We Thy People
Joseph G. Heard, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Today much of our world is fragmented, polarized, alienated into many separate divisions of people, antagonized and exclusive. We're
Jesus people or Jewish people
Intellectuals or hardhats
Blacks or whites
Establishment or anti-establishment
Minorities or silent majorities
Haves or have-nots.
And so it goes.
The Federal Constitution of the
Let me ask you a question.
If we were to raise the concept "We the people" higher to "We Thy People" or "We God's People," would we find a bond of unity that embraces everyone without fragmentation or exclusion?
Let me frame the question a little differently.
Would the concept "We Thy People" heal the disorganization you and I feel in those moments of fear, sickness, loneliness, injustice, lack?
The spiritual meaning of "We Thy People" helps individuals and society.
The purpose of this lecture is to consider this proposition: that the answer to turmoil today, both social and individual, is a spiritual understanding of man as he really is.
When I say "God's People" I mean God's likeness. I do not mean the mortal person standing here in a blue suit. God would not be infinite or very beautiful if His likeness looked like this.
In other words, we must look
beyond material appearances.
Christian Science helps us remove the false concept of man and replace it with the Christly consciousness of what he really is. In other words, Christian Science helps us discover man as spiritually conceived and expressed.
Because God, divine Spirit, expresses Himself through a perfect likeness, man has a spiritual identity. Through prayer we discover this spiritual likeness. And our expression of it brings harmony into our daily experience.
Our aim, then, is to spiritually understand man as Jesus did because in doing so, we're going to be inspired, healed, and set free. We'll experience here and now the promise of "God's People."
The Goal of an Abundant Life
What makes for inharmony in an individual or society is a sense of limitation, restriction. Try to envision instead that abundant life where everyone includes all spiritual good health, intelligence, justice, joy, peace, beauty, strength, right companionship, constructive occupation, adequate supply, etc. Where everyone not only includes all good but knows that he does and understands why.
This abundant good is the promise that belongs to "God's People" because God is infinite good and man is His likeness. Our aim this evening, then, is to understand more of this infinite spiritual good and seek its practical implementation in our daily affairs.
The answer to incompleteness is completeness. And whenever we ask to know life's wholeness, entireness, perfectness, and fulfillment, we are seeking to be God's people, to know God's plan for us.
Regrettably there are those today who don't recognize that the answer to human incompleteness starts with a spiritual, not material, dimension.
Recently I came across this
statement by a
"I think it would be difficult to find a single decade in the history of Western culture when as much barbarism, as much calculated onslaught against culture and convention in any form, and as much sheer degradation of both culture and the individual passed into print, into music, into print and onto the American stage as the decade of the 1960's . . ."
(Winter-Spring 1972 issue, The Intercollegiate Review.)
Do you agree with him?
Yet our early forefathers had their problems, too. Listen to this:
"Through the course of the past twelve tedious years, the religion of Jesus gradually declined among us. The doctrines of Christ grew more and more unpopular; family prayer and all the duties of the Gospel were less regarded Indeed it seemed to an eye of sense, that the Sabbath would be lost, and every appearance of religion vanish." A Connecticut evangelist wrote that in 1799 (Conn. Evangelical Magazine, Vol. 1, p. 159, Canton, Conn., 1799).
Men and women have always felt the pressures and complexities of the mortal sense of life. However, we seem to make the most progress in overcoming our problems, individually and collectively, during those periods when the pressures of mortality seem extreme and we respond by making them periods of spiritual ascendancy, rebirth and renewal.
For example, a man we all know failed in business in '31. He was defeated for the state legislature in '32. He failed again in business in '34. He had a nervous breakdown in '41. He hoped to receive his party's nomination for Congress but didn't in '43. He ran for the Senate and lost in '55. He was defeated again for the Senate and lost in '58. A hopeless loser, some people said. But Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 (Reader's Digest. Nov., 1971, Peale).
Later during some very dark days
One enthusiastic chap, disappointed
at not having shaken hands with
What is it that really saves a
people, a nation, an individual?
