December 17, 2017 // CHRISTMAS [PRESENT] - LECTIO DIVINA // Sara Wolbrecht // Luke 1:26-38 (The Message)
As our video reminds us, our minds are rarely here – we ping-pong between replaying the past and overthinking and worrying about the future – something in hyper drive during Advent, but it is true for the rest of the year, too – that on any day, at any moment our minds are most often somewhere else.
This month, then, as we have gathered in worship we have made room to practice meditation, being mindful, (And we’ve encouraged each other to try that at home during the week, too), to build the muscle memory in our brains to be people who are mindful, and to do that because the Jesus story invites us into this kind of life – a life of being present, because God is in the present moment.
And so today we try a different practice, a practice, though that we come back to every few months because we believe it is a practice that helps us to listen for God in a particular way. And we’ll do this by listening to a passage from the bible through the practice of Lectio Divina.
For those new to it, Lectio Divina is Latin for “Holy Word” or = “Divine Reading.” A practice that has been around since the 3rd Century (I personally deeply appreciate that this is a practice that is 1500 years old), and it was formalized in the 12th Century, that involves rereading a section of the bible, listening for a word that gets our attention, then prayerfully holding that word, looking for connections to our life now – and what God is saying to us in it.
Reading and listening to the bible in this way affirms how we believe that scripture is not a static, one-dimensional text, but it’s still alive and kicking today. In this Advent series as we lean into being present, we’re affirming today how God can be heard and experienced in this living, breathing ancient book we call the bible. That God is here in this text at the present moment. Even when we read passages we have read before, we will hear it in a different way – because as people who are living through change and being changed – we are in a different place than we were the last time, or even last week (right?). So we’ll hear and experience fresh things every time we read scripture. Which is pretty amazing. This is a practice for us to keep in the ol’ tool belt, as something to practice on our own or in smaller groups. Also, just to name that: you may find that Lectio is just not your jam, and that’s ok, too. Thanks for hanging in, even if that’s the case.
Our reading today is from Luke’s gospel (if you’re listening or watching online, and want to turn to it, it’s Luke 1:26-38, The Message version).
So let’s begin. Please get comfortable in your seat. Connect with your breath, roll your shoulders back. The first step in Lectio is READING. We read the text. Staying in that place connected to your breath, attentive, our first-time reading is to just hear the text. No agenda. You will recognize most of it, and it is a not a short text, so keep letting the words just fall on your ears. I invite you to listen with your eyes closed if that’s comfortable for you.
(not on screen) Luke 1:26-38 (The Message) - Sara
26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
29-33 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
35 The angel answered,
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.
36-38 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Now this next time through, we listen for a word or phrase that touches our heart, that gets our attention. That’s what we listen for – one word or phrase. (If you are a more visual person, pull out that bulletin insert, and the text is on the back for you to follow along). Otherwise you can keep your eyes closed. Do not expect lightning to strike, just something that shimmers for you, or you feel curious or confused or stirred by. When the word or phrase is found, gently recite it to yourself, repeat it and reflect on it during the short silence that follows the reading.
Luke 1:26-38 (The Message) - Sara
(Silence) If you are willing, I invite you to share out loud the word or phrase that has touched your heart. Just the word, no commentary yet.
…Thank you for sharing. The second step is REFLECTION. We each ponder the word that has touched our heart and ask where the word or phrase touches our life today. As we do this, do not be afraid of distractions, or busy brain. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of ourselves that, when they rise up during Lectio Divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of our self. Embrace those things that come up, listen to them. The question: God, what are you saying to me? is what we hold as we listen. Continue to repeat your word while holding it in dialogue with God, listening for WHY this word grabs our attention today, as we hear the text again, this time read by Dani, with silence after.
Luke 1:26-38 (The Message) - Dani
(Silence) We’ll have a chance to share what we’re hearing in a moment, after our final reading.
The third step is RESPONDING. The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us to respond." What is God in this text calling us to do or to become today or this week? It is our second question that we often ask here at Salt House, first we ask: God, what are you saying? Then: God what am I going to do about it? God is always inviting us into transformation, into seeing our lives in a fresh way – like with more compassion, and generosity – as we worked through this fall. And now in this season of Advent, with presence. How are we invited to be or to do or to see things differently? Please note: answering this question may take longer than the next few minutes – you may need to savor it this week. We listen for our response, as we hear the passage a final time.
Luke 1:26-38 (The Message) - Sara
And now we make space to share what we’re hearing. We have trie dhtis in a few different ways in the past. Today we’re going to break into groups of two, three at the most, and to just take one minute each to name the word or phrase, and why you think this is coming up for you, what is interesting, curious, or disruptive about it. Aim to take no more than a minute each – and do know that you can just say the word or phrase, and say – I don’t know why that came up. I just liked it. Connecting with folks you don’t know or at least did not arrive here with is particularly beneficial – (because you can share with your friend or family member later). Let’s move smoothly and decisively into groups of two or three (and it’s ok if you stand up and move around). Take just a minute each to share.
Is there anything that you would like to share about what’s coming up for you or in your group, what God is saying in this time? …Thank you for sharing, friends. For sharing your experience, your Kairos, your curiosity.
On this final Sunday of Advent, this Sunday where we have been thinking about love, we hear about Mary. Mary. There’s that Ben Stiller movie from the ‘90s – called “There’s something about Mary.” Which I only bring up because I think that the title is true – there is something throughout time that has held Mary in a place of honor and wonder and curiosity for many of us – especially folks from the Roman Catholic tradition who hold Mary as central to the practice of their faith.
But I think there is something about Mary. Richard Rohr tries to help us understand what’s happening theologically. What’s happening in the deeper depths of our soul. He names how Jesus is the representative of the divine. The Gift. Jesus is the total givenness of God to God’s creation. Mary is representative of humanity. The stand-in for all of us. She’s how the gift is received.
And so maybe we see, probably unconsciously, some of ourselves in her. At the same time, we’re probably like – oh, goodness, I’m not anything like Mary. But I want us to note that in the gospel and in the entire text, there’s not a single quality of Mary that is named. Nothing. It doesn’t say she was worthy, she was smart, she was good looking. She was filled with virtue. Not a single quality is named.
What is said (and all that is said) is that she has found favor with God. Now favor doesn’t say anything about the one who is favored, it says something about the one who is doing the favoring. The word in Greek that is translated ‘favor’ actually means undeserved love. Undeserved. Unmerited. Totally free from the givers side. How hard is it for us to receive an undeserved gift? We all want to prove that we earned it, that we’re worthy of it, that we’re smart enough, that we’re holy enough. Mary doesn’t go there. She makes no claims to deserving this.
The thing I wonder about on this fourth Sunday in Advent is our own need to remember that this something about Mary really is something about all of us. That we also do not need a long list (or even short list) of virtues or achievements – and that in our unachievingness, we, too, have received undeserved love. We receive the same gift – the gift of Jesus is received by us in the same way Mary received it. By not earning a stinkin’ thing. And in our willingness to say yes.
How might we say yes to knowing this undeserved, lavish love that is given to us – knowing it this week as we move through the final countdown to Christmas? What will your yes to love look like? And what might it cause you to do?
As we finish our time in Lectio together, the fourth and final step of Lectio Divina is to REMAIN. To simply rest as the Beloved of God in the presence of God. To hold what we have heard spoken through the bible, spoken through each other, as a word of grace and hope for us. For God most certainly speaks through us as a gift with and for each other.
As we “remain” and finish this holy time together, let’s continue to hold this sacred space for each other as the band comes up. And let’s pray as we remain with God, together. Please reconnect with your breath – open your palms: