Thursday, May 22, 2008

Engaging the Scriptures: New (to me) Approaches

image"The word of God is living and active..." says Hebrews 4:12, and so we believe as Christians.  There is something about the Holy Scripture that stirs us in ways we can't quite articulate.  Something is happening when we take up and read the words given us for our "teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16).

Where did I lose it?  When I was in the first days of my sojourn with Christ, I remember sitting in my dorm room each night before bed, carefully reading a chapter or two and thinking deeply on what I was learning.  I had started in the New Testament and faithfully read all the way around to about 2 Kings before I got bogged down.  For me, these times were the first encounter with something holy, something amazing, a story I had not heard before that was more than a story. 

But somewhere along the way I lost my awe for the Scriptures.  Probably in my first term at seminary, the Bible became something to approach using certain well-defined techniques; an awesome and dangerous figure which had been thoroughly studied, catalogued, and explored by men and women with accumulated centuries of rigor.  And as we all know from any kind of sports practice, drills meant to deepen our game become tedious at best, and at worst, lead to boredom with the game itself.  At some point, I had become bored with Scripture.

Just now, those drills are beginning to find their way back to an appreciation of the game.  Melissa and I have begun using a meditative commentary series by some church of Christ guys who teach at Lipscomb University.  The series can barely be called commentaries, since their focus is on a method of approaching the Scripture for personal transformation, rather than on providing interpretive information on the text.  The series draws heavily on an ancient Christian practice of engaging with the Scriptures called lectio divina, or "holy reading".  The authors of the series have done a tremendous job at making this approach to Scripture accessible to ordinary Christians.

Engaging with the Scriptures in this way has been a glorious blessing to me.  For the first time in a long time, I have been able to move past my analytical lenses (what do I know about the context of this passage? who is the audience?  what is this passage trying to accomplish? how can I apply this teaching to my life?) and approach Scripture as what it is: the Word of God, addressed to His beloved children.  This is not to say that I've checked my brain at the door--but I am allowing myself to see through my lenses, instead of looking at them.  The experience of hearing God's voice in Scripture again feels like the surge you see in the hose when you turn the water back on.  Something's in thereSomeone is trying to speak to me.  And for the first time in a long time, I'm listening.

In a forthcoming blog, I'll share some more of what I'm learning about this practice of holy reading.  How about you all?  How has your Bible reading been going lately?


c.w. goad said...

Interesting approach. I'll have to read that.

preacherman said...

Great post!!!!
I learned alot from you today.

James Wood said...

I like the lectio divina approach. There is a lot of room for the Spirit to move.

Another thing that I have been thinking recently is that we've tried to limit the impact of scripture to individual time. In the ancient church (and the synagogue before that) scriptures were shared. Reading and interpretation were a community event. Now I feel most connected with the scripture when I can share it with God's people.