(1) “Lectio” – Reading as Praying, Praying as Listening
“This is a special and unique way of reading. It is a slow, reflective reading, reading with a longing to be touched, healed, and transformed by the Word. It is not at all, then, a hurried reading. It is quality reading rather than quantity. Just as when you sit down at the dinner table, you do not necessarily eat everything on the table, so too, when you approach the table of the Scriptures, you are not there to cover territory. Nutritionists tell us that to get full benefit from the food we eat, we should chew slowly. In other words, eat contemplatively. The same is true of the food of the Scriptures. To be fully nourished by the richness hidden in these words you must hover over them slowly and reverently as one who is certain of finding a treasure. . . . It will penetrate us, heal us, and open our eyes to the truth. . . . We are information seekers. We love to cover territory. It is not easy for us to stop reading when the heart is touched; we are a people who like to get finished. Lectio offers us a new way to read. Read with a vulnerable heart. Expect to be blessed in the reading. Read as one awake, one waiting for the beloved. Read with reverence. . . . “[This] is reading with the desire to be totally transformed by the Word of God, rather than just to acquire facts about God. . . . The disciple [is] encouraged to hover over the Word of God in the Scriptures as the Spirit once hovered over the birthing world. . . . Always read the Scriptures with a heart ready to repent.” Macrina Wiederkehr
“Meditation begins when your heart is touched.” David Benner
“I strain toward God; God strains toward me.
I ache for God; God aches for me.
Prayer is mutual yearning,
*Let’s take the first reading above apart together. What phrases jumped out at you? What do you want to say about it? How did it affect you?
(2) Reading as Imaginative Guided Meditation
“In another approach you attempt to employ all of your senses. You place yourself in the story as one of the characters. As much as you can, listen to the sounds, smell the smells, feel the surroundings, etc. Imagine expressions and tones of voice–maybe gestures. Try to imagine what your character might have been thinking or feeling. Open your heart to hear how God may be speaking to you. Can you identify with your character? . . . or perhaps with another character now that you see through your character’s eyes? Read slowly, multiple times, with expectation, and as much longing for God as you can. Ask God to meet you, and don’t force anything.” wgb
*Can you mention a character in a Bible story where one could practice this method of devotional reading? (e.g., Peter when Jesus called him to walk on the water)
(3) Reading Without Any Fireworks
“I know that I need to be very quiet. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10. RSV) God also speaks in silence and darkness. So when nothing comes, when darkness prevails, then too, I lay my Bible down. My word is silent darkness. I carry the dryness, the emptiness, the silent darkness with me through the day. It is only in darkness that one can see the stars. I have seen too many stars to let the darkness overwhelm me. Even though You are silent, still I will trust You.” Macrina Wiederkehr
(4) Reading Gone Wrong
“Bonhoeffer said that beyond reading the Bible as God’s word to us, the time had come to begin reading it ‘against ourselves as well,’ accepting the word’s power to implicate us as well as to redeem us.” Charles Marsh
“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. . . . This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand, if you are reading it as a citizen of one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen.” Rob Bell
“Reading the Bible with the eyes of the poor is a different thing from reading it with a full belly. If it is read in the light of the experience and hopes of the oppressed, the Bible’s revolutionary themes–promise, exodus, resurrection and spirit–come alive.” Jürgen Moltmann
*Did it ever occur to you to let the Bible critique you or implicate you? Is that hard to do? Does your social position complicate that?
