May 1, 2016 / GO + LECTIO DIVINA / Sara Wolbrecht / Matthew 28:16-20
Friends, it is so good to be with you and back in the sermon-saddle (if that’s a thing?). And I say that because two weeks ago Jason and I had some vacation in the San Francisco Bay Area where we used to live for 10 years, and for those who know Lindsey Denman who used to be a part of Salt House, we shared some sushi with her and she sends her love to y’all. And last week we gathered together with a different kind of worship experience – Christopher Williams led us through a time of song and storytelling with good food and a beer to help us through. Did y’all have a good time? Yeah.
And so here we are, back in what appears to be a normal Sunday evening. But I have a few surprises as to what we are about to do together, an experiment for us.
And on the outset, I do want to thank y'all for the trust you give to me, to Jason, to our team to try different things in worship on Sundays. We look for ways to experience God, here, in this space and time together and I am so grateful for the trust you give us to try things, for it is your willingness to go there, your trust, that has opened us up to God doing beautiful things in us this past year. I don’t take that for granted and I am so grateful that you let me lead you in new ways.
And so for today, we’re heading in a particular direction because of where we find ourselves as a community. I want to name two things about where we find ourselves. First, on Easter Sunday we had a big party for us – why? Our one-year birthday. We had our first service on March 29th, 2015. And so we’re celebrating one year of ministry here at Salt House. The way I see it, we are officially no longer infants, but now toddlers. A big step. And an important milestone for us. So first we name that we are in this great place of finishing one year, looking back at who we have become, and also looking forward to who we want to become.
And second, this is also an important season for us, because we are in the midst of responding to a few incredible opportunities. We have already said yes to the New Bethlehem Project – to engaging with the homeless in our building. Specifically, our unfinished basement will become a day shelter for homeless families beginning this fall – which is amazing.
And now, separate from the day-shelter, (as I shared on Easter) we’re also beginning very very early conversations with the City of Kirkland about what might happen with some of our land. We have 3.2 acres. And the City has asked us to consider whether we would use some of our land for a permanent, 24-hour shelter for homeless women, with the possibility of families and the New Bethlehem Project being included in that.
Do you see this exciting place where we find ourselves? A young, intimate, still learning how to walk, toddler-aged community, with incredible opportunities before us? These two things really put us in a season where we are listening for God – listening in order to really drill down and innovate around our identity, our mission and vision. …So that we can – from a place of knowing who we are and how God would have us respond to the needs of our city – make a decision about what to say yes and no to in this second year of our existence.
And so for today, it just makes sense that we would make space to actually listen to God together – making room for all of us to listen and share. We’re going to do that by using an ancient practice – it’s a contemplative approach to reading scripture. Something we’ll do together as a large group, but really a practice designed to do on our own or in smaller groups. It is a practice that was first used in the 3rd Century (just a few years back) initially practiced by monastics, by folks we would call monks who lived away from the world in intentional community and with a particular ear toward God. And through the centuries, this practice became much more widely used, and it was formalized into four steps in the 11th century.
This practice is called Lectio Divina. Have you heard of this? Tried it? The Latin “Lectio” means word or reading. And “Divina” means holy, sacred, divine. And so what we’re about to try is called Divine Reading, or Holy Word. Lectio Divina.
Lectio uses a repetition – reading through the text many times. I’ll read this for us, Sean will read it, too. The basic way this will go is that as we listen, through the repetition and the rhythm of hearing it, a certain word or phrase will nudge you, stand out to you. Then you’ll be invited to reflect on what God might be saying to you through it. I’ll walk you through the steps.
Lectio, and listening to Scripture and contemplating it in this way, affirms two things. First, it reminds us that we believe Scripture to be God’s LIVING word. It has a pulse and breath and continues to speak to us in fresh, alive ways – it’s not just a static, ancient text. And second – Lectio affirms that we are also living, changing, we are always being made new. God’s word will speak to us in new ways TODAY because WE are in a different place today than we were five years ago or even last week. There is always a fresh word to hear in the midst of the rhythm and repetition of our lives.
And so let’s turn to our reading for today. Since Easter Sunday we have been doing a sermon series on The REAL Seven Last Words of Jesus, these seven conversations Jesus has after his resurrection.
And today we land in the final words of Matthew’s gospel. The end of Matthew 28. Jesus speaks, and it is like the mic drop heard throughout the centuries. We know it as the Great Commission. BOOM.
The first time through, I invite you to just listen. To get comfortable in your seat. I recommend getting out that bulletin insert you have – on the back is this text. Have a pen handy to use in a moment. And then once you’re set, take a deep breath, close your eyes, or follow along on your handout. There will be some quiet space after we read the text.
