Diocesan Bible Study to Prepare for the Presiding Bishop’s Visit
to the Diocese in March 2019
The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be with us in the Diocese of Hawaiʻi on March 22-24, 2019. Please mark your calendars particularly for Friday (March 22), Saturday (March 23) and Sunday (March 24). More information about the visit will be forthcoming. I pray this will be a time of renewal in the Diocese.
To prepare for the Presiding Bishop’s visit, I invite all members of the Diocese to prepare for a time of prayer and study of Scripture. I specifically want us to study and pray through the Gospel of Matthew from Monday, October 15, 2018, through Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Noted below is a schedule to read through the Gospel over the course of those 158 days (excluding Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas).
I particularly call us to a method of Bible reflection called Lectio Divina (“divine reading”). Though a very old prayer practice, I have been using Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray (Ascension Press, 2009) as a guide (page numbers noted below are from this book). I do need to note that Gray is a conservative Roman Catholic and some of his insights may not be helpful in our context. The method suggested, however, can be valuable.
Though other translations of the Holy Scripture can certainly be used for this prayer, I encourage you to consider the Common English Bible (CEB) translation (http://www.commonenglishbible.com). In the Scripture schedule below, there is link each day to the lesson of the day at the CEB in the Bible Gateway Online Bible (https://www.biblegateway.com).
The Five Steps of Lectio Divina
1) This is the first step, called ‘Lectio’ (“reading”). For this first step, read the passage as if you’ve never read/heard the story before. You might even consider reading the passage out loud. Carefully and slowly read through each sentence and try to notice different words or phrases as they jump out to you. As Gray suggests, “As you begin lectio, then take a moment to ask God to help you switch off the cell phone in your soul” (page 44).
2) The second step called ‘Meditatio’ (“meditation”). Read the scripture passage again, and take a few minutes to sit and be in that moment. Imagine you’re in the story. Who are you in the story? What are your senses? What does it look like? Can you hear anything? How are the people in the scene feeling? How do you feel when people speak or act? Pray through what you experience and let God speak to you. It’s a lot more about listening than about talking, and about seeing what God wants to show you. What is it like to experience Jesus’ presence, words, or actions? How do you react? What goes on in your heart? What prayer is on your heart? As Gray reminds us, “In contrast to meditation techniques aimed at emptying the mind, Christian meditation makes full use of the intellect in an effort to understand God’s Word and to hear God’s voice” (page 62).
For those who would like an aid with the readings and Meditatio, I suggest a two-volume commentary/reflection from Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright: Matthew for Everyone: Part 1, Chapters 1-15 (Westminister/John Knox Press, 2004) and Matthew for Everyone: Part 2, Chapters 16-28 (Westminister/John Knox Press, 2004). These books include the full text of the readings from Matthew’s Gospel with the Bishop’s comments on each passage.
3) The third step is ‘Oratio’ (“prayer”). Read through the scripture again, slowly lingering on each verse. Now, offer to God the prayer of your heart. It’s time to pray it, to turn it towards God and respond. The emotions and thoughts that have come out of meditation move us into authentic prayer – conversation with God. Your prayer doesn’t have to look any particular way. Share with God whatever is on your heart. If you’re struggling to pray, tell God and ask for help. “The key is to remain in relationship with God as you mull connections and implications your meditation on Scripture has for your life and for the lives around you” (page 79).
4) Read the passage again and then it’s time for ‘Contemplatio’ (“contemplation”). This is a heavy word that really just means to sit and reflect. Take a few minutes to sit quietly with God. What was shown to you? What did you say to God? Be calm and listen. Something you might like to do is journal or make a note in the margin of your Bible so that your thoughts/feelings don’t get lost once you’re back out in daily life.
5) Gray adds a fifth step to the traditional Lectio Divina: 'Operatio' (“work” or “action”). Here you can consider how our time with the Scripture will impact our practice as a follower of Jesus Christ. Is there something from the day’s Scripture reading and time of prayer that leads you to a particular action or behavior (or change in behavior) that can be engaged today? This, too, is something you might like to record in a journal or the margin of your Bible.
I suggest concluding with two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, by your grace you have called us in the Diocese of Hawaiʻi to a goodly fellowship of faith. Bless and renew us, your people. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you're not able to see the Study Calendar below, you can access it HERE. Notes: