Summary: The Company We Keep, prt. 8. Dave teaches about the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, or "divine reading." This is a way of reading scripture that is more likely to produce transformation than the informational way most of us read it currently.
The Company We Keep, prt. 8
Wildwind Community Church
June 20, 2009
I have to admit a fear to you. I mean, I’m doing great on conquering fear, but I have this fear that my attempts to nudge you toward a life of practicing the means of grace may backfire. I don’t want to just tell you to do it, so I’ve spent a lot of time giving you background and stuff not just to help you think, but to help you think about how you think about this stuff. Thinking is important, but it’s even more important to think about how we think. Because if we go about thinking wrongly, then the content will be wrong – that is, the actual stuff we think will be wrong. What I’ve been trying to do is give you a way of thinking about what it means to follow Jesus and to grow up in Christ and be one of his followers. My fear is that this might seem like a ton of information, that it will seem overwhelming, and that might discourage people from entering into this life. If that’s how you’re feeling, I just want to put these words from Jesus out there.
Matthew 11:30 (MSG)
30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Freely and lightly. Freely and lightly. God is not moving in the things that oppress you. At least not for you, and not right now. So if you have felt these sermons to bring not freedom and lightness, but oppression and heaviness, please move past the sermons and just practice the disciplines. Do not allow those feelings of heaviness to lead you to believe this approach is not for you. It is for all who desire true transformation and want to get off the treadmill of just knowing what we should do, trying, failing, and then feeling guilty.
Now I have harped on prayer and Bible reading a little bit the past few weeks because, as it is usually practiced, it does not have much transformational power. If you are serious about following Jesus, then praying and reading the Bible aren’t your goal, CHANGE is your goal! So today I want to show you a way that prayer and Bible reading can become much more powerful for effecting life change than the way we currently practice them. I want to talk to you today about Lectio Divina.
In September 2005, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
"I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime."
Let’s start with the basics. Lectio Divina means “divine reading.” The practice dates back to the 12th century. For 900 years Christians have found this to be a valuable and effective way of coming close to God. I wouldn’t suggest we abandon it now! Though lectio is spelled with a t, the word is scholarly Latin, and there the combination ct is pronounced like an X, so we have “Lexio,” and not Lec-T-o.” At its most basic, Lectio Divina consists of four parts – Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. But let’s ditch the Latin, shall we? It’s probably best remembered as Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest. Say that with me: Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest. Say it again: Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest.
This approach kind of runs counter to the way we often read scripture today, and that’s what’s good about it. Most of us rarely get much past level 1 in reading scripture. We read it and that’s it. Or we might read it and then reflect on it very briefly. Maybe once in a while we’ll respond to it in some way. And the resting part we usually leave out entirely. Lectio emphasizes that all of these parts (though not necessarily in this precise order) are essential for getting scripture into us and allowing God’s Spirit to shape us through it.
So let’s take a break right there. This brings us back to our intentions. Is it your intention to live the Jesus life? Is it your intention to do what is required to enter into the rest Christ promised you, or would you prefer to stay in the try, fail, blame self, feel guilty, try again cycle? Without a way of bringing scripture to actually shape us, that will be our certain path. We know that God’s Word is central in this – probably no one here would question that. But in our usual enlightenment, modern way, we take something that is supposed to be central, turn it into a set of principles to be learned and facts to be understood, and assume we have gotten out of it all we can so let’s move on. Lectio encourages us to “chew on” scripture – to “feast” on it. After all, how can something we do not digest become part of us? I’m afraid that spiritually speaking, some of us have the runs. It’s going in, but it’s not staying in – so that although we might be taking in scripture, we are still chronically spiritually malnourished. And since we are spiritual beings and our life simply IS spirit, our life as a whole shows the consequences of this malnourishment. So it is your intention to hide God’s Word in your heart? To feast on it, take it into yourself, and allow it to guide you to transformation? Perhaps nothing in the New Testament expresses the importance of God’s Word better than this quote from the Old Testament’s Deuteronomy: