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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

"Ezekiel should not be overlooked"

Book club for November, 2018 - Ezekiel

Well, I didn't know much about Ezekiel, so have been gleaning information from various sources. One source, which was unexpected, is Ann Putcamp's Guide to Bible Teaching III. I did know about 2 of the parables: the measuring of the water, and the dry bones. Not that I fully understood them! And I wasn't exactly aware that they were in Ezekiel.

Everywhere, I read that Ezekiel was a priest, as well as a prophet – an unusual pairing. And that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah.They both called attention to the same errors* made by the people of Israel. Ezekiel's call to prophesy** came while he was exiled in Babylon, where he was one of a group of privileged persons - leaders - deported from Jerusalem (597 B.C.). -

Putcamp writes (p. 65) 
"Ezekiel should not be overlooked by teacher or pupil. He lives at a time when his word should have been heeded. So do we” (my emphasis).

Graphic visions were presented to Ezekiel; all to teach lessons. For instance, he depicts various winged creatures, and creatures with wheels, e.g. Ez. 1:16. 

Putcamp notes that 
“Such creatures and symbols were depicted on the walls of many ancient cities of Mesopotamia (Babylon). Ezekiel was probably using what the captives were seeing to illustrate his theme...Ahead of his time in spiritual discernment, he has been both misunderstood and unappreciated, even as he was by his own people” (ibid). 

I will digress here to wonder if there are any prophets in Israel to-day. I found that two 20th century men are considered by some commentators to have been modern-day prophets: Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903-1994), philosopher and academic; and Yehoshafat Harkabi (1921-1994), former head of Israeli military intelligence, and author of "Israel's Fateful Hour" (Ed). See the Shalom Centre website. 

(Ed. There are several other sites which offer insights into these two men.)

Of interest to Sunday School workers is Putcamp's reference to the Ten Commandments.  

She writes (p. 66)
“In Chapter 22, Ezekiel shows that the men of Judah have broken every Commandment; he refers to all ten.”  

She then invites us to 
“find each commandment within Ezekiel's references, analyse each, also the breaking of each, and specific results. Would not this be helpful in today's context?" (emphasis added) 

Putcamp insists that there are lessons to be learned today from this book. I haven't been able to find this reasoning in any other source. For now, I will leave you and me to work on that puzzle!  I have only found five so far...

Joyce Voysey

* Ez 2:4 "they are impudent children and stiffhearted" King James Version
** Putcamp says: "His call is exciting, culminating in 2:1-3, 8, 9." (p. 64)

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Ezekiel in Babylonian exile

This month our study is the book of Ezekiel. You'll find it after Lamentations in the Old Testament.

Ezekiel lived during the time of the Babylonian exile (586 BC). Some say things weren't so bad there in Babylon. When King Cyrus (who we learned about in our study of the book of Ezra, way back in July 2012*) allowed them to return to their homes, many decided they'd rather stay in Babylon. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York's brilliant web site has a great article (and fabulous images which I can't post here because of copyright) on Babylon. Here is a portion which mentions the "biblical prophets" of whom Ezekiel was one:

 At this time, Babylon is thought to have been the largest city in the world. Its population was surely very cosmopolitan: Nebuchadnezzar continued the Assyrian practice of moving large groups of people across the empire, in order to break up potential centers of opposition, to provide labor, or both. In the case of the state of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, such acts earned him biblical infamy. The powerful language used against Babylon by the biblical prophets would eventually be incorporated into Christian visions of the Apocalypse (18.65.8). By contrast, Babylonian kings saw and presented themselves as pious figures, 

Seymour, Michael. “Babylon.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (June 2016)

There's even an hour-long video about the Cyrus Cylinder on the Met's site. All very exciting stuff.

And so we turn to the Bible and read how it all began Ezek 1:1 from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV) - sourced from Bible Gateway's fabulous website:

Now [when I was] in [my] thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was in the midst of captivity beside the river Chebar [in Babylonia], the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

I am Ezekiel—a priest and the son of Buzi. Five years after King Jehoiachin of Judah had been led away as a prisoner to Babylonia, I was living near the Chebar River among those who had been taken there with him. Then on the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, the heavens suddenly opened. The Lord placed his hand upon me and showed me some visions.

