Lectio Divina Paci – July 21, 2014

Matthew 13:1-9 “choke”

Monday, July 21st

for Sunday, July 27th, 7th Sunday after Pentecost

by Audrey Hindes

READ: Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52 “pearls”

REFLECT: At the first reading of this passage, I almost dismissed the phrase “in search of fine pearls.” I thought to myself, “’pearls’ only stands out to me because they’re both my father’s and my husband’s birthstone.” But I’ve learned over time to trust praying this Lectio Divina way, to trust that the Spirit is leading and prompting me in the direction I need to go.

The next time around the image of a strand of pearls came to mind. There is a necklace like this in our family. My dad bought it for my grandmother shortly before she died. I understand that she only ever wore them in the hospital. My mom wore them for my parents’ wedding. My sister and I also wore them for our weddings. Pearls of great value, indeed!

As I continued to read, I imagined the stringing together of these pearls, each one followed by a knot to secure it. Should a string of pearls break, all the pearls would not be lost. And I began to wonder, what else do I collect and string together in my life?

A lenten small group I lead this spring centered on the Ignatian practice of the Examen, in which one reflects on the day’s consolations and desolations – the highlights and lowlights. One day we talked about how the gathering up the graces of the day was like a strand of twinkle lights. One by itself might not seem like much, but a whole strand of twinkle lights can provide quite a bit of light.

RESPOND: God, I’m a little afraid to ask, but what am I searching for, and what does this say about what I value most? Help me to set those imitation pearls down. Help me to seek out and collect only what is good and which builds up others.

What do you string together like those twinkle lights? Does it provide light and warmth to others wherever you go? Or does criticism and cynicism radiate from you instead? What does this say about what you value? Free to respond or ask questions in the comments below.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Genesis 29:15-28

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128

Romans 8:26-39

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Peace Witness – Protesting Drone Warfare in Pennsylvania

As noted in an article last month,there is an ongoing peace witness at the northeast corner of the Horsham. Pa., Air Guard Station to protest drone warfare

The following photo shows Sandy Heisey of Florin Church of the Brethren, Mt. Joy, Pa., singing at the June 28 vigil with the support of the twelve persons from the Lancaster area representing one-third of the demonstrators as well as five denominations including all three of the historic peace churches.  The words of one of the inspiring songs she wrote and sang are printed below.

drone war protest pa

THE KILLINGS WILL END”  (sung to “Blowin’ in the Wind – lyrics by Sandy Heisey)

HOW MANY HELLFIRE MISSILES MUST STRIKE,

BEFORE THEY’RE FOREVER BANNED?

HOW MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE MUST DIE,

BECAUSE OF THE PLACE WHERE THEY LAND?

HOW MUCH DESTRUCTION AND DEATH WILL THEY CAUSE

BY DOING WHAT OTHERS COMMAND?

MY PRAYER IS, MY FRIEND, THE KILLINGS WILL END;

MY PRAYER IS THE KILLINGS WILL END!

 

HOW MANY TIMES MUST THE DRONES FLY ABOVE,

CAUSING PEOPLE TO TREMBLE IN FEAR?

HOW MANY GRAVES MUST BE DUG IN THE GROUND,

LEAVING FAMILIES TO CRY BITTER TEARS?

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR US FINALLY TO SAY,

THIS HAS GONE ON FOR TOO MANY YEARS?

MY PRAYER IS, MY FRIEND, THE KILLINGS WILL END.

MY PRAYER IS THE KILLINGS WILL END!

 

MY PRAYER IS, MY FRIEND, THE KILLINGS WILL END;

MY PRAYER IS THE KILLINGS WILL END!

 

Information submitted by H.A. Penner

Balancing Acts – Bible Interpretation in a Nutshell

tom b

Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns and appears the second week of each month.

by Tom Beutel

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NRSV)

Disagreements among Christians often originate when individuals or groups interpret the Bible differently. Differences arise for many reasons: lack of understanding of the context of the passage, personal “filters” we bring to reading scriptures, and possibly even different translations.

