The past three weeks I’ve attended the Lectio Divina Sunday School class. It’s all about listening to the Word of God for the things it’s trying to speak into our context. It involves listening to a passage being read three times and paying attention to the words that really stick with us and figuring out what it means. Sometimes we’re instructed to try to imagine ourselves as if we were really there, a person in the crowd, a disciple, or as Jesus or God as we listen and try to ground the passage in our experiences.
The dialogue about what each of us gets from the passage is amazing. Very rarely have two people had the same sorts of insights. It occurred to me how unthinkable such a thing would have been in some of my churches – the ones that tell you exactly what a passage means and that any other possible meaning is ‘reading into/out of’ Scripture things that God never intended to convey and you must be in error to see a different meaning from the one they told you was there.
It seems like each week somebody has some compliment about what I said during the class. I can’t help but feel a little awkward when it happens. I tend to draw upon the bits of cultural information I’ve absorbed over the years and point out how the original audience understood these events in the light of their culture. I do that to make up for my inability to really get anything from the passage. I have the hardest time actually emotionally connecting to the context of the passage and drawing it out in my own life. So I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.
I know that there’s one or two others in the class who are nearly my age, but even so we all have different life experiences. Most of the oldest members can draw upon their experiences as a parent to emotionally ground passages about the interaction between the Father and the Son, many are employed by the local school so they can draw on those experiences to emotionally ground passages where Jesus is teaching his disciples or a crowd. So they have a pretty varied pool of resources from which to visualize or imagine or relate to the verses to their particular context. To be honest, I’m not really sure what my own context is – let alone how to use it to draw out insights from Scripture.
Maybe it’s just a matter of time before we use a set of verses that offer circumstances similar to ones that I had that I can draw from. At least, that’s what I hope to be the case. It would also help if I allowed myself more emotional leeway with which to connect to the passages. That I think, is the greater obstacle at the moment. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s an emotional element to every scene written in black and white (and red). Fear, anger, hatred, love, compassion, kindness, etc. all play vital parts in the story – even if they go unsaid.
For awhile, I wasn’t on speaking terms with my Bible. I let it sit there and collect dust because I had learned what people did to it to make it say what they wanted it to say. I realized how people taught it as if it could be made to say things it did not. Now I understand that ambiguity was acceptable. We might prefer a verse like: “In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah—because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors.” 2 Chron. 28:6 to be exact – but isn’t it more of the point not how many were killed but that a great many were killed because they had forsaken God? I don’t think that the people to whom the Bible was written would have focused on the exact number as we would, but the greater truth to the verse that we sometime miss in our quest for exact, factual, and historical events.
Sometimes we just refuse to listen when we think we already know what it plainly says.
The thing about Lectio Divina is listening, it’s listening to the Bible as it’s being read, it’s listening to each other, and it’s listening to yourself. That’s not always easy in world full of white noise but it’s always worth it.