The Kingdom of Heaven
Guest post by Rev. Maggy Whitehouse
I’m a minister so it may seem strange that I took it as a huge compliment, last week, when a professor of philosophy described me as ‘more Jewish than all my Jewish friends put together.’
Why? Because it was Judaism which taught me how to heal my broken relationship with Jesus. You know Jesus was Jewish, of course … but did you know that most of the problems we have with the Christian Gospels come from not having the religious and cultural backgrounds of the people who wrote them?
The Kingdom of Heaven for example. When we read the Hebrew Testament in English, we completely miss that the writers used two different words which have both been translated as ‘kingdom’ but have profound differences in meaning. People in Jesus’ day, who didn’t read nor write and whose knowledge of the oral tradition was far deeper than the written scrolls of the Law, would have known instantly from the pronunciation of the word that one was a physical land and the other an inner experience – and one which is available to us all.
Queen Esther, for example ‘came into the Kingdom’ when she prepared to go and risk her life at the hand of the King, in order to save her people (Est 4:14). She was already Queen of Persia so this was not a physical invasion but a spiritual one.
This Kingdom is somewhere we can access quite easily through meditation or contemplation but most of us are only kicked into it at a time of crisis when our everyday comfort is shattered and our resistance is down. We resist the Kingdom of Heaven because once we are there, it’s quite clear that the next step in our development is to reach higher – for the Kingdom of God.
It’s 30 years now since a hospital chaplain told me that my dying husband could not go to heaven because he was an atheist. That crisis ensured that I threw out my inhibiting ‘armchair Christianity’ (the sort where you take your religion for granted and never really think about it). In the chasm that was left after Henry died and my security blanket was removed, I found myself exploring New Age spirituality and using all those alternative words like ‘Source’ and ‘the Light’ because I needed to reject the conventional God.
Eventually, I realised that my anger with Christianity was still suppurating, despite being, figuratively, covered in a pretty pink throw, crystals and tealights. I had to look this Jesus guy right in the face and challenge him, so I went to my local church and lay down on the floor with my arms out in the shape of a cross and prayed, with all my heart, ‘help me to understand.’
Within three months, I had met and fallen in love with a Jewish man and was learning how to live within a faith that taught me the deep mysteries within the Hebrew Testament. I learnt the subtleties of the journey from the Torah (the Law) through the Prophets to the Wisdom literature. It was like shining a light onto the Gospels which had seemed incomprehensible darkness to me.
Twelve years later, I lay on a Church floor in that same cross-like position at my ordination and, as my bishop anointed my hands, I had the first, sublime, experience of the Kingdom of God.
Let me take you there too…
Workshop: Kingdom of Heaven; Kingdom of God
Life is Balance
In every moment, we automatically seek balance.
This is true for the baby as it learns to crawl and walk – the child learning to ride a bike – in our latter years perhaps using a stick. Indeed all structures, including ships on the water, need balance to stay upright and secure. Life seeks and requires balance.
At another level, the natural cycle of birth and death is an expression of balance – life makes way for the new. We see this when the leaves fall off the tree each autumn, providing food for the soil to support the tree as it grows in the spring – life progresses and evolves through this natural process.
The tree drops its leaves to rest, so it can more fully take up the nutrients from the ground in the warmer weather. Further, they do this in co-operation with each other, supporting each other through their roots and leaves.
Taking our cue from nature, we can witness that we are evolving too, as we seek balance in the expression of our humanity and divinity.
For most of us, it is unhealthy to sit in meditation all day every day, or continuously strive and stress. We need and seek balance between work and rest and play. We take time to pray and meditate, then follow this with guided action, to do what is ours to do in support of all life, not just ourselves.
Nature surrenders to the seasons and lets the natural order flow. We do so much better, when we surrender our purely human ‘me-first’ needs, to connect with the universal flow of greater good that is always here for us all.
Therefore, although I often speak and write about surrender, encouraging us to let go into Presence, this is purely to allow the divine flow easy expression through us and as us, so that right action can follow. For whenever we surrender whatever is in the way of us knowing our divine and beautiful natures, we are free to live authentic and creative lives, which bless us and those around us.
Further, as we seek balance in ourselves, old wounds can be healed, whether emotional, mental or physical. As we let God be God in us, our pain is dissolved and we are able to help others heal.
So this autumn, as we watch nature ‘do its thing’ without any resistance whatsoever, let us also seek our own balance. Let us take time to rest and play, to be quiet and still, knowing that as we then step forward to act, Spirit is working through us to heal and restore us, each other and our world.
Rev. Kimerie Mapletoft
My Unity Story -Elizabeth's Story
Elizabeth writes In my family Daily Word has always existed. My mother went to Unity meetings when we lived in Bermuda. When I was 18 I went to England to study to be a nurse. It was there that I met my future husband. Looking back now we weren’t suited. I was young, foolish and a people-pleaser.
I had a stillborn, full-term baby boy and turned away from everything my family and church had taught me. I went through bulimia and alcohol problems trying to kill the pain and the injustice I felt of losing my child.
I felt I was being punished and I was unable to talk about what I was going through. My husband didn’t help me, he didn’t understand my problems. I went for help but was unable to admit my problems of bulimia and alcohol. I also felt my marriage was on the rocks, my husband wouldn’t talk about it, for him everything was fine.
We came to Italy in 1970 just for 2 years. I felt I needed to get away. My husband found a good job and for a period we seemed happy, but I had forgotten God. My husband was a womaniser and I was desperate. I hit rock bottom. At this point I admitted that I had a problem with alcohol and bulimia. I went for help. Fortunately I only needed to talk with a psychologist, no tablets. I recovered from alcohol and bulimia and have never turned back. I realised in the end that it was lack of love and respect for myself. I was destroying myself.
My mother sent me a subscription to Daily Word and that was the beginning of my return to the fold. I had been a lost sheep. That was back in 1988. I had a hysterectomy. I didn’t feel alone. I remember the feeling of arms around me. Silent Unity was praying for me.
Glimpses of Joy
In 2008 I eventually got a divorce and remarried a wonderful person. I was so happy. He unfortunately died in 2013. I was heartbroken but I had Daily Word and Unity helping me.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with an aortic stenosis, it gradually worstened and in July 2020 I was rushed to hospital as an emergency. I went to Careggi Florence on the Monday and on Wednesday 23rd July 2020 was operated on, to substitute the aortic valve. Before the op I was afraid but I kept repeating the affirmations Unity had sent me via a friend who had phoned them. Due to the virus no visitors were allowed.
I was only afraid when the anaesthetist came the night before to see me, making me realise a lot could go wrong. However that night I slept after praying for a good outcome.
The power of prayer
After the op I have made a good recovery. I am still suffering the after-effects of the anaesthetic, but am positive that with time all will be well. My friends and family have been supportive through all these 3 months.
My life today
I live on my own with Goia, my Lagotta dog, she has stimulated me to get back on my feet. I can walk now 5kms uphill and practically do all my housework. Every morning before starting my day I have a Daily Word reading and prayers and am so grateful to have been given a second chance and to be well. Even though I’m 77 there must still be some improvements to be made in my life.
Needless to say, Prayer and Daily Word are and will always be an important part of my life. I have come a long way.
Elizabeth. A Daily Word Reader. 2020.
Unity in the UK