“We are all interpreting the text to some degree. We are all privileging–deferring to–certain values, doctrines, creedal commitments, traditions, or biblical texts. Something somewhere is trumping something else. . . . The only question is whether you are consciously vs. unconsciously using a hermeneutic . . . . When your hermeneutic is operating unconsciously it causes you to say things like ‘this is the clear teaching of Scripture.’ . . . What is interesting to me in this phenomenon is not that we are all engaging in hermeneutics, acts of interpretation. That is a given. What is interesting to me is how self-awareness, or the lack thereof, is implicated in all this. . . . Denying that you are engaged in hermeneutics–betrays a shocking lack of self-awareness, an inability to notice the way your mind and emotions are working in the background and beneath the surface. I think statements like ‘this is the clear teaching of Scripture’ are psychologically diagnostic. Statements like these reveal something about yourself. Namely, that you lack a certain degree of self-awareness. For example, saying something like ‘This is the clear teaching of Scripture.’ is similar to saying ‘I’m not a racist.’ . . . Self-aware people would say things like ‘I don’t want to be a racist.’ or ‘I try not to be racist.’ or ‘I condemn racism.’ But they would never say ‘I’m not a racist.’ because self-aware people know that they have blind spots. . . . They have unconscious baggage that is hard to notice or overcome. And it’s the same with how self-aware people approach reading the Bible. Self-aware people know that they are trying to read the Bible in an unbiased fashion. . . . [and] to let the Bible speak clearly and in its own voice. But self-aware people know they have blind spots. They know that there is unconscious baggage affecting how they are reading the Bible, baggage that they know must be biasing their readings and conclusions.” Richard Beck (WFTM, 2-6)
“What you think is a natural or an obvious reading of the text is actually not natural or obvious. You just haven’t questioned your own perspective or the perspective of the church that you’ve been raised in.” Chris Hoklotubbe
“White Christianity suffers from a bad case of Disney Princess theology. As each individual reads Scripture, they see themselves as the princess in every story. They are Esther, never Xerxes or Haman. They are Peter, but never Judas. They are the woman anointing Jesus, never the Pharisees. They are the Jews escaping slavery, never Egypt. For citizens of the most powerful country in the world, who enslaved both Native and Black people, to see itself as Israel and not Egypt when studying Scripture is a perfect example of Disney princess theology. And it means that as people in power, they have no lens for locating themselves rightly in Scripture or society — and it has made them blind and utterly ill-equipped to engage issues of power and injustice. It is some very weak Bible work.” Erna Kim Hackett
*What are you feeling after a couple careful readings of Beck’s argument?
For Further Consideration (for before or after our discussion)
“We usually see only the things we are looking for–so much so that we sometimes see them where they are not.” Eric Hoffer
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” Franz Kafka
“Here’s my point: academic theology can be like the bars of the lion’s cage—it keeps our experience of God objective, prosaic, safe, undemanding. I say this as a person who deeply appreciates academic theology. I’ve read hundreds of academic theological works, and, occasionally, I give theological lectures in academic settings. I view these as valuable endeavors. But none of it is to be confused with the experience of encountering God subjectively. Subjective experience with the divine is a phenomenon that occurs within a heart that is open to God: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ (Mt 5:8). But the intellect can be employed as the steel bars that keep us a safe distance from the lion. . . . If you honestly want to encounter Jesus, here’s what I recommend: read the Gospels on your knees for six months, asking Jesus before each chapter to reveal himself to you. Seriously, try it. Don’t be surprised if you eventually find yourself inside the cage face-to-face with the Lion of Judah. Then you’ll have to decide what to do with your life now that you’ve gone through the wardrobe, entered Narnia, and encountered the real Aslan.” [If you have bad knees, it also works if you just sit in a chair. wgb] Brian Zahnd
“Christians too often read events through a hermeneutic of decline. That is, we often interpret changes in societies negatively. Whether those changes are political, economic, or social, we fall into despairing conservatism, imagining a better past and a decaying future. We must read the events of the world, not in eagerness to discern decay or decline, but with a view toward God’s presence in the world. Reading skills honed by a sense of divine presence enable us to interpret the signs of the times in light of the Savior of the world, a world he never ceases to love. Such reading draws us away from being mere spectators or speculators and toward concrete involvement in history.” Feasting on the Gospels
*Do you have a tendency to read our changing world in a solely negatively or dystopian (or an “Omega generation” – assuming the soon coming end of the world) manner? Is there a possible alternative? How could a different reading affect how you live?
Recommended: How to Read Slowly by James Sire
Each week’s quotes usually come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day).
If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org) Also, if you’re in a completely different time zone and you’re interested, also please let me know, since a second gathering time, designed for people in the Eastern hemisphere may be possible.