WORSHIPPING GOD SPIRITUALLY:
Once we separate our concept of God from any and all material forms, we still have to make sure that when we worship Him — when we set about to show our devotion and reverence for Him — that we worship Him with our spiritual sense, and not through material means. This gets down to what the Second Commandment is about: watching our thinking to see that our method of worship is of the highest and purest standards. Do we settle for traditional rituals, or repetitious prayers that may have grown stale and have little meaning for us as we say them? Or, do we offer our most heartfelt desires to God, and adore Him with our deepest gratitude? We can all do better here. According to Christian Science, our spiritual growth is dependent upon keeping our worship of God on a spiritual basis:
“Whatever materializes worship hinders man spiritual growth and keeps him from demonstrating his power over error.” (S&H 5)
“We worship spiritually, only as we cease to worship materially. Spiritual devoutness is the soul of Christianity. Worshipping through the medium of matter is paganism. Judaic and other rituals are but types and shadows of true worship. ‘The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.'” (S&H 140)
“Dost thou ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’? This command includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection, and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity.” (S&H 9)
“The Israelites centered their thoughts on the material in their attempted worship of the spiritual. To them matter was substance, and Spirit was shadow. They thought to worship Spirit from a material standpoint, but this was impossible. They might appeal to Jehovah, but their prayer brought down no proof that it was heard, because they did not sufficiently understand God to be able to demonstrate His power to heal, — to make harmony the reality and discord the unreality.” (S&H 351)
“Moses advanced a nation to the worship of God in Spirit instead of matter. . . ” (S&H 200)
“As mortals do not comprehend even mortal existence, how ignorant must they be of the all-knowing Mind and of His creations. Here you may see how so-called material sense creates its own forms of thought, gives them material names, and then worships and fears them. With pagan blindness, it attributes to some material god or medicine an ability beyond itself. The beliefs of the human mind rob and enslave it, and then impute this result to another illusive personification, named Satan.” (S&H 187)
“Holy Writ declares that God is love, is Spirit, hence it follows that those who worship Him, must worship Him spiritually, — far apart from physical sensation such as attends eating and drinking corporeally. It is plain that aught unspiritual, intervening between God and man, would tend to disturb the divine order, and countermand the Scripture that those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit. It is also plain, that we should not seek and cannot find God in matter, or through material methods; neither do we love and obey Him by means of matter, or the flesh, — which warreth against Spirit, and will not be reconciled thereto.” (Miscellaneous Writings 123-124)
“The restoration of pure Christianity rests solely on spiritual understanding, spiritual worship, spiritual power. Ask thyself, Do I enter by the door and worship only Spirit and spiritually, or do I climb up some other way? Do I understand God as Love, the divine Principle of all that really is, the infinite good, than which there is none else and in whom is all? Unless this be so, the blind is leading the blind, and both will stumble into doubt and darkness, even as the ages have shown.” (Miscellany 152)
“Do I believe in a personal God? I believe in God as the Supreme Being. I know not what the person of omnipotence and omnipresence is, or what the infinite includes; therefore, I worship that of which I can conceive, first, as a loving Father and Mother; then, as thought ascends the scale of being to diviner consciousness, God becomes to me, as to the apostle who declared it, ‘God is Love,’ — divine Principle, — which I worship; and ‘after the manner of my fathers, so worship I God.'” (Miscellaneous Writings 96)
The teachings of Christian Science on the Second Commandment clearly promote obedience of that rule by its emphasis on spiritualizing our concepts of God and our worship of Him in accord with the Word of the New Testament.
In the study of Christian Science, we learn that the laws of God are not just laws to be obeyed when the occasion seems to arise, but are dynamic, living expressions of divine Principle which can be utilized in our lives pro-actively. The Second Commandment is not one to set aside until we come upon someone bowing down to a wood carving in their living room!
The Second Commandment, summarized as “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” is a foundational law to be studied and used in our lives. Christian Science teaches a deeply spiritual point-of-view toward the Second Commandment, which needs to be understood, as well as demonstrated in our lives.
Let’s consider some of the ways we might make “graven images” to be worshiped instead of God:
Think about some things in your life that you may have placed more importance on for
your happiness than your relationship with God. Are you a slave to tobacco, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sex, or other stimulants? Are you suffering from the belief that these things bring you true pleasure? Are you a workaholic, finding satisfaction only in your job, or prestige of position? Then, you are disobeying the Second Commandment. Spirit, God, should be the only true source of attraction and happiness and satisfaction.
Have you watched certain commercials on television or social media so often that they become “graven images” in your mind, and you find yourself “needing” what they sell? How often do we find ourselves coming down with the very illness that certain medicine commercials pound into our thoughts? If you are not on guard to erase these “graven images” from your mind, by denying the power of drugs to heal, or disease to harm God’s children, then the “graven images” become like “other gods” to you, as they force you to fear, obey, and worship them at the cost of your personal and spiritual health.
Do the sensational images on television, social media, movies, newspapers, and magazines arouse you in negative ways? Do they pull your thoughts away from the beauty and goodness that God ordains for man? Then watch that these powerful images do not become idols for you. God is the only true power. To obey the Second Commandment, you must oust any false sense of a power apart from God, any event that is not the will of an all-loving Father-Mother, any claim that man is an animal with animal instincts, and not the pure image and likeness of Spirit.