Please pray and breathe with me as we begin. God, we let our breath slow down, we settle into this space, yet we also attune our ears, minds, hearts to you, with great anticipation that you are here – and we are listening now as we turn to scripture…
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Now, we listen to the text again. This is the first step: we listen for and identify a single word or phrase as we read slowly, attentively, gently listening for one thing to shimmer, to stand out for us. Something that gets our attention.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
Now we read the text again, really drilling down into choosing one word or phrase. Maybe you have chosen a word/phrase already, if so begin to just hold that word or phrase in your mind, contemplate it, as we read again, maybe circle it or write it down on your paper. And if you’re still listening for one, that’s fine. We listen again to choose one phrase, and contemplate it.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
Make your final commitment to one word or phrase. And if you are willing, I invite you to speak the word or phrase out loud. What words got your attention?
…Thank you for sharing. Next, we engage our intellect, through prayer. Asking God to reveal any connections this word has with our own lives and circumstances. We ask: how does this resonate with my life right now? Where are there connections? We talk to God now, listening for WHY this word grabs our attention today. We ask this as we hear the text again.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
We continue to talk with God about whatever has been stirred up in us – our feelings, thoughts, hopes, as we contemplate this word. And we move the question into one of response. We ask: how is God inviting me or us into transformation?
We take a few moments of silence for listening. We will have a chance to share if you would like to in a moment. But we hold these questions: WHY does this word speak to me now? And through it what is God saying, and how is God inviting me/us to live differently?
And now we’ll take a few minutes for sharing. This is the piece I have been most excited to try – to see what we hear from this text that for many of us is very familiar, and for all of us is one of the most central pieces of what it means to follow Jesus. The Great Commission.
And so we make space to share. You do not have to worry about sounding smart or insightful or being articulate – you can be brief. This is a space for authenticity. I’ve noticed in my experience, our own willingness to speak up – God always uses it to speak to someone else. So let’s see together: what word/phrase spoke to you and what have you been noticing about it? (For this part we’ll use a mic so that we can be sure everyone can hear).
I’m going make a two minute mini-sermon about what I heard in this text. In the context of our sermon series, the fifth word from Jesus that we hear today is the word GO. Go, make disciples. And then we read on and Jesus says that we should baptize and teach people all of the things. Which feels really stiff and formal and like we need to organize classes and have a curriculum to follow. But as you might guess, this is not actually what Jesus is envisioning for us at all.
The one thing I would invite you to remember and meditate on from this phrase is a new word: = disciplize. “Go make disciples” is best translated as disciplize. (Jason pointed out that it is different from disciple-cise which much like Jazzercise would involve legwarmers). A disciple is someone who is a learner, a student. Someone learning about a way of living – in this case Jesus is the source. The way we read this is Jesus saying: go along making disciples in the everyday ways in which you live your life. Go, and disciplize along the way. Live your life in a way that invites others to learn the ways of God. Like we said with the kids a few minutes ago, this is how we live “salty lives” right? And for those of you interested in the grammar here, Jesus uses the imperative command of the plural form of “you” here, which means he’s referencing all the folks who become disciples throughout time. And it is offered as a command, not as an option, as he directs us to pursue this activity, and allow “disciplize” to emerge as a lifestyle that we constantly and actively engage.
So in this mic-drop moment of the Great Commission, Jesus says: disciplize. To let that directive seep into the way we go about our days, looking for ways to embody God’s love, generosity, compassion, inclusiveness, joy, patience – all of it infused in the way we do our jobs, and talk to our neighbors, and date, and care for children, and in how we give of our time and resources for the sake of those in need, as we point to Jesus as the source and disciplize as we go. I love that language – and find it as an incredibly difficult, yet beautiful way to frame this life we’ve been given. Disciplize.
…We’re now going to do one final listening to the text. This time, we’re adding another step to Lectio and it is to listen to this text as a people, as a community, to listen for what God might be saying to us here at Salt House as a gathered people. [Some of this we’ve already heard in what was shared.] Again, we name that this is an important season for us as we distill who we are and who we want to be at Salt House. And so we listen as a community, for the community, to what God is saying to us. We’ll just do one reading, I invite you to grab a word or phrase – maybe a new one, maybe the same that you heard before – and ask what God is saying to us at Salt House. And we’ll have time to share after a brief silence.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
My friends, what did you hear – what word and what commentary does God have for us at Salt House today?
If you have more to share but don’t want to do it now, please talk to me or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear it. Thank you, friends, for engaging in this experiment of Lectio Divina.
As the band comes up, will you please stand with me – let’s pray...