On July 3, 1776 John Adams,
writing of the Declaration of Independence from
will have unbounded power and the people are extremely addicted to corruption
But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling
Again, it is the spiritual dimension that makes the human situation work out.
The spiritual understanding of man as he really is, God's likeness, enables us to experience a higher humanity now.
The Nature of God and Man's Expression of it
The Bible abounds with stories of how men and women in times of peril discovered a fuller life through the dynamic understanding of God, infinite Mind. This divine intelligence freed them from prisons, shipwreck, hunger, poverty, storms, sin, malice, intrigue, diseases acute and chronic.
Can these Biblical miracles have real meaning today? Yes, if we perceive them, not as random interventions by God, but as evidence of His ever-operating spiritual law.
As we understand the meaning of "We Thy People" man as God's perfect likeness, governed wholly by His law, we overcome the disruptions of fear, hate, sin, sickness, depression, lack, etc. whatever would disorganize our minds, bodies, behavior and relationships.
We demonstrate a better humanity as we conform to the Christly consciousness of what man really is.
We can stand secure in this conviction. We need not plunge headlong into a whirlpool of conflicting forces and feelings that would tear us apart. We can face the world knowing that God, divine Soul, the source of all true identity and feeling, ever sustains each of us. This is the law of Soul.
This means experiencing God as divine Soul, as our source of infinite good, our animating Principle, the actuating cause of our life, the divine Love that guards and directs and cares for us and that is expressed through each and all of us.
The law of divine Soul gives us permanent identity and individuality. Since Soul, God, is perfect and complete, man, His likeness, is perfect and complete. The manifestation of His completeness is our true and total identity, individually and collectively expressed.
This is what Moses discerned at the burning bush the bush that fire could not consume. Soul, the great I AM, perfect Ego, is the infinite individuality which makes us "Thy People," "God's people." As we identify with Soul, we experience daily what is good, beautiful, harmonious, eternal the abundant life that truly satisfies and that unites men and women everywhere in universal love.
"Son, thou art ever with me"
Now how do you face up to the tough question, "Well, I'm too far gone or society is too far gone to claim identity as "Thy People,' God's likeness"?
Jesus dealt with this question in his parable of the prodigal son. In a sense, the prodigal's story reminds us of the problems that both the individual and society face today.
You recall how the younger son demanded his portion of goods. He wanted everything coming to him. His renunciation of life in his father's house took him into a far country where he devoted his whole fortune to the pursuit of material pleasure and self-indulgence. Presently a mighty famine arises, his pleasures fade, his substance is wasted, friends prove false, sensual indulgences fail to satisfy him. Finding no more pleasure and no relief he returns to his father's house, penitent. His father sees him coming and welcomes him home with gifts.
The younger son's basic mistake was to believe his inheritance could be divided from the whole and spent selfishly without regard for those whom he should love. Meanwhile the older brother, busy in a loveless round of routine, shows anger and jealousy. He is incapable of forgiveness. He is unaware that he has all the blessings he could possibly enjoy in his Father's house. What reason is there for envy? The father reminds him, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine" (Luke 15:31). What more can we have than all?
It is always possible for society and the individual to find completeness in our Father's house to discover and rediscover the indestructible spiritual relationship that exists between infinite Soul and man, . . . man infinitely provided with all he needs. This discovery of our relationship with Soul is the key to abundant life. This is what ensures oneness and wholeness.
Our human situation improves as we get closer to Soul, as we spiritually understand Soul and awaken to what man is as Soul's likeness.
Homeward to Wholeness
Every one of us can go home to our Father. We can all experience this reconciliation. We blend our thoughts of life with the spiritual and work at life as Soul works. Jesus taught this in his parable of the prodigal. When we return to our source, infinite Soul, and express it, we become "Thy People." Then we find the meaning of abundant life.
Jesus helped us in this reconciliation with God by giving us a truer sense of God as infinite Love Love that redeems man from the devastating and divisive conditions of materially minded living.