Has the “love of money” taken over your thoughts? Do you worship the idea of having tons of money without taking account of your usefulness to God in the service of mankind? Worshiping money instead of God, who is the source of all true supply and who fills all of our needs in the best way possible, is breaking the Second Commandment. We must humble ourselves before God, and ask Him for our “daily bread.”
Do we always turn to doctors and medicine, or the so-called healing benefit of “time,” to cope with illness or accidents? Jesus showed us that there is a healing Principle: God. Jesus did not use drugs. He taught us to grow in spirituality and unselfish love. These qualities will help us trust in God in times of physical need, just as Jesus did. Sometimes, though, God will guide us to the right use of “temporary” means, if we do need the help of doctors in situations that are beyond our current spiritual understanding to heal with Christian Science. The point is that our primary trust should be in God — not in the so-called power of drugs, the use of which can be a form of idolatry, according to our teachings. Having faith first in God always, will prevent us from being disobedient to the Second Commandment.
Those are just a few of the ideas of how we might make “graven images” of a variety of things in our lives. We must be alert to this process, and pray daily to be delivered from evil.
Now, let’s consider ways in which we might be materializing our worship of God, making “graven images” to worship, adore, or serve Him, rather than keeping our worship on a more spiritual basis.
An expression I have heard before in Christian Science, is that “We do not go to church to worship God, we go to express Him!”
That pretty much sums up what must be our attitude regarding attendance at church, and our activities to support the services. If we become self-satisfied with our “perfect attendance,” assuming that merely showing up at church, week after week, is sufficient to worship God, then we may need to search our hearts to see how much there is of spiritual growth. Are we using our time there wisely, in expressing God’s spiritual qualities? Or, do we find our thoughts drifting to other matters, perhaps what we will have for lunch, or casting a critical eye toward some other member?
Do you consider yourself a good Christian Scientist, because you read the Bible Lesson daily? Are you merely reading, or do you come away each day with some new and exciting spiritual discovery that you can put into practice right away? Are you using the spiritual qualities of the divine Mind as you read and study, or are you just rushing through the citations in order to “do your duty”? The Second Commandment would urge us not to use the act of merely perusing the Bible and Science and Health as a replacement for true adoration and worship and expression of God in our thinking.
Some followers of Christian Science might say, when wondering what went wrong in their lives, or in the lives of relatives, why some healing hasn’t occurred. After all, they had been model Christian Scientists: always reading the Lesson, attending all the church services, giving financial support, etc. They don’t understand why that doesn’t merit them a successful demonstration of health and harmony in their lives. In some cases, a tragic death under Christian Science care has prompted this kind of soul-searching. The truth cannot always really be known by us in any individual case. But, to prevent this kind of misunderstanding in the future, it must be thoroughly realized that the “rituals” of Christian Science, or any religion for that matter, are not, in and of themselves, protection from harm. Only a life spiritualized through the active purification of sin in our consciousness, and the active outpouring of unselfed love towards God and man, will be prepared to handle the demands of consistently successful spiritual healing. Just “showing up” at church, handing out money, and dutifully reading the Bible with no more than superficial interest, will not reach the divine heights of obedience to the Second Commandment.
For those readers of other religions, I leave it to you to give consideration to what, in the practice of your denomination, might be mere ritual, and not true spiritual worship. Think about those activities or messages that may have become habit to you, rather than a source of spiritual uplift. Is there someway you can find new inspiration in them? Love is usually the answer. If love will not bring a sense of renewal to your common practices of worship, perhaps you then need to turn to God in prayer, and start a new dialogue with Him. Just how might He wish you, in particular, to serve Him and your brother man? What steps can you take to spiritualize your thinking and your motives and your actions in daily life, not just on Sundays or other days or worship?
Our divine service to God, the way in which we worship and adore Him, must be acceptable to God, not to other humans who may have a very limited concept of our spiritual growth. The opinions of others, and what they think will do us the most good, may not be what God has in Mind for us. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells her followers: “Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ!”
So, don’t take on the “graven images” that others may have formulated in their thinking
— you have enough of your own to deal with!
Our goal of obedience to the Second Commandment is to flee from any kind of material idolatry. Our desire to be obedient is a great start. Our daily prayer to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” will also be the method of purifying our thinking, so that we can also pray with the utmost of spiritual sincerity:
“Hallowed be thy name.
With the fullness of the Christ, Truth, in our consciousness, we will be utterly unable to make “any graven image.” The understanding that we are, in reality, the spiritual “image and likeness” of God, will prevent any false images or concepts from taking root in our thoughts. There will simply be no room or place for evil or erroneous material thinking to be engraved in a consciousness filled with the idea of God!
O, he whom Jesus loved has truly spoken,
That holier worship, which God deigns to bless,
Restores the lost, and heals the spirit broken,
And feeds the widow and the fatherless.
Then, brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother,
For where love dwells, the peace of God is there:
To worship rightly is to love each other;
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of him whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.
(Hymn 217 John Greenleaf Whittier
SECCOMB Charles H. Morse
The Christian Science Hymnal)