I am so convinced that there is nothing more important in life than being “with God” - nothing more important for me and how I live and nothing more important for my effect on other people and the world around me. There is nothing more important, more valuable for me – and therefore nothing I want more for my friends. I am so convinced that the way that happens is that God speaks – through His word, by His Spirit, in the company of His people and in the context of real life – and as we hear and say yes to Him through the days of our lives we meet Him, we find Him, we are changed by him and find life in Him. It is a long process – not quick or easily measured, and takes patience.
This year has been a challenging one to my faith –I have asked myself again – what is God up to? What can I expect? Did we just make all this up? Does the story that the Bible tells make sense in life? And where I come back to – as I have before – is that in spite of the mysteries, in spite of all that I do not understand (and do not like), in spite of how hard it is to live out of the truth the Bible tells – there is no where else to go to find life. As Peter said to Jesus when Jesus asked him if he wanted to go away too “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
So my motivation for this time together is not primarily for greater knowledge of the Bible (although that is valuable) and not just for getting together (even though I love that and need it!). My motivation is that we would be stimulated to hear God speak in His word and listen and be transformed.
Everyone has wrestled with the practice of a “quiet time” - tried, succeeded sometimes, failed sometimes, felt guilty, etc. I would like to encourage you to aim to spend at least a few minutes each day in listening to the Word – even if it is just a paragraph, or a verse. I know it is hard to find the time to do, (especially when you have young children and work!) and you won’t always succeed. But I think that it is so valuable that it is worth persisting. It doesn’t matter whether you "get something out of it." If you listen every day, inviting the Spirit to speak, ready to say yes – you will be transformed over time.
Here is a way to approach reading: (Based on the tradition of “lectio divina” or sacred reading. Sounds so clever in Latin!)
- Prepare: Invite the Spirit to speak to you – remind yourself that you are listening to a person – the God who speaks.
- Read (lectio): the chapter or just one story or paragraph, or verse. What stands out to me? What gets my attention?
- Meditate (meditatio): Mull it over. Why does this stand out to me? What would it have been like to be there? What puzzles me about this?
- Pray (oratio): Respond to God – Is there something He is saying to me here? God is speaking - what is my reply?
- Live (contemplatio): As you go through your day or week come back to the words or thoughts that stood out to you. How does this connect with my life?
Here is a quote I like from Eugene Peterson’s Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading:
"Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”
We will be reading about 2 chapters a week (starting this week), and finish by Easter. It's too fast, but there is value in reading in order to get a bigger view of the story. But don't be constrained by that ... stick with the word or verse or story that speaks to you, long enough so that you can hear.
I do best when I read in company with others. I hope that you will join us!