Friday, 8 May 2009

Luke 24:13-35

There are (at least) several different ways of reading the scriptures. The one I was brought up on was to read the selected passage and ask questions like: when, where, who, how and what, the aim being to gain insight, knowledge and understanding of the text in order to apply it to my life. This way mainly engages the mind and may involve the use of concordances, Bible dictionaries, commentaries and other aids.

But there is another way. It’s called ‘Lectio Divina’ which is Latin for ‘Divine Reading’. It’s a way of reading the scriptures with your heart rather than your mind. The technique (if you can call it that) is to read the text very slowly, savouring it and allowing it to slowly filter down into your very being – your heart. If a word or phrase seems to resonate with you, to catch your attention in some way, then stop and engage with it by repeating it slowly several times. Ask yourself : Why THAT phrase or word? What is God wanting to say? Commuicate? This is God connecting with you, speaking to you something He wants you to hear. We need therefore to listen and to listen intently, which is something we are not very practised at.

But be warned. You need to give this process time. It does not always yield its fruit straight away. You may have to ‘chew it over’ a few times. Its not like eating oysters where you swallow it whole. This is very important. You should not rush your time with God. Elijah heard the soft whisper of a still small voice, there on the mountain with God (2 Kings 2:1-14) but it came only after waiting through the storm the wind and the fire. Whatever God says is worth hearing, so take your time. Be patient. Listen closely. Lean in to God until you catch what He is saying.

I was preparing to speak this morning on the gospel for today (Easter 2) when I decided to apply this technique of Lectio to the passage from Luke 24:13-35. I started slowly and got as far as verse 14:

“While they were talking and discussing together (i.e. the things that had happened to Jesus), Jesus himself drew near and went with them”. Here are the sort of things that came up as I listened and chewed over the words.

Jesus had been through much on the cross. The physical sufferings of the torture, the nails, the slow suffocation, the thirst. The mental torment, the sense of betrayal, abandonment. The spiritual agony of bearing on himself the sins of the world, the experience of hell, darkness and being separated from God. The resurrection came as his release. God awaited him. Yet he came back and ‘hung around’for forty days. Why? Because he needed to be with his people, thosee he spent time with, those he died for. There was/is still much work to do.

ThenI thought about what was happening when Jesus came alongside. The disciples were talking about him, what had happened, what it meant. What now? Their talk drew Jesus in – although they did not know it was him at that point. But isn’t that always the case? When we talk, think, speak about, discuss Jesus and the things of God, doesn’t Jesus always draw near. When you are having a conversation and a friend draws alongside, he is interested and listens. But then when you mention him and start to talk about him, doesn’t he then move from the ‘outside’ as it were, into the centre of what is going on. And doesn’t he speak too? Correcting, agreeing, changing one or two wrong facts, engaging with what it going on? If that is true of conversations between people isn’t it then true of conversations regarding God? When we hearteh scriptures read – isn’t God involved? When we hear a sermon – isn’t God involved there too? When we read and discuss the Bible together, isn’t God listening in, helping us understand the passage, being caught up in what is happening?

And if this is so, isn’t that a wonderful opportunity to engage him still more with prayer? “Draw near to God,” promises James, “and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) And “where two or three gather together in my Name i.e. with me at the centre of their activity and purpose, “there am I in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20) Jesus’ presence is not only assured but he is at the centre of our engagement and our company. He is our companion as we walk and talk and act and speak.

So with these thoughts from one brief passage, God is engaging me and drawing me deeper and deeper into the mystery which is His presence with us. The power and the prize of the resurrection is “Christ in us and with us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:24-29)

So try ‘Lectio’ as a way of deepening your walk with God. There is much more to it than I have spoken of, but this is, hopefully, a start.

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