Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Group Lectio Divina

Since working for a collegiate ministry the past two years, the people over there will sometimes call me and ask me to speak at their weekly devotionals. I'm not the best speaker in the universe but I'm familiar with "giving a talk." For the past year I have been rethinking the idea of preaching/speaking as more formative and participatory. I know that most of these kids have heard numerous sermons in their lives, not to mention that fact that they are lectured to each day on that campus. So when I was asked to speak last night, I knew what I didn't want to do; a conventional 3 point lesson on the way to be a better Christian. But in the words of Jerry, "Not that there is anything wrong with that."

What I decided to do was introduce the students to lectio divina (sacred reading). If you're like me, you have tried to develop a regular quiet time, or 'QT' for short, to spend some time with your Maker. As we probably all know, we fail at this task, whether it is feeling guilty for not doing it or just not being disciplined enough or not getting anything out of the 3 chapters from Numbers we just read. From there we disregard QT as surface spirituality and our reading/praying doesn't transform us into the people we want or need to be. Knowing this, I challenged these college students to embrace the mystery of silence and meditative reading.

As we sat outside enjoying an unusual pleasant evening in humid Tennessee, I read Isaiah 43:1-2 several times, very slowly asking them to savor a word or phrase in that passage. After a short period of sharing, we dived further into this passage as I asked how God was speaking to them. Finally, I read it 3 times very slowly enjoying each word on the page and let the students discover what God was calling them to do. I'm sure it was very difficult to focus at times, especially being outside surrounded by ants or loud locusts or car stereos driving by. But this method freed me from having to entertain the audience or impress them or memorize my lesson. It was participatory, formative (I hope), and an avenue for opening up to God's quiet voice in the gentle breeze.

I wondered how it went over, especially when I saw a guy in "deep meditation" on the swing (aka: sleeping). But some people came up to me and said that they enjoyed the practice and might even try it by themselves. I say this not to pat myself on the back (I can't do that in reality even), but I guess I'm glad people know that there are different ways to read the Bible, instead of reading it as a newspaper or novel.

"What's the use of a carved god
so skillfully carved by its sculptor?
What good is a fancy cast god
when all it tell is lies?
What sense does it make to be a pious god-maker
who makes gods that can't even talk?
Who do you think you are -
saying to a stick of wood, 'Wake up,'
Or to a dumb stone, 'Get up'?
Can they teach you anything about anything?
There's nothing to them but surface.
There's nothing on the inside.

"But oh! God is in his holy Temple!
Quiet everyone - a holy silence. Listen!"