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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ask the Matriarch: Contemplative Reading

My fiance gave me a nasty cold for my upcoming birthday (he's so generous!), so I'm going to keep this pretty simple this week. Our question, however, is much more complex and multifaceted than its one-sentence nature implies:

How do you get people to take a scripture, let it work on them the way it works on you through the week?

The short answers: Try lectio divina, and publish readings ahead of time to give time for reflection.

Earthchick writes:
When I was in seminary, I went to a church that had a Sunday School class entitled "Inward Journey." It was a very small class, led by a layperson, focused on doing Lectio Divina together on the lectionary texts for the week. Between Sundays, we were all asked to read the lections for the upcoming Sunday and to spend time reflecting and praying them on our own. Then when we gathered, we would share our experiences, listen to each other, etc. This kind of class won't appeal to everyone; the small group aspect of it was part of what really made it work.

Another option would be to periodically offer a half-day lectio divina retreat, to introduce people to approaching Scripture this way. Then, you could create a bulletin insert that could go in the bulletin each week, listing the lectionary passages for the next Sunday and asking three or four lectio divina-type questions for them to take home and ponder. I actually haven't tried this myself (though we do list the upcoming lections in the bulletin each Sunday), but now I just might!

Jan's thoughts:
During Lent one year, we met for group spiritual direction using the passage I was preaching on. It went like this: We would meet the Tuesday before the sermon and read the lesson as Lectio Divina. Then we would share our immediate thoughts on the connections the passage was making for us along with different tracks they might take if they were preaching. I'd receive further ideas from them through the week.

Short of meeting twice each week, it would be hard to do this but might be fascinating to meet early in the week (Monday or Tuesday) for lectio divina. And then on Sunday mornings, you could meet to reflect on how that passage was lived out/inspired/made alive through the week.

And from PPB:
The experience that I have had with this that was the most meaningful was at the last church where I was a member. We knew rather far in advance what the preaching text was (maybe that's where I get my penchant for picking texts early), and the week leading up to a Sunday, that particular text permeated the church---it was the choir devotional, the youth club devotional. It was printed in the newsletter, and at least one line of it was on the kiosk out front. It was the session meeting reading, and printed up and posted on the bulletin boards. If at all possible, the choir sang it. The homeless shelter read it before dinner every night. If at all possible, it was the pre-school chapel verse. Basically, the sermon text was the church's text for the week. So if you were active in the church, by the time Sunday came, you couldn't wait to hear what the pastor said---since you'd been thinking about it all week. And even if you were only a little bit active, it at least was not the first time you'd heard it.

It's not quite the same as "working in you" the same way it works on the preacher, but it was a close approximation. At least as a collective body, we heard it.

Your turn
How about you? Have you had success with one of these techniques or do you have another to suggest? Share it in comments!


  1. Ooh, I love that idea of the text appearing all over the place the week before. I just might bring that up at the next staff meeting. Currently two of our lay members put together a weekly email that goes out on Thursday. It includes the text for that Sunday, a short note from the preaching pastor about the sermon and various web links to related articles and other resources. We started doing this early this summer and have had very positive feedback so far.

  2. I used to print out the sermon titles and Scripture in advance and then found folks were picking and choosing whether to come or not based partially on those ('Why Tithe' had low attendance).

    This may also just be an excuse since putting out information ahead means well... planning ahead.

  3. At our church we have a small, contemplative Evensong service (led by an elder, no pastor)after Wednesday night supper, and during that service we approach the upcoming Sunday's preaching text as lectio divina. It enhances our appreciation of the sermon,and it's always interesting to see how the pastor chooses to preach the text.

  4. I wouldn't pre-announce sermon titles. Partly because I hate titling sermons, but also because I think it gives your focus away--people know where you're going with it--which might decrease attendance.

  5. I'm in a cell group which is doing just that right now and it's so much better than reading the text the week AFTER - because a) it's easy to fall into the trap of pulling the sermon (and the preacher apart) and b) s/he has already formed our ideas on the text - this way is so much better.

  6. I am so sad I never thought about this before. However, what I do find now that I am in the pew more than in the pulpit is that I do enjoy the sermon more when I have thought about the lessons during the week. There are a few times when I think, "Well, I would have gone another way with that." But for the most part, my worship life is satisfactory.

    What I find when I don't prep for worship is that the lessons work on me during the following week. When the worship service is planned in an intentional way- when there is an integrity to how the hymns, texts, liturgy and sermon all work together- I spent the next week processing that message.

  7. Interacting with the all of you has been more helpful than any of the readings or "classes" I have gone through throughout my life.

    Thank you.

  8. Depends on your congregation , but how about blogging about it, in some form. (you could even delegate this out to a congregation member at times)

    Just an idea

  9. Here's something for letting the scripture steep after the service:

    I love the ChristCare small group ministry process called Biblical Equipping Apart. How it works is, after studying a passage as a group, the passage is read again, then each person writes down a phrase or sentence that really speaks to them, that they want to keep "living with" over the next week. Then they post it somewhere in their house where they'll see it. So the scripture keeps on addressing them, instead of being something they've forgotten two hours after the gathering ends.

    I have adapted this for worship. After reading the sermon and preaching, I have read the text again (or referred people to Bibles) and had slips of people for people to write down a verse from the scripture that they want to remember and take with them.

  10. We have a weekly lectio divina group that meditates upon a selection from the lectionary for the coming Sunday.Following the group meeting is the weekly noon communion and the pastor (who also attends our group) always talks about our selection. The senior pastor of this church does not use the lectionary for his Sunday sermons, however.

  11. This makes me miss the lectionary group I used to meet with on Wednesday nights at Small Church. We looked at the upcoming texts together and most of the time simply reacted to them and let the conversation go where it needed to go, trusting the movement of the Spirit. Since we met in my study, we had resources readily available if we wanted to look anything up. That group shared at a very deep level. I hope to do something like that again someday.


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