From the Center for Action and Contemplation

January 6 – January 11, 2019

Just as the Bible takes us through many stages of consciousness and history, it takes us individually a long time to move beyond our need to be dualistic, judgmental, accusatory, fearful, blaming, egocentric, and earning—and to see as Jesus sees. (Sunday)

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalist texts in the Hebrew Bible, in favor of passages  emphasizing inclusion, mercy, and honesty. (Monday)

The narrow, rational/literal/historical approach to Scripture idealizes individual conformity and group belonging over love, service, or actual change of heart. (Tuesday)

Jesus is a biblically formed non-Bible quoterwho gets the deeper stream, the spirit, the trajectory of his Jewish history and never settles for mere surface readings. (Wednesday)

Jesus omits troublesome verses with which he does not agreeas when he drops the final half verse from the Isaiah scroll when he first reads in the Nazareth synagogue. The audience would be familiar with the final line of Isaiah 61:2: “to proclaim a day of vengeance from our God.” Yet Jesus ends earlier with “proclaims the Lord’s day of favor.” (Thursday)

Offer a prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit before you make your interpretation of an important text. With an open heart and mind, seek the attitude of a beginner and learner. (Friday)

Practice: Sacred Reading

Throughout the Gospels, in Jesus’ reading of the Hebrew Scriptures we see him masterfully connect the dots and discern where the sacred text is truly heading, beyond the low-level consciousness of a particular moment, individual, or circumstance. Jesus knows there is a bigger arc to the story—an arc revealing a God who is compassionate and inclusive.

The Spirit teaches any faithful person to read Scripture–and our own life experiences–with the eyes of love. Contemplative practice helps us develop new ways to perceive between the words and find threads leading us toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice.

The practice of lectio divina is a contemplative way to read short passages of sacred text and discover meanings running deeper than the literal layer.

  • With the first reading of the sacred text, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word which stands out for you.
  • During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking your response aloud or writing in a journal.
  • After reading the passage a third time, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and ask yourself what this passage calls you to.
  • Finally, after a fourth reading, rest in silence.

I invite you to practice lectio divina with Jesus’ own reading of Scripture in the synagogue:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” —Luke 4:16-21

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Hierarchy of Truths: Jesus’ Use of Scripture (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), CDMP3 download.

Image credit: Raising of Lazarus (detail), Duccio di Buoninsegnia, 1308–1311, Kimbell Art Museum.