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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”
The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the 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.
It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept 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 it says in Luke 24:45: “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’ve been remiss in posting lately. December 2022 turned out to be a busy time, what with two family Christmases, one up in Massachusetts. (Which included my driving up there through yet another “storm of the century.”) That’s why my posts went from Advent ’22 to Epiphany ’23 – without much to say about Christmas. (Not to mention having to say “farewell Mi Dulce.”)
But hopefully I can now start getting back up to speed.
On that note, last week’s January 18 was the Feast Day for the Confession of St Peter. This Wednesday, January 25 is the Feast Day for the Conversion of St Paul. I covered these two feast days in Peter confesses, Paul converts, from January 2016. The post started off saying that on June 25 each year we have a feast day for both Apostles together. But in January we remember both men separately. “Or more precisely, we remember how these two ‘Pillars of the Church‘ took two completely different paths to the same destination.” That is, closer to God:
On 18 January we remember how the Apostle Peter was led by God’s grace to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20), and we join with Peter, and with all Christians everywhere, in hailing Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior.
Put another way, January 18 commemorates Peter as the first apostle to confess Jesus as Messiah. On the other hand, the January 25 Feast Day commemorates how “Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, formerly an enemy and persecutor of the early Christian Church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief spokesmen.” (See Conversion of St. Paul, emphasis added.)
In other words, Peter came to his position of authority from “inside the church.” On the other hand God pretty much dragged Paul kicking and screaming into his position of authority.
[The] Apostle Peter proclaims Jesus to be Christ – the Messiah. The proclamation is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27–30 and Luke 9:18–20. The proclamation of Jesus as Christ is fundamental to Christology … and Jesus’ acceptance of the title is a definitive statement for it in the New Testament narrative.
In turn, on January 25 we remember how Paul was once a devout and zealous enemy of early Christians, as told in Galatians 1:13-14. He was “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers,” persecuting the newly-formed Christian Church and trying to destroy it. But then came his Damascus Road Experience. He was literally struck blind, for three days. Thus the claim that Paul was “pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.”
The Bible also includes his part in the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:57-8:3. (“Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”) So in plain words, Paul’s Damascus Road experience “changed him from a Christ-hating persecutor of Christians to the foremost spokesman for the faith.” But before that could happen, he had to convince those Christians – in Jerusalem especially – that his change of heart was genuine. Their change of heart came about mostly through the work of Barnabas:
To sum up, if it hadn’t been for Barnabas and his willingness to give Paul a second chance – a second chance for 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.”
Which sums up the theme for the post, that power to be transformed – if you let God into your life and read the Bible with an open mind. As for my not being able to do a post for Christmas ’22, you can see some background details at The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. Which included the thought that “If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all [still] be Jewish!“
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The upper image is courtesy of Albert Bierstadt Museum: Two Scholars Disputing REMBRANDT.
The Book of Common Prayer. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.
“Storm of the century.” See December 2022 North American winter storm – Wikipedia, on the “extratropical cyclone created winter storm conditions, including blizzards, high winds, snowfall, or record cold temperatures across the majority of the United States.” I tried to make the 1000-mile drive in two days, but because of that snow, ice and fog had to stop the second night in Milford PA…
“The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019.” That post also included a note that the concepts of sin, repentance and confession should be viewed as tools to “help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control.”
The lower image is courtesy of Caterpillar To Butterfly – Image Results. See also How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly? – Scientific American.
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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?