* * * *
Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”
The Book of Common Prayer* says that by sharing Communion, Christians are “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.
To that end, it has four themes. The first is that God accepts anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As Luke 24:45 said: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.)
And this thought ties them together:
In the meantime:
I just got home from a two-week trip to The Big Apple, New York City. The main reason for the trip? To see my brother and his wife perform – with some other people – at Carnegie Hall, on Friday night, June 3. They were part of a concert by the New England Symphonic Ensemble, and their group was listed in the program as “participating choruses.”
My family and I visited other sites as well, during the week after the concert. But the point is that during that visit I couldn’t do any updates on this blog. I got back home late last Monday evening, June 13, and am just now catching up. In other words, I’m just now getting back to my “rhythm.” And speaking of getting back into my rhythm, last June 5th was Pentecost Sunday. Also, last Saturday, June 11, was the Feast Day for St. Barnabas, and then last Sunday, June 12, was Trinity Sunday. Which means I have a lot to cover.
Getting back to Pentecost, that’s the 49th day (seventh Sunday) after Easter. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit “upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks.” (Described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31.) I covered this special day in Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Back when we were “just starting the 12th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic.”)
Pentecost is also known as the Birthday of the Church, as noted in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.” That is, “from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.” Pentecost also marks the start of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church calendar year. This year that long liturgical season will last until November 27, the First Sunday of Advent.
And what makes Pentecost so special? For the first time in history, God gave power to “all different sorts of people for ministry.” In Old Testament times, “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.” But on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit went to “‘all people.’ All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” Which was a pretty radical development.
Moving on to St. Barnabas, he was identified as an apostle – with Paul – in Acts 14:14. He and Paul “successfully evangelized among the ‘God-fearing‘ Gentiles who attended synagogues in various Hellenized cities of Anatolia.” I wrote about him in 2014’s On St. Barnabas:
The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church. Though not one of the 12 apostles . . . he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and [the] most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.
That post noted that Barnabas could be called “the Apostle of Second Chances.” First because he vouched for Paul, after his Damascus Road Experience. (The first Christians knew Paul only as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church.) Barnabas later gave Mark a second chance as well – to go on a missionary journey – even though Paul, in turn, had labeled Mark as “undependable.” As noted in D-Day and St. Barnabas – 2021, “if it hadn’t been for Barnabas’ willingness to give Paul a second chance – Paul, the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the ‘Founder of Christianity.'”
The word “trinity” is a term used to denote the Christian doctrine that God exists as a unity of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of the persons is distinct from the other yet identical in essence. In other words, each is fully divine in nature, but each is not the totality of the other persons of the Trinity.
Sound confusing? It is, and was, even to a guy as smart as Thomas Jefferson. See for example, On Trinity Sunday (2016) – and more! That post talked about things like God’s timetable being usually quite different than ours, and how “we mere human beings are no more prepared to fully comprehend God than ‘cats are prepared to study calculus.'”
On that note, it also talked about how the “Trinity” was so difficult that even Jefferson couldn’t figure it out. But he – like many of us – fell into a common error: Thinking he could ever “really understand everything there is to know about God.” But like many parts of the Bible, the Trinity is simply beyond our ability to comprehend, fully. “It’s a reality that we may only begin to grasp.”
On that note too, consider John’s Gospel ending, 21:25: “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” Or Psalm 40:5, in various translations, basically saying that God’s wonderful deeds “are more than can be told.” Or see Isaiah 55:8. In the NLT: “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.'”
All we can do is keep trying to understand God, like a “cat studying calculus…”
* * * *
* * * *
The upper image is courtesy of Carnegie Hall Image – Image Results. It goes with an article, How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? No, Seriously. | NCPR News, with lots of background information.
Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist: Rite One:
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…
Or see The Online Book of Common Prayer.
Re: “Two weeks in New York City.” We spent eight days visiting the city, from a base in North Bergen, New Jersey; I took four days driving up there from the “ATL,” and four days driving back home.
Re “Participating choruses.” The phrase in the program was “With participating choruses.” You can click on the near-upper-right “Calendar View” at Official Website | Carnegie Hall.) The chorus in question was The Trey Clegg Singers, Inc. My brother and his wife have sung with “Trey” for years. For more on the visit (as proposed), see Back to New York City – finally, from my companion blog.
Re: Getting back to my “rhythm.” My first wife Karen (who died in 2006) used to say I wasn’t spontaneous enough, I was in too much of a rut. My response was, “It’s not a rut, it’s a rhythm.” See also The Three Biggest Benefits of Good Habits – Top Three Guide, Why Habits are Important: 5 Benefits of Habits, and – for a more “churchy” view – The Benefits of Good Habits | Christian Library.
The lower image is courtesy of Cat Studying Calculus … Image Results. Note that the cat is actually studying physics, not calculus. See also Your Cat Probably Understands Physics – Business Insider.
* * * *
As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:
…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency…
So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”
However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” *
Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism. (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripture, tradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”
For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?