By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
January 15th, 2023
Opening Prayer – Prayer of Awareness
Light within all light, Soul behind all souls, at the breaking of dawn, at the coming of the day we wait and watch.
Your Light within the morning light, Your Soul within the human soul, Your Presence beckoning to us from the heart of life.
In the dawning of this day let us know the fresh shining in our souls.
In the growing colors of new beginning all around us, let us know the first lights of our heart.
Great Star of the morning, Inner Flame of the universe, let us be a color in this new dawning.
- John Philip Newell, Praying with the Earth – A Prayerbook for Peace, p. 2.
Introduction – “Once Upon A Time”
[An opening reading from “Inspired – Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again”
by Rachel Held Evans, pp. xi-xiii.]
Do you find yourself identifying in some way with the girl who has a magic book? And if so, how?
Controversial. Sacred. Irrelevant. Timeless. Oppressive. Embattled. Divine. The Bible conjures all sorts of adjectives among modern-day readers, and yet its ‘magic’ is indisputable, for every time we tease about ‘forbidden fruit’ or praise a good Samaritan, we betray our fascination with the ancient collection of stories and poems, prophecies, and proverbs, letters and laws, written and compiled by countless authors spanning multiple centuries and cited by everyone from William Blake to Beyoncé. The Bible has been translated into more than two thousand languages, its tales inspiring the art of Shakespeare and Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, and Blind Willie Johnson. Its words are etched into our gravestones, scribbled onto the white posters we carry into picket lines, and strategically incorporated into our dating profiles.
Civil rights activists quoted heavily from biblical texts, as did the Christian segregationists who opposed them. The Bible’s ancient refrains have given voice to the laments of millions of oppressed people and, too often, provided justification for their oppressors. Wars still wage over its disputed geographies.
Like it or not, the Bible has cast its spell, and we are caught up in the story.
My aim with this book is to recapture some of that Bible magic, but in a way that honors the text for what it is – ancient, complicated, debated, and untidy, both universally relevant and born from a specific context and culture. I hope to show how the Bible can be captivating and true when taken on its own terms, avoiding both strict literalism on the one hand and safe, disinterested liberalism on the other.
I tackle this subject not as a scholar, but as a storyteller and literature lover who believes understanding the genre [a category of literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content] of a given text is the first step to engaging it in a meaningful way.
While Christians believe the Bible to be uniquely revelatory and authoritative to the faith, we have no reason to think its many authors were exempt from the mistakes, edits, rewrites, and dry spells of everyday creative work. Nor should we, as readers, expect every encounter with the text to leave us happily awestruck and enlightened. Inspiration, on both the giving and receiving end, takes practice and patience. It means showing up even when you don’t feel like it, even when it seems as if no one else is there. It means waiting for the wind to stir.
God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. Our job is to ready the sails and gather the embers, to discuss and debate and like the biblical character Jacob, to wrestle with the mystery until God gives us a blessing.
If you’re curious, you will never leave the text without learning something new. If you’re persistent, you just might leave inspired.
Lectio Divina – Divine or Sacred Reading
Lectio Divina is one of the great treasures of the Christian tradition of prayer. It is an ancient method that was practiced by the Mothers and Fathers of the Desert and later in monasteries both East and West. Lectio Divina differs from Bible Study. Bible Study is the reading of the scriptures for information and an understanding of the context of the passage. It provides a solid conceptual background for the practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is a reflective reading of scripture. It is a method of prayer that leads us into the deeper meaning of scripture and the transformation of our lives. A contemplative reading of the Scriptures is compatible with a well-grounded interpretation of the Bible.
There are several different approaches to Lectio Divina. The Scholastic Form is a good approach to learn Lectio Divina. The Scholastic Form divides the process into stages or steps in a hierarchical pattern:
- Step One: Read the passage and listen with the “ear of your heart.” What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you?
- Step Two: Read the passage again and reflect on the word of God. Be aware of what touches you, a thought or reflection that is meaningful. Allow a minute or two of silence.
- Step Three: Read the passage again and respond spontaneously to the word of God. Be aware of any prayer that rises up within you that expresses the experience. Allow a minute or two of silence.
- Step Four: Read the passage a final time. Rest in the word, reflect or pray and allow God to speak in silence. Allow three or four minutes of silence.
- Extend the Practice: After the resting, take the phrase, sentence, or word into your daily activity and listen to it, reflect on it, pray over it, and rest in it as time allows during the day. Allow it to become part of you.
For this week with the “ear of your heart”: Read Genesis 1:20 – 2:3 and practice Lectio Divina.
“Thought for Extending the Practice”: In the second half of the creation story, God moves from making inanimate objects to making living things. Humans are sacred. They are not only good but also blessed with qualities that enable them to share in God’s power of creation and oversight of the world. What would it mean to act as an image of God to all those I meet in my daily routine?
Source for “Thought for Extending the Practice”: “The CEB Lectio Divina Prayer Bible”
An invitation to our virtual participants: Discussion and comments are very much encouraged and welcomed. Online discussions can be held in the comments section in the upcoming post on Facebook for this week’s Deacon’s Reflection which is part of adult formation at St. Francis Episcopal Church.
Closing Prayer – Prayer of Blessing
May the angels of light glisten for us this day. May the sparks of God’s beauty dance in the eyes of those we love. May the universe be on fire with Presence for us this day. May the new sun’s rising grace us with gratitude.
Let earth’s greenness shine and its waters breathe with Spirit. Let heaven’s winds stir the soil of our soul and fresh awakenings rise within us. May the mighty angels of light glisten in all things this day. May they summon us to reverence, may they call us to life.
May the light of God illumine the heart of my soul. May the flame of Christ kindle me to love.
May the fire of the Spirit free me to live this day, tonight, and forever. Amen.
John Philip Newell, Praying with the Earth – A Prayerbook for Peace, p. 4.
“Inspired”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2023.