Last night I had the opportunity to lead my small group from church in a little discussion of lectio divina followed by a guided time of meditation on John 6:35-37, as mentioned here.
I started with asking whether any of them had heard of lectio divina before Sunday’s sermon, and if they had any engagement with any other Christian meditative practices. Turns out that this is not the first time that our minister has talked about lectio divina, and that he had even led all the small groups in lectio divina himself once.
But none of us was a regular practitioner of the discipline — and the whole point of our minister bringing it up on Sunday and having it our focus on Thursday was to help us get into this way of reading the Bible.
I then talked a bit about the practice and its goals, noting that although we often associate it with monks, the practice of praying through Scripture as described by Martin Luther is basically the same thing (Tim Keller discusses this in his book Prayer). That is: meditative and prayerful reading of Scripture with an openness to the movement of the Spirit is for all Christians.
I then had to give my little ecclesiastical historian spiel about the practice and how we actually have very few details on method before, say, Guigo II around 1180, but that what we’re doing is in the same spirit as people like St Augustine or St John Chrysostom or St Anselm, even if the exact details may not match up.
Finally, before leading the actual meditation, I shared the following foundational principles for lectio divina laid out by David Foster in Reading with God:
- Scripture is the inspired Word of God
- Jesus is the key to the meaning of the scriptures, as of all existence
- The Word of God is alive because of the power of the Holy Spirit speaking to the community of the faithful
- The word also addressed personally to each of Jesus’ disciples
- Scripture brings us into fellowship with God and with all other Christians ‘who gather round Jesus and listen to his word’
- Lectio divina draws us into an encounter with the Church and with Jesus Christ, and therefore also into the life of the Holy Trinity
And then we used the guide sent out by our minister, which he adapted from J. Linman (2010), Holy Conversation: Spirituality for Worship (p. 35). This approach has three readings as the initial read, for which ‘the usual Bible study rules apply’. Then four more for meditation, prayer, contemplation, and incarnation. We shared our insights on the passage., which is as follows (NIV):
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
We all got something out of it — insights such as the comfort that Jesus will never drive us away. There is also a personal challenge — we come to Jesus as children with great readiness, but somehow it gets harder as we get older. And the reminder that Jesus is all we need to be satisfied spiritually.
Everyone said they liked it, and we’re going to try practising lectio divina on our own using the text from Sunday and see how it goes.
And then word got back to our minister, and he wants to know if I’ll lead three monthly seminars on lectio divina soon. We’ll see if I have time…