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth emphasize that

the Bible was not written directly for us. It was written using language, ideas, and cultural and historical specifics related to the author and intended audience. Nevertheless, the stories, principles, and revelations contained in the Bible are applicable to us in the current day; that is, the Bible has both historical particularity and eternal relevance.

Understanding what a portion of scripture means is a two-step process:

  • exegesis: understanding what the text meant “there and then,” given its genre, historical and cultural context, vocabulary, thought patterns, content and literary context. Reference material such as a good Bible dictionary must be used for history and culture (unless one is an expert in such matters.) Literary context considers words in sentences, as well as text that precedes and follows. A key question is “What’s the point.
  • hermeneutics: understanding what the text means in the current time and culture, “here and now.” Proper hermeneutics depends on good exegesis. “A text cannot mean what it never meant.” (Fee and Stuart) In applying the text to the current day consider:

An important element in understanding scripture is allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. But, this requires some care if we are to avoid imprinting our own ideas on a text and claiming that the Holy Spirit has revealed a particular understanding.

According to the NIV Study Bible, “The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (what is commonly called illumination) does not involve revelation of new truth or the explanation of all difficult passages of Scripture to our satisfaction. Rather, it is the development of the capacity to appreciate and appropriate God’s truth already revealed.” ( a study note on I John 2:27, italics added)

As we work at understanding what a text meant “there and then,” it is important to remember that different parts of the Bible use different literary forms: narrative history, genealogies, chronicles, laws, poetry, proverbs, prophecy, biographical sketches, parables, letters, sermons, and apocalypses. (Fee and Start). Proper understanding requires taking genre into account. A narrative history typically follows people and events over a period of time, while a letter typically focuses on a specific problem or set of problems. Poetry expresses the thoughts and feelings of the poet while a sermon or a proverb is intended to teach a lesson.

Finally, in applying texts to the current day (hermeneutics) we sometimes run into situations where the original meaning may be limited to the original historical and cultural context. But one must be careful in making this judgment. Here are several considerations to see if a text has present day relevance. (Fee and Stuart in the context of understanding the Epistles, thus their emphasis on the New Testament.)

(1) Is the text part of the central core message of the Bible or dependent on or peripheral to it?

(2) Is the issue in the text one which the New Testament sees as inherently moral or not?

(3) Is the issue in the text one for which there is a uniform and consistent witness throughout the New Testament?

(4) Is the text a general principle or an application of a principle to a specific situation?

(5) Is the issue in the text one for which there was only a single cultural option?

Examples

Women’s roles in the church. This issue would be seen as culturally relative since: it is not inherent in the core message of the Bible as a whole (human sin, God’s love, redemption through Christ, etc.); it is not treated uniformly in Scripture (women have leadership roles in some places, and seem to be denied them in others); it is probably a specific situation in Paul’s letters responding to problems reported to him; and there was only one cultural option open to Paul – in his time women were considered inferior to men, did not receive education, etc.

Divorce (and remarriage). This issue would not be seen as culturally relative, but as applicable to all time (eternal relevance) since: it is inherent in Biblical idea of covenant and is representative of the relationship between Christ and the church; the New Testament (including the teachings of Jesus) see it as a moral issue; the New Testament is consistently opposed to divorce; it is a general principle, not an application to a specific marriage; it was not the only option as divorce was allowed in Biblical cultures.