I know of a man who felt himself an outcast.
He did not believe any good thing could be part of his life. He seemed cut off from all love, joy, health, goodness.
Life and society to him were one big deadening scene of hate, violence, fear, shame, injustice, sickness.
He resisted the idea that there could be a spiritual solution. He was resigned to what he thought was the fate of materialism.
Some people lash out against the world, others try to escape from it, still others try to patch it up with inadequate tools. Some even surrender in despair or get sick over it and die.
The man I'm talking about tried to take his own life.
Sounds dramatic, doesn't it? Like late night's TV movie or eyewitness news story.
Except this story actually happened 2000 years ago.
I'm talking about the man who lived in the country of the Gadarenes. When Jesus turned up in his neighborhood, this man insane, unclothed, abandoned by society shrieked at Jesus and told him to leave him alone.
But Jesus was not intimidated by this rejection. He directly addressed the legion of devilish beliefs tormenting the man and cast them out, leaving the man free and at peace (see Mark 5:15).
Here is the point. The prodigal, his jealous brother, the Gadarene, not one of them understood his place in the Father's house, his expression of infinite Soul. Nor do men today understand their spiritual identity as God's likeness. If we want to progress out of the materialistic drag that would fragment and scatter us, we must find reconciliation with our source. As we become reconciled with our source, we find ourselves reconciled with our fellow men. Then we are not this people or that people, but all of us are God's people.
"Thy People" Established by Law
The Christianity that reconciles man to God is not merely religion. It is also a system of law, spiritually scientific law. It shows to us that there are spiritual laws to help us which anyone can test, prove, demonstrate, observe, practice, measure in action. This Science of Christ, or as we more commonly call it, Christian Science, presents a Christianly scientific method whereby anyone can become "Thy People" regardless of race, color, creed, sex, age, or physical circumstances.
The Hebrews, after their liberation
But the full Science of Christianity requires something more in order to establish man's unity with one another and their source. It requires obedience to spiritual law.
Do you remember Jesus' statement, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30)?
Here is the way the master-Metaphysician practiced divine law. He maintained an inseparable oneness with his source, his Father, God. Jesus never left his source of intelligence, identity, strength, joy, peace, power. He stayed at one with his Father, divine Spirit. This gave him the unique problem-solving power that the world has never been able to match or forget. Let's illustrate this further. Suppose someone you know had problems similar to those of the Prodigal, his jealous brother, or the Gadarene felt separated from good, from health, joy, peace, justice felt alienated from God, the power of good felt bogged down in sin. How would your plea, based on Jesus' statement of divine law, "I and my Father are one," help him?
In Christian Science, the application of divine law, which is another term for Christian Science treatment, does not follow a set pattern. It is spontaneous, God-inspired, as the need requires.
So please bear this in mind as we talk about this example of invoking spiritual law to resolve someone's problem.
Our treatment or prayer removes the false sense of man and replaces it with the Christly truths of what he really is. As light displaces darkness. This spiritual power changes the human situation in the event we call a healing.
For example, healing could start from these statements of what is really true about man:
God loves you and God is infinite Love, Love that casts out fear, takes away pain, blesses and comforts all. So you, dearly beloved, forever at one with divine Love as God's likeness, never run out of completeness. You can love because you are loved. "God is Spirit, the holy presence and substance which is pure, good, omniactive. So you, dearly beloved, forever at one with your Father, have strong sustenance for your joy, peace, health.
"God is your Principle and lawmaker, the true and loving cause of all creation. No cruel chance, sin or sickness can negate the law of divine Principle. So you, dearly beloved, express God's unerring direction in your experience. Herein is your safety.
"God is your Soul, forever maintaining your identity. The beauty, grace, rhythm, form, and color of infinite Soul are ever manifested through you. So you, dearly beloved, express the divine Ego, the great I AM. Your identity can never be broken or lost. You are always precious in His sight."
Do you see how it helps to plead one's case from the standpoint of at-one-ment with God?
