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Sunday, 14 August 2022

Forgiveness and redemption

 Recently, our family watched a movie called The Mercy. It is the harrowing story of the British amateur yachtsman who decides to enter a round-world non-stop yacht race. Under pressure from sponsors and a local newspaper, he reluctantly sets out, completely unprepared for such an epic voyage.

He soon finds himself unequal to the task. But the pressure to not let his "team" down compels him to falsify his reports about where he is and how is progressing. Things escalate from bad to very bad and he then becomes desperate to speak confidentially to his wife to share his deception and his dilemma. Unfortunately he is unable to contact her.

At this point, he notes to himself that the only sin is the sin of deception. He can neither finish the race honourably nor admit to his deception. He sees no way to redemption and commits himself to the sea, leaving his logbooks in full view of those who later find the abandoned yacht.

I was thinking about this story in relation to the letter written by the apostle Paul to his friend Philemon about Philemon's run-away slave Onesimus. It appears that Onesimus was guilty of stealing something belonging to his master. According to Roman law, this crime probably entailed a death sentence. 

But Onesimus appealed to Paul for assistance. Had he learned something of Christianity? Had he participated in church services in Philemon's home? Had he heard that Paul preached Christ's gospel of forgiveness and redemption? 

Paul asks Philemon to "love him [Onesimus] as a man and as a brother in the Lord" (Phil. 1: 16 International Children's Bible). 

Complete restoration. Sins forgiven. What a deep lesson in seeing a fellow-traveller in a new light.

Julie Swannell


The Christian Science Sentinel article extract below sets the scene perfectly:


Onesimus goes home

Originally appeared on spirituality.com

Onesimus must have been quite a guy. He showed up on Paul’s doorstep as a runaway slave who had apparently stolen some of his master’s goods. In ancient Rome around AD 60, this was a capital offence, and Onesimus could have been crucified. Yet he sought out Paul, who was under house arrest at the time.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Philemon: Introducing the characters

1. What does the text say? 

2. What does it mean? 

3. What does it mean to me?

These three questions - formulated by Madelon Maupin (BibleRoads.com) - are of inestimable assistance when reading Scripture. 

Paul's brief letter to Philemon is an example. Here's what some of the letter says:

Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: ...

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
(Philemon 1:1, 2, 10, 11)

To begin to understand why Paul was writing, we might look at some of the characters he mentions here, with help from Words of Current Interest, Christian Science Sentinel July 25 1964:

Philemon (fi-le'mon—i as in is, e as in eve, o as in connect) was a friend, and probably a convert, of Paul and lived in Colossae; while Apphia (af'i-a— first a as in add, second as in sofa, i as in is) and Archippus (ar-kip'us—a as in arm, i as in is, u as in circus) are thought to have been Philemon's wife and son, respectively.

Onesimus (Philem. 1:10) (o-nes'i-mus—o as in circus). Onesimus had been a slave of Philemon but had fled from his service. Apparently he had been converted by Paul during the apostle's imprisonment at Rome. The word Onesimus means literally "profitable"; hence the play upon words found in verse 11.

So, we have a Roman family who have become Christians: husband (Philemon), wife (Apphia) and son (Archippus), and we have Onesimus, a former slave of Philemon, but who had run away. And we have Paul, the great apostle who is now held in prison in Rome.

According to Thomas Leishman, other epistles written at this time were to the churches in Philippi, Ephesus and Colossae. (See Letters from Prison, Christian Science Journal, November 1976).

Have we had a falling-out with someone? Has there been a rift in the church family? Perhaps this story has relevance.

Julie Swannell

There's a helpful overview of the book of Philemon at https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/philemon/


Sunday, 24 July 2022

Treasures for your tool kit

I have now finished reading the book, We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Book 2 (Expanded Edition), having made some notes on my way. Here are some gems that appeal to me at this stage of my experience. No doubt a future reading will highlight others.

From Mrs. Eddy:

Page 285. If there is a sense of doubt as to a wise course of action, as a general rule, the thing least pleasant is the one to do.

And – Human reasoning is as material as pain.

Page 294: Mrs. Eddy never wanted flowers in her study, although they made other parts of the home attractive with them. She said, “Because they fade, and I want to think only of life.”

Annie B. White Baker had a lesson in spirituality when she remarked to Mrs. Eddy that she was not spiritual and could not attain to any very spiritual height.

Mrs. Eddy said she must never say that. And she enumerated they ways in which Annie was evidencing her spirituality:

1. Love to be true and to live honestly.

2. Love God and desire to strive for the unfolding of that in yourself which is like Him? Honest, conscientious, diligent in your work. (p, 312)

Page 315: Students do not pray enough. They should go by themselves at least three times a day to pray. Their prayers should consist of much giving thanks, more realization of the perfect as well as the denial of error. There is too much denial of error and too little realization of the perfect.

Pages 349/350. On Christian Science being truly universal, the only Science. Through the Science she discovered, Mrs. Eddy knew of ordinary scientific disciplines: “Electricians would ask me about electricity and chemists about chemistry, and I would answer them instantly and find afterwards that my answers were correct.”

Divine Science is the Science of everything that God created.

Adam Dickey’s entry gives a short history of the inspiration behind his famous article, “God’s Law of Adjustment.”

I have spoken in a previous blog (6.7.22) about clocks and time in Mrs. Eddy’s household. On page 420 we find that, “There was a clock in every room. Each member of the household had his own timepiece, and it was expected to be in perfect running order. In Mrs. Eddy siting room thee were three clocks. In her bedroom there were two, one of which was an old-fashioned alarm clock which she had fastened to the foot of her bed.”

And on page 421 we are told that meals were always on time without summons of any sort. The people and the meal arrived exactly on the hour of the meal.

Page 552 gives us a gem on music and singing:

William Rathvon speaks of evenings of singing with Mrs. Ella Hoag, Mr. Dickey, Mr. Tomlinson, Mrs. Ella Rathvon and he –

Mrs. Hoag and Mrs. Rathvon sang soprano, Mr. Dickey stumbled along under a heavy load of base, while I clawed the scales toward the high notes, trying to contribute a thin tenor, and the Reverend (as we called Mr. Tomlinson) wobbled around in every direction. If we didn’t make music, we certainly did produce a joyful noise.

(Mrs. Hoag or Mrs. Rathvon played the piano.)

Somewhere I found this from Mrs. Eddy: "Prayer is desire."  A nice different touch!

To finish with a lovely story about The Christian Science Monitor:

A man had the belief of consumption and was ordered to go to the White Mountains. In passing through here and making his transfer from one depot to another, he was delayed at South Station. While waiting, he called a newsboy and asked him for a paper, saying, “Any one that’s good will do. I don’t know anything about the Boston papers.” The kid looked him over for a moment, sized up his physical condition, and said, “I guess you need The Christian Science Monitor,” and handed it to him. The man read the editorials and finally turned to the Home Forum page. There, an articled marked “Hope” caught his eye and held it, for hope was something he had lost. He read it and got his first inkling of Science. He wanted to know more and sought the telephone directory. The only thing he could find list ed was The Christian Science Publishing Society, so he called the operator there and said to her, ”Say, what do you do when you’re sick?”

“Why, call a Christian Science practitioner and get well,” was the reply. “Well, connect me with one of them quick, will you, please?” 

You will find, when you read it, that the man was a well man in three weeks time.

Joyce Voysey

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