Here are links to some resources related to Biblical interpretation:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Fee and Stuart, Zondervan, 2003: http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Bible-All-Worth/dp/0310246040

Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible: http://www.amazon.com/Eerdmans-Dictionary-Bible-David-Freedman/dp/0802824005

The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics, Daniel B. Wallace: https://bible.org/article/holy-spirit-and-hermeneutics

Bible Gateway for Online Bible Translations: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Lectio Divina Paci – July 14, 2014

Monday, July 14th

for Sunday, July 20th, 6th Sunday after Pentecost

by Audrey Hindes

READ: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 “uproot”

REFLECT: In the first reading of this passage, “uproot” was the word that stood out to me. I thought of the weeds from the gospel text last week “choking” the good seed, and of the necessity of thinning plants so they don’t do this to one another. I also thought of the physical act of uprooting one’s life and moving to a new place, full of both opportunities and challenges. As I continued to read, the idea of moving as a relocation became more of moving as a journey. As a native Californian who lived in New Jersey before coming to Georgia, I have a bit of experience with uprooting, moving and journeying.

In New Jersey, the teacher of my class on Centering Prayer posed a question to us: “what if everything is just as it should be?” It was like a flash of lighting as I caught a glimpse of God’s reality. But just a glimpse, because of course I wanted to list all of life’s exceptions: the injustices, the horrors, the heart-breaking and gut-wrenching. Surely not these things, too, God. While I don’t think God exactly “wills” terrible things to happen, I do think we can learn from our Buddhist sisters and brothers here – our greatest enemy can be our greatest teacher. As peace-workers and justice-seekers, this is not a foreign notion to us.

I’ve long thought the question posed by my teacher that day stands in marked contrast to the statement, “everything is just as it should be.” As a question it is an invitation. It is an invitation for me to look for God’s reality, to look for the kingdom of God around me and within me. An invitation not to despair at the weeds that grow up around me, that seem to block my path. It is an invitation to embrace our enemies – indeed, all those whom we demonize. Or maybe it’s not that severe. Maybe it’s more subtle – an irritating family member or coworker – “if this person would just go away, then everything would be perfect.”

RESPOND: God, unveil the cloud from my eyes, so that I may glimpse your kingdom. May that glimpse give me the courage to seek for your reality, and to see that the path that I’m on is right where I need to be. You have prepared my way to this point, even when I couldn’t see it. Help me to have faith that you are at work, even now, preparing my next steps for this day.

When we engage in the kind of wishful thinking that God would just “uproot” our enemies, get rid of them, what do we miss? What missed opportunities for reconciliation, to extend grace, to see how we ourselves have even contributed to the situation? Feel free to respond or ask questions in the comments below.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Genesis 28:10-19a

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

Romans 8:12-25

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – July 7, 2014

Monday, July 7th

(for July 13th, 5th Sunday after Pentecost)

by Audrey Hindes

Matthew 13:1-9 “choke”

REFLECT: In the first reading of this passage this is the word that stood out to me, “choke.” It caught in my throat, even as I mulled it over in my mind. Hard to swallow, hard to breathe, hard to think. Panic. When I read the passage again, this image of choking in my mind, it seemed to me that as the crowds gathered around, Jesus may have felt as though they were choking him. No space to move, no space to think. He can’t even see them all, so thick they are pressing in on him. That’s how I would have felt. It’s not even that they’re malicious or out to get him – not yet, anyway. But I can imagine the barrage of demands, requests and pleas.

But Jesus doesn’t succumb. He doesn’t become a people-pleaser. He doesn’t run away. He doesn’t lash out. He doesn’t fall apart. He gets into a boat, goes away from the shore a bit, and gets some perspective. From here, he can see them all, consider them all, address them all. He can take his time in responding.

RESPOND: God, as I go through this day, there will be demands on me, on my time, on my energy. Help me to find ways to cultivate inner peace, so that I might respond, rather than react, to the needs of others with grace and wisdom.