Our recognition of this divine law awakens us to a fundamental spiritual fact: that man always has been, is now, and ever will be God's beloved son and likeness "Thy People." Our practice of it, our obedience to it, establishes this fact in our experience.
Time of Development
Let me be more specific on this subject of spiritual law. When we face a tough problem that won't yield, when our fondest hopes for a more abundant life seem frustrated, it's time for our further spiritual development. It's time to discover what's really us not a struggling mortal unaware of his Father's house but God's likeness.
In photography, chemical agents bring out the latent image on a sensitized surface. The picture, already there, is made visible this way. But the beauty, form, color, outline, and action of the picture, is invisible until the film is developed.
An unsolved problem is like the
undeveloped film. The true picture is there. It just needs to be revealed.
Actually an unsolved problem is a state of misconception. It is the false dream
of a false dreamer.
As the chemical agents in photography bring out the latent image on a sensitized surface revealing the real picture, so the Mind of Christ comes to the flesh to remove sin, sickness, whatever obscures the manifestation of divine Truth, Life, Love. The result is healing the appearing in a measure of man's real likeness. "Thy People", God's handiwork there all the while comes into clearer focus. We discern truths and scenes we didn't see before, truths and scenes that were there all the while.
And so through the application of spiritual law we find a liberated, inspired, mental attitude that makes us more effective healers, lawyers, businessmen, politicians, homemakers, engineers, artists, parents, students more effective thinkers and problem-solvers at whatever workbench in life we find ourselves.
What before was an undeveloped picture, a state of human misconception, a legion of dashed hopes, a blindness to our potential as "Thy People," is replaced by a new scene. A happier scene.
But please note an important point.
The awareness that we're "Thy People" isn't something we invent humanly or achieve by ourselves. We need help if we're to apply God's law. We need a spiritual dimension.
This spiritual dimension is Christ at work in you and me God speaking to us through right ideas. Christ is the divine message of God to men. Christ is the spiritual power that redeems, purifies, inspires us. Christ in us is the "still, small voice" of divine Truth which tells us the right thing to do when we're confused, sick, or tired. Christ is the revelation of divine Love which enables us to love others when we think we can't. Christ comforts us when we're hurt.
Christ, the manifestation of God,
is the light that helps us walk
away from the unreal toward the real. The Christ in you is the very reflection
of God, the
Christ is the healing agent that turns an undeveloped life into a complete one. Through Christ we become "Thy People."
Beyond the Veil
Now it's obvious to the thoughtful person that we've got to see beyond limiting, frightful, materially minded phenomena and so-called physical law in order to identify God's likeness, "Thy People," governed by spiritual law. We must look beyond outer appearances, beyond the apparent scene, beyond the veil of materialism spread before us.
The life of Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, is a case in point. We are given a hint of her immense achievement, for which countless numbers are grateful today, in this statement from the Manual of The Mother Church the Church she founded:
"At a meeting of the Christian Science Association, April 12, 1879, on motion of Mrs. Eddy, it was voted, To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing" (p. 17).
Today thousands of branch churches,
Reading Rooms, Sunday
Constantly Mrs. Eddy had to look beyond the veil, beyond the dullness and grossness of material-mindedness, under the most challenging circumstances. Here is just one example.
One Sunday in 1906 a large
The attack didn't stop here. There followed the famous "Next Friends" lawsuit in Concord, New Hampshire, Mrs. Eddy's home town. In this lawsuit the plaintiffs, urged onward by the newspaper, tried to prove Mrs. Eddy incompetent, tried to secure control of her fortune, tried to throw dark shadows across the church she founded, tried to discredit faithful men and women who practiced the new religion known as Christian Science. The ordeal was formidable. Finally, after much litigation the forces attacking Mrs. Eddy had to admit in court that they could not sustain the charges in their petitions against her. The case ended in her favor.
The question is, What was Mrs. Eddy's attitude during those long months of malicious persecution? How could she be or see "Thy People" in such circumstances? Could you?
