The night before the morning meal,the disciples, perhaps feeling grief or hopelessness, returned to the profession that had once sustained them: fishing. All night they toiled, but as the sun crept over the Sea of Galilee, they had nothing to show for their labors. When Jesus called to them from the shoreline, he asked them to shift their nets, and when they did so, they found them filled with fish—not from their effort and toil, but as an immediate effect of their obedience to the Christ.
Coming to shore, Jesus gave his students another spiritual lesson by feeding them bread and fish. As they dined together on the beach, it is easy to wonder if the disciples were thinking back to when Jesus had given them loaves and fishes to hand out to the hungry multitudes. This breakfast, too, came as a gift through the Christ—directly from the Father. As a gift, it was not earned by occupational labor, produced by human resourcefulness, or created through individual ingenuity.
With these lessons in place, Jesus took Peter aside and asked, “Lovest thou me?” When Peter replied in the affirmative, Jesus gave him a commandment to follow: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). Was Jesus showing Peter that there was a connection between loving the Christ and feeding the sheep? Was feeding the sheep the way Peter could demonstrate his love, not with words, but with actions? It is almost as if Jesus had said, “Do you love me, Peter? If so, prove it to me by feeding my sheep.”
But how was Peter to do that? Was he to parcel out what came to him through his own labor and toil? Or was he to distribute what the Christ gave? The spiritual lessons at the morning meal had been preparing Peter’s thought to be obedient to this command—feed my sheep—and know how to do it. The sustenance that Christ Jesus shared was not just for Peter’s belly, but was to be given to all of those who needed it. This was how Peter could show his love for the Christ. And that’s what Peter did—he spent the rest of his life tending to Christ’s flock.
This command to “feed my sheep” continues today and is the basis for our benevolent activity at The Principle Foundation.
One year ago today, the National Fund for Christian Science nursing launched. We are happy to release these new NFCSN videos on the one-year anniversary of the fund opening. During its first year, the National Fund awarded grants to over 275 individuals. It is so satisfying to be able to support the healing work going on at facilities and in homes by our Christian Science nurses and Christian Science practitioners. (4/5/18)
Our office is moving to a new location. As of December 1st, our new mailing address will be:
The Principle Foundation
9300 W 110th St, Suite 250
Overland Park, KS 66210-1425
All phone numbers will remain the same.
Recently, while continuing to think deeply about the idea of unity, I was reminded of an experience I had a few years back. I was standing on a grassy slope where there were some sheep grazing in small groups—two here, three there. The sheep seemed to be minding their own business until their shepherd pulled up in a truck and gave a loud call. Suddenly, all the sheep perked up and started moving towards the shepherd. Sheep that I didn’t even know were there came out from behind hills and rocks. And they all became one united group, looking at the shepherd expectantly for direction. This beautiful display of unity made me think of Jesus’ words where he says, “There shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Today, the term sheep or “sheeple” is used disparagingly to mean people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced—blindly following a current fad or a strong personality. Yet Jesus said that one of the characteristic features of sheep is their clear, thoughtful discernment of who to follow. Jesus said, “The sheep follow him [the shepherd]: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5). Far from blindly following anyone who comes along, the sheep are unified by the spiritual discernment of Christ, leading them forward in their journey.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This passage is not limited to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but includes the self-sacrifice he exemplified every day — he gave his entire life to the pursuit of helping others. He healed the sick whose life-prospects had reduced them to beggary; he raised the publican’s outlook to the joys of spiritual benevolence; and he taught his disciples how to be of service when he washed their feet. Just before his ascension, he left Peter the remarkable admonition: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). Jesus had already shown through his life how to help and nurture others, and now his students were to follow and continue this benevolent work.
While Mrs. Eddy was pastor of the Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, she penned the poem, “Feed My Sheep.” In it she humbly asked the Shepherd to show her how to go forward and “how to feed Thy sheep” (Ret 46:6). Today, we continue to follow her example of trust in the great Shepherd to direct each of our steps forward, and we are rewarded with opportunities to see how the Shepherd feeds and cares for His sheep. At The Principle Foundation, we are constantly learning how we can serve better and demonstrate the generous and expansive love of Christ.
With gratitude and affection,
Brian J. Stock
This map shows the visiting Christian Science nurse services in the United States. It also shows Christian Science nursing facilities that don’t have formal visiting nurse services, but can act as facilitators in helping patients find care in their home.
This map is not exhaustive, but shows all the Christian Science nursing facilities in the US. We are working on a map of Christian Science visiting nurse services as well for care in the home.
The Bible is full of stories about benevolence, and one that’s particularly important to our work is the story of the loaves and fishes. This story demonstrates that compassion, gratitude, and spiritual abundance are the pillars of Christian benevolence, and they inform the character of our mission and activities.
In the story of the loaves and fishes, Jesus’ act began with his compassion. He said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (Matt 15:32). Here the Master showed the practicality of divine metaphysics in his compassion for the daily needs of his followers.
Next, Jesus asked his disciples to acknowledge what they already had —loaves and fishes. Jesus took these loaves and fishes and gave thanks. Mrs. Eddy asks us, “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (S&H 3:22-24). Every request for assistance that comes to us is an opportunity to acknowledge the good that is already present. In giving to others, we are availing ourselves of the blessings we have.
Following this gratitude, the loaves and the fishes filled the hungry multitude. “And they did all eat, and were filled” (Matt 15:37). The additional baskets of food that were left over proved the superabundance of God’s supply. In our work, we have seen so many examples of supply coming from unexpected sources, above and beyond what we have given, when our requesters turn to God.
To follow the example of our Master, we approach each request with compassion, gratitude to God, and an acknowledgement of the abundance in God’s kingdom.
The fund opened on April 5th, 2017. Since our fund opened, we have so far given out 105 grants to patients who needed financial assistance with their Christian Science nursing care or related Christian Science practitioner invoices.
As we continue to work closely with Christian Science facilities, patients, Christian Science nurses, and other Christian Science nursing organizations, we have been increasingly seeing what the “foundation of fellowship” is. As Mrs. Eddy writes:
Having one God, one Mind, unfolds the power that heals the sick, and fulfils these sayings of Scripture, “I am the Lord that healeth thee,” and “I have found a ransom.” When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: “Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (SH 276:1-9).
This spiritual fellowship shows us the unity of God’s children working together in Science to demonstrate healing. It is a great blessing to have this opportunity to love our neighbor.