- Lectio: prayerfully prepare your soul in silence (this first part is sometimes a separate step called Silencio), then read the passage slowly, savoring it - traditionally you are to choose one word or phrase which especially speaks to you. I don't tend to do this in private use, and if I do, it might be a whole cluster.
- Meditatio: read it again, reflecting or meditating on the meaning, and what God is trying to communicate to you through this reading today
- Oratio: read it a third time, and respond to God in prayer, pouring out your heart to him about how this passage resonates in your soul
- Contemplatio/Incarnatio: rest your mind and then, guided by the Holy Spirit, choose specific actions for application in the next few days so that you can "live the text in Jesus' name"
Lectio: I chose to study John 13:1-5, first reading aloud from my very old 1984 NIV Bible which is most comfortable for devotional purposes. This passage, which is about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, had stood out to me in this last week’s Gospel of John reading assignments. At that earlier time, reading in the library, I was thinking of it in sensory terms, such as the warm water, the texture of the towel, the tender touch of Jesus. I tried to recapture that during my re-reading of the verses, and this was more relevant after getting my feet dirty while gardening. The sensory experience of washing up added to my understanding during Lectio. However, a different word from verses 1 and 3 stands out to me in this reading of the passage: knew.
Meditatio: I read the passage again from my old Bible, as well as the most recent NIV and NRSV. In each of these readings, why did the word knew stand out to me? Jesus knew who he was, where had come from and where he was returning, what God’s plan was for that time, and what his essential work would be in the hours and days to come. Thus secure in his identity and his destiny, he could do the things he did, loving his disciples with humility and service. This is startling considering that this passage also includes his knowledge of the impending betrayal by Judas, leading to his death the next day. All of this touches a place in me. I know how much my own life proceeds from my sense of identity and destiny. It has to be firmly rooted in truth: I am made in the image of God, Jesus has redeemed and forgiven me, the Holy Spirit empowers me, God is working in my life for my good and his glory, and I have eternity in heaven as my destiny. My identity must not depend on my marital status, health, bank account, natural abilities, or any other things that come and go. It must not depend on how others have betrayed, rejected, or wounded me. All of these things can become shame traps for me as a divorced mother of 10. However, with my identity rooted in Christ, I can walk forward with joy and confidence into whatever ministry God has prepared for me. It is crucial that I remember who I am and whose I am. I have to know as Jesus did.
Oratio: My prayer, flowing directly from this passage and Meditatio, is that I will increasingly find my identity and destiny in Jesus, that I would be confident enough to live and serve with humility as he did. It is only because I know my identity as a daughter of the King that I can, as in Hebrews 4:16, “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” It is because of the identity that I can pray in the first place, and then praying, in turn, reinforces the identity. This is a good cycle to enter, with prayer and identity strengthening each other. So I pray, “Show me who you are. Show me who I am. Show me how to love. Show me what to do.”
Contemplatio: As Jesus set this example of humble service, so I must find ways to serve others that are not necessarily grand and lofty, but simple and earthy. I have an extremely busy week coming up with hybrid classes and homework assignments. I would like to hide away and study, but there are things I need to do for others, like buy groceries for my kids, help my daughter with her broken down car, bring a widowed neighbor to a church dinner, rehearse for a skit on the Reformation, go to work so I can pay our bills, and work out a misunderstanding with a friend. Those are things I personally need to do. At the same time, I need to be humble enough to realize I cannot do everything for everyone. Ego says I can, but I actually cannot. Jesus didn’t do everything. Later in John 13, he told his disciples he was leaving them behind to carry on his work, even “greater works.” I realize I have to ask for help. My identity isn’t based on how much I can pull off. Peter at first refused to receive a washing from Jesus, but he had to accept it. I can let others be the hands and feet of Jesus to me.
Conclusion: Through my Lectio experience, I experienced Jesus helping me to do the things I needed to get done that I could not do without him. In the middle of Lectio, I was interrupted by the opportunity to serve one of my teens with an urgent errand. Then another teen was yelling at me on the way home. Working from my core identity, I could stay calm, speak quietly, connect with needs, and defuse the anger. I thought of the Lectio passage in the context of the Last Supper as I brought my neighbor to my church dinner group even though I could have stayed home to do other things. I was quite tired, but thanks to the Lectio exercise, I had the extra energy and motivation to go forth in love. My neighbor and I were both very blessed by the Christian fellowship. That is what Lectio does; it brings us into divine presence and compassionate service in a fresh way.