It was her deep trust in divine Mind's disposal of events, a deep trust in and obedience to spiritual law, that enabled her to see beyond the veil of materialism and bleak injustice that nearly engulfed her and her work. Not only did Mrs. Eddy well into her eighties at this time survive the ordeal, she took positive, not negative, action after it was all over. She founded The Christian Science Monitor in 1908. Today the Monitor is widely recognized as a constructive force in national and world journalism.
Mrs. Eddy had insight. Spiritual sensitivity. She understood what Jesus meant, "I and my Father are one." She listened for divine Mind's ideas, angel thoughts or intuitions from God. She felt the indestructible presence of divine Soul, the infinite individuality of "I AM THAT I AM" that Moses witnessed at the burning bush. Above all she knew herself to be subject to human law only so far as it coincided with divine law. This gave her insight to overcome an attack that would have destroyed her and her work.
The same spiritual insight is available to you and me. It penetrates the veil or turmoil of material-mindedness and reveals "Thy People," subject only and always to the divine law of good.
What Difference Does "Thy People" Make?
Now I can just hear the voice of the skeptic saying: What difference does it make if we're "Thy People" or not?
It makes a big difference to the troubled individual and society if all men can tune in through Christ to God's law and discover a more abundant life, the real meaning of "Thy People."
Centuries ago, the Psalmist wrote;
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6).
Mrs. Eddy shares interesting insight on the "house of the Lord." She refers to it as the consciousness of divine Love (Science and Health, p. 578:16). It is the Mind of Christ.
Looking at the "house of the Lord" in spiritual terms, we say it is a state of spiritualized or purified consciousness. It's an awareness of the everpresent control of infinite Love in our life Love that meets every human need. It's the light of divine Truth dawning irresistibly in our life, bringing increased freedom to solve human problems. And it comes through prayer.
For example, let's see how this works in the area of physical healing in correcting whatever physical condition might interfere with or limit, our experiencing the fullness of life.
A Healing of Fear
As a Navy Chaplain it was my duty to make daily visits in hospital areas and help the sick and incapacitated. One day I was going through a large hospital ward that contained many patients. A sailor called me to his bedside and urgently grabbed my arm. He was in great turmoil and pain, he said. Would I pray with him, he asked? I didn't have time to request a medical prognosis or to ask if he was a Protestant, Catholic, or Jew. I could see his fear needed healing. There was an obvious and urgent human need here.
I always carried the Bible. I opened it to the 23rd Psalm and read aloud those beautiful and powerful laws of divine Love that begin with, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Together we prayerfully acknowledged the absoluteness of divine Love how divine Love restores our sense of well-being, sustains us in the presence of evil, never leaves us. In other words, we prayed to recognize that both of us were in the house of the Lord that we were conscious of divine Love's control now!
The sailor quieted down, dropped off to sleep I went along to make other calls. Later I came back to see him and he was gone. Another sailor was in his bed.
Some years later I was in a large
department store in
Those moments were a spiritual experience. They were a blending with the law of divine Love. You might say that sailor and I became the very expression of God's law. We experienced the meaning of "Thy People."
The teachings of Christian Science are sometimes misunderstood. Critics think we ignore human problems. Not true. Holding thought steadfastly to deep spiritual truths is vital therapy for ills of the flesh. By returning to our Father's house, by divine intelligence, we are able to see beyond suffering to God's beautiful handiwork. We are able to experience the Soul-inspired meaning of "Thy People." This changes things.
This scientific prayer, this consciousness of divine reality, is not an escapist's technique. It is the powerful healing presence of divine Soul, Love, shining through a dematerialized state of thought. It enables us to see through evil's terrifying illusions. It destroys evil's mesmeric power over us. It demonstrates the human and divine coincidence divinity embracing humanity. It helps us solve problems and dissolve limitations.
Everyone Eligible to Experience the Word Made Flesh
Now just to be sure we understand the point that every brother and sister in our and every land can practice divine law and discover what has always been true of himself or herself as "Thy People," let's examine another healing and see how the human evidence of alienation disappeared.
