I’m guessing you have a lot on your minds and hearts this morning. Some of us are waiting to see if we will be able to visit our families who don’t live with us in the next few weeks, or whether we will still be isolating; some of us are waiting to see how long we will be out of work or whether the investments we get our income from will rally; some of us know people who have COVID-19 and are worried for them; some of us are grieving the loss of friends and family and yes, the whole nation is grieving the senseless murders in Nova Scotia last weekend.
It was also Earth Day this last week – an occasion that brought to mind both the breath of rest nature is experiencing as our lives and our consumption slow down, but also the increased use of disposable items due to the virus just when we had started to convert to re-usables.
And then there’s the everyday, and not so everyday, stuff of birthdays and anniversaries, commemorations of those who have passed away recently or some time ago, new jobs and job losses, new experiences or the monotony of being stuck in a small place unable to go out…
I don’t know what is foremost on your mind and heart today, but it may be some or all of those things.
Rather than preach a sermon for you trying to weave all those things together, today I just want to let the Scriptures speak directly into your hearts and minds without me getting in the middle. Today we’re going to practice Divine Reading – lectio divina – a special way of reading the Bible that we’ve done before, but might be new to some of us. We’ll focus on the second of the two readings for today:
You’ll hear the Scripture reading three times. Each time you will be prompted to hear it with a slightly different prayer focus. We’ll begin with the large circle of life, the community and the world. Then we’ll narrow in a little bit more and focus on our immediate circles: our church, our work, our volunteer organizations, our school, our family and friends; and then we will focus the final time on our selves – and what the Scripture and the Spirit may be saying together to you specifically. With each reading I will remind you of the prayer focus, then bring you into and out of prayer using the sound of a prayer bowl – like this….
So now I call you into a time of prayer with Scripture, listening each time for the word or phrase that speaks most closely to your heart, and then taking that to God in prayer for a few moments.
We begin by listening to Scripture with ears tuned for what the Spirit might be saying to us about the larger world and our community: We hear Paul’s writing to the church in Rome, from Romans 12:9-21.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.* 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;* do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;* for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 1Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Ring the bell…..90s secs to 2 minutes of silence….ring again.
Now I invite you to hear the Scripture again, this time with the ears of your heart tuned to how this Scripture speaks into the lives of your immediate circle and your relationships within that circle:…
Ring the bowl… pause for prayer….ring again
And once more, I invite you to listen for a word or phrase that speaks to you, and this time, I invite you to focus particularly on what Scripture and Spirit may be speaking into your life especially.
Ring the bowl, pause for prayer…ring again.
And we end in prayer:
Holy Spirit, giver of truth and guide for us on the Way of Jesus, thank-you for what these words and your intercession have placed in our hearts this day. May our thoughts and feelings become actions that bless the world. This we pray in Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.