through the power of the Spirit have been entirely healed of their infirmities, and have gone away praising God."Clifford R Smith, Historical Sketches (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1941), p. 194 .
Shouldn't there be the same expectation of healing at church services today? Those early congregations felt "the power of the Spirit" as they listened to their new pastor. As we maintain an awareness that we are listening to a "divinely authorized" sermon, healings cannot help but occur during services today. A vital factor in contributing to such healings is what individuals mentally bring on Sunday of their study and living of the truths of the Bible Lesson throughout the week.
These Bible Lessons present an unending flow of life-giving, health-perpetuating, character-transforming spiritual ideas that can meet every conceivable need. Through these Lessons divinity embraces humanity. Through them we feel the divine influence of the Christ and the action of the Holy Ghost—the Comforter, or divine Science— enlightening and enlivening our entire being.
The Lesson-Sermons could be described as a specific manifestation of the Comforter. Christ Jesus promised that he would pray for the Father to send another Comforter, which he called "the Spirit of truth," and which he said would abide forever with his followers. He further defined the Comforter as "the Holy Ghost," which would teach all things and "bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."John 14:17, 26. Through the weekly Bible Lessons we are being taught by the Comforter. All that the Master said is being brought to our remembrance and interpreted in its Science. The Comforter is guiding us into the true understanding of God, testifying to the meaning of Christ Jesus' words and works in their application to our own age and to individual as well as collective experience.
As we maintain an awareness that we are listening to a "divinely authorized" sermon, healings occur during church services today.
What great comfort these Lessons offer! As we study them, they instruct, inspire, and nourish us spiritually. They guide, direct, and shepherd us. If our need is for physical healing, every Lesson—regardless of its subject—includes spiritual truths that assure us of divine Love's ever-present power to cast out fear and to dispel discord. These truths lead us into an understanding of God's laws of health and harmony. If we are feeling alone, isolated, separated from good, we'll find reassurance in the Bible Lesson that we are the loved children of God, who have an unseverable connection with the Giver of all good.
If we are struggling with feelings of inadequacy or some other form of limitation, the Lesson-Sermons are an unfailing resource of spiritual ideas that, when utilized, enable us to demonstrate our completeness and God's constant provision. If we're challenged by temptation, the moral and spiritual strength to resist it can be found in citations reminding us that we have God-given dominion over evil suggestions.
The Lessons derive their healing potency from the pastor—the divinely inspired Word of the Bible and of Science and Health. As church Readers remain cognizant that the Bible and Science and Health are the "only preachers," self-consciousness, timidity, or feelings of personal inadequacy are quelled. Pride of position and self-importance are stamped out, too! No elements of personal sense should cloud the transparency of thought through which the Word must shine with all its healing effulgence.
When human personality is subordinated to the Word of God, that Word is heard in all its beauty and grandeur—and its power felt. And when it is unobstructed by human self-awareness or inattention, nothing can come between the listeners and the message.
When a Reader is at one with the ideas he or she reads, these ideas are convincingly and inspiringly conveyed. Then the mechanics or techniques of reading simply subserve the communication of the message, and each receptive listener hears the Word in his own way. The Comforter, the Holy Ghost, speaks directly to each one's specific need, whether it be for physical healing, comfort, guidance, spiritual strength, or peace.
Of course, not only the congregation but the Readers themselves are hearers of the Lesson-Sermons. And they, too, can experience healing as they listen closely throughout the service to the inspired Word and recognize the divine authority with which the pastor preaches.
This was proved in my own experience several years ago. I had been asked to serve as substitute Second Reader in my branch church one Sunday. When the moment arrived in the service to begin reading from the Bible, I opened my mouth to speak and, to my amazement and dismay, a very unnatural croaking sound came out! I could scarcely read the first citation. I turned to God with all my heart, knowing that nothing could cut off or obstruct the communication of His Word. The very next citation to be read included this verse: "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me."Isa. 45:5. This powerful spiritual fact was repeated two other times in the same citation. As I listened to this message of God's absolute supremacy and wholeheartedly accepted it, my voice became entirely natural and there was no further trouble.
I learned from this experience that that which claims to oppose Truth—error, or animal magnetism—has no authority and therefore can be proved powerless. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Error is only fermenting, and its heat hissing at the 'still, small voice' of Truth; but it can neither silence nor disarm God's voice."Miscellaneous Writings, p. 134. Because the Lesson-Sermon is divinely authorized, those whose privilege it is to read it are upheld and protected by the power of the Word.
The truth expounded by the impersonal pastor is absolute, pure, unadulterated by error. That's why these sermons heal. What they voice is the utterances of divine Mind, and therefore they speak with divine authority. After listening each Sunday to the sermon preached by this unique pastor—the Bible and Science and Health —may we not in a certain sense feel like those who heard the Sermon on the Mount—that we, too, have been taught by "one having authority"?See Matt. 7:28, 29.