Dry Bones or Lively Stones?

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.  And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.  And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. – Luke 19

 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,  ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. – I Peter 2

I just finished reading Stephen Gottschalk’s Rolling Away the Stone, which focuses on the last 20 years of Mary Baker Eddy’s life. It was not an easy read for me – it took several weeks to work my way through it – but I found it really thought-provoking. One of the themes that seemed to keep re-appearing was the idea of a “revival” – the idea of stirring up “the dry bones” and bringing new life to our Christian Science experience. Gottschalk quotes Mary Baker Eddy as instructing her student, Albert Farlow to, “…stir the dry bones all over the field, to more words, actions and demonstrations in Christian Science.”

Later Gottschalk writes: “As with other movements after the death of their founder, Christian Science became to a significant degree routinized, in the process losing much of the spiritual animus that accounted for its early growth. The pattern is observable, whether we are speaking of the early Christian church after Jesus, the Islamic movement in the decades after the death of Mohammad, or the Franciscan order after the death of St. Francis. Eddy appears to have anticipated with great apprehension that the Christian Science church, too, would settle down into a kind of bland predictability, when she was no longer on the scene. To her, being a Christian Scientist in any meaningful sense involved not only a strong commitment, but, in a sense, a spirit of adventure.”

Gottschalk writes: “What apparently concerned her the most was the prospect that the church would devolve into yet another ecclesiastic organization, ‘barren,’ to use her words in Science and Health, ‘of the vitality of spiritual power, by which material sense is made the servant of Science and religion becomes Christlike.’… This materialism could, she believed, take on ecclesiastical form. It did so when Christian Scientists, conditioned by their earlier adherence to orthodoxy, failed to break with outworn tradition, ritual, and other merely exterior forms of worship. ‘Long prayers, ecclesiasticism, and creeds,’ she stated, ‘have clipped the divine pinions of Love, and clad religion in human robes. They materialize worship, hinder the Spirit, and keep man from demonstrating his power over error.’”

Whoaaaah, right?

The Christ, Truth, is living, lively, dynamic –  it didn’t die with Jesus. And the Christian Science movement was not meant to stop and flash freeze at the moment of Mary Baker Eddy’s passing, either. I’m sure Eddy would not have wanted this for her movement. “I find the general atmosphere of my church as cold and still as the marble floors,” she wrote, after an appearance at The Mother Church,  “… I did feel a coldness a lack of inspiration all through the dear hearts… it was a stillness a lack of spiritual energy and zeal that I felt.” And, In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook for Christian Science, Eddy writes: “The letter of Science plentifully reaches humanity to-day, but its spirit comes only in small degrees. The vital part,  the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science, –  pulseless, cold, inanimate.”

Life! Joy! Love! Aren’t these the way-marks of the living Christ – the Truth that heals?

***

Jesus was alone

when he rolled away that stone

Pushing back matter –

throwing away the tatters

And we have our job, too

to see what is real

to do what we must do

to rise up and heal

to laugh, dance, and sing

praises to our King

to stir those dry bones

and be joyful, lively stones.

***

(I’m sure Seuss would have done better

at writing this poetry-letter

But he is not here

and you’re stuck with me, I fear.)