Introduction & Setting: I did the Lectio exercise in my quiet study area in my bedroom in the morning. I had already selected and read the passage, but this was my first focused time for the full Lectio process of these verses. I should also say I chose this section from the assigned class readings because it made me sing. In post-Jesus-movement churches about 35-40 years ago, we often sang Bible verses nearly verbatim, and a few of them are right here. I can’t read them without singing them.
Lectio: I chose to study Isaiah 55:6-12, first reading aloud from the NIV Bible. I also read the NRSV, and noted the textual differences. One that I noticed immediately from my many years of singing verse 12 is that the NIV says “led forth in peace” whereas the NRSV says “led back in peace.” In the context of their impending return from exile, “back” makes more sense than “forth” if it is referring to Jerusalem. But I still prefer “forth” - as I see it is as encouragement to move forward in life, even if that is going back to what came before. I also note the difference in trees in verse 13. In the NRSV, it is cypress (one of my favorite trees to photograph here in Florida), but in the NIV it is translated juniper. This for me is not about technical study. It is about the pictures in my mind which fascinate me, and part of that is how they relate to my own context. Isaiah 55 is so full of poetic imagery. Beyond the pictures, there are the sounds. If you read the words aloud, there is a cadence of rhythm. This is not just in the English translation, but in the content and structure of the Hebrew literary forms. It is a call and response, like a psalm and a proverb, with one phrase echoing or contrasting the other. I can’t help but think of these things as I read. These speak to me. I also pasted the passage into my document from Bible Gateway and then experimented with the font; this is a novelty of the digital age, of course. I am a calligrapher, so I wonder how changing the visual style of writing affects how we process words internally, especially with Scripture? Did I gain a new perspective? How does God write, anyway? I think he has a way of invading our thoughts, right where we are, no matter what culture, gender, personality style, or in my case, aesthetic sensibilities. See the difference here?
Oratio: My prayer is that I will continually seek God through the Scriptures and prayer, and that I will be able to flourish while thinking the thoughts of God. I pray that I will be a faithful messenger of the Word, for it is usually through his human servants that he sends it forth in any nation or generation. I pray that I will walk in joy and peace, filled with songs of deliverance.
Contemplatio: I will explore what unhealthy thoughts are holding me back from doing the things I am called to do, and seek them to replace them with divine wisdom instead. (I have a few podcasts queued up to listen to that may help.) I will create a blog post with this Lectio and the previous one, then share them on my social media, so that the Word may accomplish God’s purposes in my sphere of influence. I will write out two of the verses in calligraphy to include in that. I will listen to worship music (like the song “Sovereign Over Us”) to help me focus my thoughts on God. I will finish up my seminary assignments for my other class (Gospel Catechesis) which will help me better participate in delivery God’s word to others. I will continue to explore how media shapes the message.
Conclusion: Through my Lectio Divina experience today, I experienced an ancient God who is ever present thousands of years after these words were penned. We may have the Cloud to store our data, but his thoughts are still higher than that.
But I'm not done yet! Links! Music! Good stuff!
I'm also planning to listen to The Presence Project Podcast by Summer Joy Gross. I am linking it here for your exploration but have to say I haven't listened to more than a few minutes, I don't know anything about the person who produces it except what's written here, and I can't even quite remember where I found it. I do know it comes from the more contemplative stream of Christianity that is likely to resonate with those who enjoy Lectio Divina.
More on Lectio Divina and Inductive Bible Study? Sure thing! Here are some from my blogs.
- Open a Door
- Focus (One Word) Lectio Divina is at the end
- Inductive Bible Study on Discipleship in Matthew 8-9
- Inductive Bible Study on James 3:1-12
- What is Lectio Divina? a PDF from Anglican Communion with suggestions for groups
- The Jogging Monk and the Exegesis of the Heart by James Bryan Smith
- Lectio Divina: Engaging the Scriptures for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton, author of Sacred Rhythms
- The Practice of Spiritually Reading the Bible by Eugene Peterson
- Visio Divina by Jean Wise about praying with art
And finally, because I just can't resist...
I was looking through my old blog posts to find some of my pictures of cypress trees.