The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me.
Actually, I have a rather volatile relationship with the B-I-B-L-E. It is a book that I have read and re-read, but do not understand. It is surprising, confusing, infuriating, and precious. There are stories that have left me terrified, inspired, and everything in between.
It is a precious book, but I am becoming more and more convinced that the Bible has become a shield behind which Christians hide.
- Don’t want to give up your slaves: Colossians 3:22, Exodus 21:20–21, Matthew 24:45–46
- Don’t understand people with expressions of sexuality different from your own: Leviticus 18:22
- Want to justify racial inequality: Genesis 9:25
By insisting that the Bible is a book that is written by God without any influence from the human scribes can lead to an inappropriate application of an ancient text to a context within which it makes no sense. It is my sincere and firm belief that Jesus, despite the context of the parable in Matthew 24, would not have supported or tolerated modern labor abuses or sex trafficking. Because my reason tells me so.
That is the beauty of the Quadrilateral.
We, as a community of faith, can approach the Bible from a standpoint of curiosity and contemplation.
Next week, we will look at the authoritative primacy of the scriptures, but first I would like to share with you how I read the scriptures:
A Contemplative Reading
I have learned, after walking through a complete faith collapse based on the astrophysical inaccuracy of the Creation account that I must read the Bible from a contemplative stance.
- Show up
- Pay attention
- Cooperate with God
- Release the outcome
Within this framework, I can enter into the work, the wrestling match, that is reading the Bible.
I must be willing to expose myself to the Bible. For a while that was difficult. I was too broken, too undone to open myself to the text, and I had to allow myself the grace to submit myself to the ministration of the Spirit and leave the scripture for a time. In the last few years I have found that I have been able to place myself, once again, before the sacred text, even if I can only handle one sentence at a time.
Skimming through six chapters at a time might get me through the Bible in a set period of time, but, like sprinting through Monet’s garden, you are going to miss something beautiful. Practices such as lectio divina (see the invitation to Missional Mindfulness) help to give the text the chance to speak. The Bible does come alive for me, but it takes slow, careful attention.
Cooperate with God
This is the one, isn’t it? When we enter into dialogue with a sacred text, we must be willing to believe that it can and will speak. In the quietness of contemplation—from the quietness of contemplation—this surprising, confusing, infuriating, precious text will speak, and when it does, we are invited to listen.
Release the outcome
And all of this we hold with open hands. My understanding of the scriptures has changed over the last decade, and it will continue to change.
I might not understand the way you read the Creation poem, but, within a contemplative stance, I can rest knowing that what does not harm another, what calls us toward love, what inspires us to care for ourselves and our neighbor, belongs. It all belongs.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
This is an excerpt from the Clarify curriculum available in our store:
“Lectio Divina,” Latin for “reading divinely,” is an ancient practice of reading and praying with Scripture. It is a practice that was developed mainly by monks, but can be used by anyone. Isaiah’s call to be a prophet offers a wealth of imagery and florid language for readers to receive. This week use the pattern below of Lectio Divina with Isaiah 6:1-8:
1. “Lectio” Reading
- Read the passage, slowly, out loud.
- As you read, notice words or phrases that resonate with you.
- Let the words pour over your soul.
2. “Meditatio” Meditation/Focus/Thinking
- Read the passage again, slowly, out loud.
- Speak any word or phrase that resonated with you during the first reading out loud, as you feel led.
- Feel free to add other words or phrases that strike you.
3. “Oratio” Talking to God/Praying
- Offer prayers to God in the form of questions - example: “How are you sending us to serve your people, oh God?”
- Speak any other words to God that you feel moved to share.
4. “Contemplatio” Contemplation
- Finally, simply let go of everything. Set a timer for three minutes as you observe a period of silence.
- Empty your mind and let God fill you with holy silence.
- If you feel your mind starting to wander, focus on your breathing – inhaling slowly in through your nostrils and slowly out through your mouth.