Message from Rev. Rhonda MurraySunday Service Message 27 Jan. 2019
I sometimes get questioned about why Unity places so much importance on the Bible. Without the Bible, without Jesus’ teachings, Unity would be just another personal development program.
In Unity we explore the Bible stories, especially the Gospels, to find meaning relevant to our lives today. This is much more powerful than just positive thinking.
Unity’s way of exploring the Bible covers several different aspects:
- First we look at the historical setting
- Then at when it was written, and why
- We look at the meaning of the original words of Aramaic or Greek scrolls; many words have changed their meaning since the early English translations.
- We explore the metaphorical meaning
- Lastly, look at metaphysical interpretation, and what this symbolises in our lives today.
We use two interpretation methods for making sense of Bible – they work for other stories too, eg fables.
Mai-eutic interpretation, based on the word for birthing or mid-wifing, drawing forth meaning through our own intuition, to find how a story is relevant to our situation.
Metaphysical interpretation givess us some basic interpretation tools as clues to the characters, the places, and the situations in the stories.
The meaning of names of people and places can be found in Unity’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, and for ordinary nouns etc Revealing Word can be helpful. Last century Elizabeth Sand Turner wrote a 3-book series on Bible interpretation, still interesting and helpful today.
My favourite part of the Gospels is Jesus’ teachings that are known as the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-6-7. The Gospel of Mark has a different version of the same teachings, called the sermon on the plains. Jesus would have shared the same stories and messages many times in different places, so those travelling with him would have heard them more than once.
So though these two Gospels were written down many years later, we can be confident that the teachings did originate with these repeated talks that Jesus gave.
Part of this sermon is the passage known as the beatitudes – Eric Butterworth calls them the Be Attitudes. They all start with the word “blessed”. For example, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Taken literally, it doesn’t make sense! Neither does, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” I don’t think so!! The International Bible translatiion is even worse: “blessed are the poor”!!
Jesus’ original Aramaic is lost in the mists of time, the Gospels were written much later in Greek. The word “blessed” has come into English from the Greek root makários, literally “become long, large” – which ties in with the meaning of heaven as “increasing, “expanding”. A derivative word, “makar” means “Happy”. That sounds like what Jesus would have said – his teaching was about being happy. But blessed means more than happy, it refers to being prosperous, even powerful. One translation is “fortunate”.
The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 with an endeavor to extract from makarios its full flavor: It explains Blessed as happy and spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions“. We wouldn’t say, “in God’s favour and salvation” – that’s not something we have to beg for.
Blessings are what we experience when we live in the awareness of ourselves as spiritual beings, and are willing to surrender to Spirit within us guiding us and expressing AS us. That’s when we are truly HAPPY!
Eric Butterworth calls them the “Amazing Be-Attitudes” – and what I find Amazing is that Jesus was not teaching What To Do, or even What To Believe – he was teaching HOW TO BE – attitudes of BEING.
He writes in Discover the Power Within You, “Blessed” is a one-word definition of all the good that will come to you if you understand and live by these amazing attitudes of being.”
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
The word “meek” is a poor translation, as the modern use of the word is quite different to the Hebrew, or the Greek, meanings. Moses, one of the strongest characters in the Hebrew story, was described as meek: the Hebrew sense of the word referred to openness and obedience to God.
The Greek word praus has a connotation of gentleness, but more than that, it means a combination of gentleness and strength.
it is used for example for training a horse to be willing and obedient.
Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to using one of our Twelve Powers, Strength – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness, s taying strong and calm.
So with spiritual strength we shall inherit the earth – but not the world in our sense of the word. Jesus said in the prayer he taught us, that the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven, is established on earth as in heaven. That is, on the outer as in the inner; as within, so without.
This is the basis of our Unity teachings – what we hold in our minds and hearts expresses in our lives. Blessed are we when we are open and receptive to Divine Guidance and keep our thoughts and feelings focussed on good, for we will draw the highest good to us in Divine Order and Divine Timing.
Let’s look at some more Be-Attitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”
This is not poor, as in economically challenged. Poor in spirit means not proud; open and receptive to new understanding. We could say our wonderful credit students are “poor in spirit” because they are willing to learn, willing to explore new depths of understanding, open and receptive to Spirit guiding their awareness. Theirs is the spiritual kingdom within their own consciousness, they ar learning to live in the realm of God.
Blessed are they that hunger after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Again, a word that has changed its meaning since first being translated in 1611 in the King James version of the Bible. The Greek word translated as “righteous” means “just” – one who thinks rightly, justly, one who is as he ought to be. Our description today would be right-thinking, or Truth-filled. Fortunate are they that hunger after Truth, for they will be filled – with spiritual awareness and understanding. Sounds like our credit students again!
Let’s just take one more Be-Attitude:
Blessed are the peace-makers, for they will be called children of God.
Of course we are all children of God, whether we know it or not – all expressions of Spirit, expressing all-good to whatever extent we are able. The key here is in knowing it, calling oneself a child of God, an expression of Spirit. Knowing this about ourselves in the key to the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus said is in everyone of us.
We sing at the end of each service, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”. We are dedicating ourselves to being peace-makers – to adding vibrations of peace and harmony to the earth’s atmosphere every day.
Remember the story of the 100th monkey? When a critical number of monkeys washed their sweet potato before eating it, suddenly every monkey did it. When enough people choose to be peace-makers, and maintain a peaceful, happy, harmonious vibration in our own lives, we will reach a point of critical mass and peace will filter into homes, communities, and countries.
“Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be!” Amen!