Remember, I spoke just now of the human and divine coincidence, divinity, embracing humanity. You might say that through prayer divine law is reduced to human perception so you and I can understand it. This is what the life of Christ Jesus is all about.
From the Bible . . .
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
Jesus' life and works proved that the Word of God or law of God is made flesh understandable, to humanity in a way that heals and sets us free from every kind of limitation.
"The Word of God" or law of God is divine Truth the power and presence of God. "Made flesh" means divine goodness revealed in our lives, made operational in our daily experience in strengthening, comforting, healing ways.
It works this way. A professional man I knew had a problem with his hearing. It was during a period when there was much turmoil and change occurring in his place of work. There was false accusation, unfair competition, manipulation of facts, selfish ambition, confusion, malicious gossip. The unholiness of the situation was a burden to him.
He said he reached the point where he didn't want to hear anything more of evil. He'd had it. He was determined to shut inharmony out and not listen.
It got to the point where he couldn't hear adequately on the telephone. One day in an important business meeting where vital issues were being hotly discussed, he realized he simply wasn't hearing what was going on. As the days passed he tried urgently to heal his problem.
He spent much time studying the daily Bible Lesson-Sermons, published in the Christian Science Quarterly.
One particular passage in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy was helpful. It's where she illumines a sentence in the Lord's Prayer by bringing out its spiritual meaning:
" 'Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.' Enable us to know, as in heaven, so on earth, God is omnipotent, supreme" (p. 17:1-3).
To him this meant divine Truth, God, plans all creation intelligently, and with power. Made flesh or translated into human affairs, this meant to him that divine Truth is powerfully present to resolve conflict and heal the miseries that pressure us. In short, "Thy will be done in earth" meant that human malfunction, misfunction, nonfunction are corrected by divine Truth's presence manifest as intelligent order, beauty, health. This is God's Word the law of Truth made flesh, understandable or evident in human affairs.
As he prayed on these lines, he began to see that to claim his own peace in this turmoil, he needed to clear his consciousness of the belief that evil existed "out there" in the minds and actions of others. This meant overcoming his own personal sense of reality which at the moment was overwhelmingly negative about certain other people. It meant acknowledging that God's Word or law embraces all mankind; that all are included in "Thy People."
He prayed to become a witness of this divinely intelligent creation.
You might say he prayed to be the very performance of God's Word or divine law.
One day he was walking in the country with his wife. They approached a brook and he could hear the happy noise of the rushing waters. It was loud and clear. Within a short time his hearing was completely normal.
Meanwhile the problems in his professional work began to clear up. Eventually he was promoted to a new work with wider opportunities for progress and service.
Christian Science teaches, ''You are my people now" man is God's likeness now and forever. An understanding of this divine law or Word of God is the spiritual solution that frees and unifies men and nations. It heals whatever would alienate us from our Father's house or deprive us of the completeness of good. All may avail themselves of His law and prove they're His people.
Those who are driven by restless urges and impulses to seek peace, satisfaction, excitement, in materialistic pursuits and who find themselves exhausted, frustrated, depressed, have a new song of life to sing. They can rejoice in the secret beauty of their relationship with our Father which art in heaven, divine Soul.
We must help each other stay in the Father's house, in the sweet consciousness of divine Love's presence and control in our life. Instead of "We the People," let's raise our sights to "We Thy People." Try this in your individual experience. It will give you a new song to sing.
During those rugged moments of discomfort you can declare for yourself: "I refuse to be a sickly, sinful, alienated mortal; I am God's likeness, His son, through Christ."
And when you're helped by this Christly relationship, "I and my Father are one," you can work to help others in society find their way back to the Father's house.
Once back in our Father's house we can experience His government of ourselves and our society.
I'd like to close with this quotation from the writings of Mrs. Eddy:
"One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations, constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (Science and Health, p. 340:23).
[Published in the Tulsa (Oklahoma) County News, March 9, 1978.]