In what ways can you “get in a boat” today? How can you carve out some inner perspective, some inner peace? What physical options are there? What mental or emotional options? Feel free to respond or ask questions in the comments below.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Genesis 25:19-34

Psalm 119:105-112

Romans 8:1-11

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – June 30, 2014

Monday, June 30th

(for July 6th, 4th Sunday after Pentecost)

by Audrey Hindes

READ: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 “flute”

REFLECT: Children shouting “no fair! We did this and you did not do that!” Children have a very innate and particular sense of equality and justice. A couple of images came to mind when I first read this passage. The first was a cartoon-like image of a person playing a flute as a cobra rose up, entranced, out of a basket. The second was a vending machine – you put your money in, you get your snack out. Both are problematic ways of relating to God and others. The first says that if I say sweet things, you’re obliged to do whatever I want. The second much more mechanical, detached, impersonal. Pure business. Both are built on an “if… then…” premise. “If I do x, you must do y.” Like a puppet on a string, if I pull this string, that arm moves. Period. No other outcome is possible.

I’m horrified to think that sometimes my sense of fairness is no more sophisticated than this. Of course, there are inequities all around us, and we should stand up, make waves and take action. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the more subtle, niggling jealousy – the kind that erodes relationships.

As I continued to pray through this passage, and confessed those instances where I am struggling, I began to feel an invitation in Jesus’ words “come to me… and I will give you rest.” I may be composed on the outside, my heart is throwing a child-like tantrum on the inside. I find resting in Jesus beyond words to be a comfort like no other.

RESPOND: God, when I feel that green-eyed monster of jealousy rising up, help me to recognize it for what it is. Help me realize that my perspective is limited, and that I cannot see the way you see. Help me to be less concerned about making sure everyone gets the same amount, than about making sure that others get what they need – even sacrificing what is “mine.”

In what areas of your life have relationships become merely business transactions, keeping track only of the bottom line? Is there a situation in your life where your own green-eyed monster has taken over? What might happen if you “cried it out” in prayer to God? What might God say to comfort you? Feel free to respond or ask questions in the comments below.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Psalm 45:10-17

Romans 7:15-25a

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Seekers – Yes, Customers – No

by Max Ediger max e

Pathik Foundation is a commune and meditation center resting at the foot of Chandragiri Mountain in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.  The meditation hall, which also served as a meeting room for our Tools for Transformation workshop, has a sign at the entrance reading, “SEEKERS-YES  CUSTOMERS-NO.”

Everyone is welcome to come to this meditation hall to meditate, practice yoga or just relax the mind and body.  But it is very clear, there is nothing for sale here.  If you want to find a peaceful heart, you will need to spend time and effort seeking it.  Unlike Walmart, this is not the place to simply purchase what you need from ready-made goods.

When we celebrate the Easter season we have a special opportunity to reflect on what the life, death and resurrection of Christ challenges us with in our daily lives.  If we want a comfortable, easy faith that we can purchase on our Sunday morning visits to the neighborhood church, then this story is not for us.  True Christian faith, as expressed by Jesus through his many parables, the Sermon on the Mount and through his sacrificial life is not an easy nor a comfortable journey.

I wonder if it might be good for us to place a sign at the entrance to our churches that also reads, “SEEKERS YES, CUSTOMERS NO.”  While a true faith cannot be purchased from Walmart, it can be found with a lot of sincere seeking together with a community also committed to the search.  The church offers comfort for those who are seeking solace from the heavy burdens of life that may be confronting them.  The church also offers hard challenges to those seekers who wish to encounter a true Christian life.  It is not easy.  That is why customers cannot find what they want here.  Seeking to follow the example of Christ means we must be willing to at least try to forgive our enemies:  even those who do terrible things to us individually, to our communities and to our nation.  Such forgiveness is extremely hard but Jesus did require us to forgive with compassion and to love all neighbors as we love ourselves.

There are those churches that may offer “cheap grace” – a faith that leaves us feeling happy and content, but does not necessarily push us to examine more deeply the words of Jesus.  To find those deep words and to strive to understand them and make them reality in our lives requires us to seek wisdom and to be assured that if we are sincere in our search, we will find answers to our questions.

 “And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Luke 11:9