Figure 1: Chebar River (Iraq) 
Reproduced from:

So, let's see what this book will reveal to us in November 2018. Happy reading. We look forward to hearing from you.

Julie Swannell

* You can check out the blog posts from July 2012 by typing "Ezra" into the Search bar on the Web Version of our blog site. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Demand for The Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Wartime Activities  (1914-1918)

To start out, I misread the book we were to read, and began reporting on the 1939-45 activities.  Oops! That's another book. Then I couldn't find a copy of the correct book, except on the Internet, which Julie advised us about. Anyway, Julie and I have been to Perth for our Christian Science Association meeting, and she loaned me her copy for the time we were away.

Now, I had read the book many years ago, and remember being very impressed with what was written about The Christian Science Monitor. At that time, I reckoned that the Monitor could be classified as “Elias which truly must come first and restore all things” (Matthew xvii:11). Elias is defined in the Glossary to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (by Mary Baker Eddy) - see page 585 - and the quote from Matthew is included in that definition. It seemed to me, that when the Monitor appeared with the Wartime Workers in Europe, the war started to come to a conclusion.

On this present reading, I have particularly noted all the references to the Monitor. For instance, on page 18 we learn that six million copies of the Monitor were distributed in 1918.

In the chapter titled Beginnings, I found that the Christian Scientists in America could faintly see that what was going on in Europe was that “the world was vainly trying to solve [the world's problems] through a dependence upon human means and methods.”* In the same chapter, the sentiment is expressed that " was impossible to maintain an attitude of neutrality towards the world war for the reason that only those nations which had some understanding of Principle, as revealed in Christian Science, were adequately armed and equipped to carry a righteous cause to a victorious conclusion” (p. 21).

In 1914, America was not ready to enter the fray, but The Mother Church was soon mobilising to collect funds to relieve the plight of Christian Scientists and others in Europe. (I note here that Adam Dickey was Treasurer of The Mother Church during this period. Readers may be familiar with his article from the January 1916 copy of The Christian Science JournalGod's Lawof Adjustment. It was subsequently reprinted in pamphlet form and is still available in Christian Science Readings Rooms worldwide. It has had wide circulation and usefulness.) The funds came in, and relief was sent. This also included relief for the German students of Christian Science.

On page 24, I note that the delegate sent to Europe by the Christian Science Board of Directors found that the Monitor was "always to be found" in the American embassies of Europe. It seems that delegate, Mr McCracken, was sent to oversee the distribution of the collected funds in Europe. It is to be remembered that the Unites States did not enter the war until 1917.

Recipients of the funds appreciated that the 'right' thought that accompanied the gift had spiritual power. People's thought was raised to a more spiritual level and often they were able to repay the gift.

Monitors always accompanied the gifts of handkerchiefs, washing gloves and pamphlets which went to English prisoners-of-war in Zurich. In Italy, wool was supplied for knitting into socks, and the knitter paid one lira a pair. The devastation of towns in France found civilians destitute after the fighting. Julie has mentioned the Halifax incident. Monitors were gladly received in that place, especially as no other papers had got through. 

In 1917 military training camps were set up around the states of America, and Christian Science wartime workers followed them, to bring comfort and comforts to Christian Scientists in the camps. In terms of the Monitor, it is reported that 800 copies were distributed daily in Michigan in 1917. It was interesting to read that a camp in Virginia was named Camp Lee “in hono[u]r of that beloved leader of the South.”  This is a phrase which may find some objections to-day.

I have a note amongst my jottings here that asks, “How would we as church members react to an extreme emergency in our city today?”

Loggers in Oregon accepted the Monitor with eagerness and appreciated the “Song Book.” This song book was in the form of a vest pocket-size printing of some of the Christian Science (CS) hymns. We discover, later in the book, that the servicemen had asked for a version of Science and Health which they could carry easily in the vest pocket, just like the song book. This was duly supplied. Then there was a demand for the Bible in the same size, and it was also provided.

Rest rooms were set up around the country.  This provided a quiet place for the men to retire to. Here they could read the Monitor and other CS literature. Of course, it was a case of “all welcome” in these rooms.

Julie has advised me how I can enlarge the print of the online edition of the book, but I find it hard to get to the pages I have commented on in my notes. I have a note that I would like to photocopy pages 87-90. This gives a commentary on a  Welfare Worker's day – it is amazing!

How the CS periodicals were valued in those days! A Colonel, at a port of embarkation for soldiers going to the battle fields of Europe, commented, “Your rooms have served a purpose that cannot be fulfilled by any other Welfare organisation...”

The boys, including non-Scientists, found that the Monitor gave them only reliable news. And, it is reported here that, of all the CS periodicals, the Monitor had the widest circulation. It was a reliable source of war news, and each copy was a veritable mine of information on all the important topics of the day.

Now I have a note that I would like a photocopy of page 138. And we learn, on page 142, that the hymns in the song book were specially "arranged for male voices". In fact, “Large numbers of YMCA workers, Song Directors, and others encouraging the men to sing” were grateful for the little book (p. 148).

That brings me to the end of my notes, mostly taken on the plane going to Perth.

 Joyce Voysey

* This comment could well be applied to world problems to-day, for instance, climate change, terrorism, sensualism, etc.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Motivated by helpfulness

The term "Welfare Worker" appears regularly in our book this month. The term does not really describe the actual work carried out, so it is helpful to hear how one of these workers described his position: "A Welfare Worker is a man who hunts for soldiers for whom he can do favors" (p. 87). The book explains that "helpfulness" was the name of the game, and this might include something as simple but greatly appreciated as offering rides to others while en-route to deliver copies of The Christian Science Monitor.

Readers will be interested to read about the experience of "a student officer" who was in acute difficulty following inoculation during the First World War (p. 83-85, Christian Science Wartime Activities 1914-18). He was in an insane asylum and all was in readiness for his imminent passing.

At this point, a Christian Science Welfare Worker was called. He shared some "simple truths [the student officer] could easily understand", including some Christian Science-based metaphysical inspiration from a well-loved poem, The Ancient Mariner

When some difficulty arose within the hospital where the officer was located, the worker was led to "higher demonstration" (p. 84). As part of his prayers, the book tells us, he "came to the conclusion that 'hospital' might represent that which aids men to be well and whole, and 'doctor' that consciousness which knows and ministers to every man as a brother" (p. 85). Soon, the previously difficult attitude of some hospital staff changed for the better, and patients in this ward were being moved "to the convalescent wards or their organizations" (ibid) and the student officer recovered.

J. Swannell

A quick response for Halifax

Figure 1: Map showing Halifax in Nova Scotia. Reproduced from World Maps.

Halifax, in Nova Scotia (Canada), was an important port for Atlantic shipping during World War One. In December 1917, tragedy struck when the French steamer Mont Blanc, laden with explosives, collided with the Norwegian Imo. Wikipedia suggests that approximately 2000 people were killed. The ensuing devastation - including fire and tsunamis - resulted in an urgent call for international aid. Christian Science Wartime Activities (1914-1918)* reports that The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, was one of several first responders. A team of five was appointed to immediately "proceed to Halifax with relief" (p. 61).

A newspaper in Minnesota later reported that -

"Catastrophe...makes strange bedfellows... As soon as the wreck of Halifax was flashed to Boston, The Mother Church of Christian Science raised $10,000 in cash, secured a special train, loaded it with supplies and with the cash and supplies was ready to speed relief to the stricken city.

"The officials of Boston, trying to get a special train, found the Scientists were a lap ahead of them, and special trains are not easy to get these days. The Red Cross made a like discovery. Both city and Red Cross hurried to The Mother Church officials.

"On Schedule time that train pulled away from Boston loaded with the workers, supplies and money of the Church of Christ, Scientist, with doctors and medicines from the city of Boston and with nurses and supplies from the Red Cross.

"Where has there been a more splendid sinking of human belief and opinion, of religious and personal prejudice, the forgetting of all revilings and enmities, in the bigger, nobler, holier faith in a common humanity? It recalls the tenth and eleventh Beatitudes."

An article titled "Remembering Halifax at Christmas", recalls the experience of a granddaughter of a Halifax man who was killed in the 1917 explosion. The article can be found in the December 1998 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

J. Swannell

*Copyright 1922 The Christian Science Publishing Society

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