Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scripture Engagement for Worship - Lent 1C

During Lent, I've been experimenting with engaging the congregation in responding to the scripture reading. Inspired by the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, and focusing the Lenten season on "listening for God and listening to one another," I wanted to find a way to practice this in worship. So, here's a bit about what we've been doing:

Lent 1C (Feb 17, 2013). Focus Scripture: Luke 4:1-13

Introduction to the Reading & Instructions for Listening:

During Lent we will be focused on listening - listening for God, and listening to one another. One way to listen for God, of course, is to listen to scripture. When I was young, I thought that the Bible was God’s voice being spoken directly to me, and that I had to try to figure out how to follow what it said - after all, it’s right there in black and white. As I grew in my understanding of sacred texts, I came to realize that this, as it sits on the page, is not God’s word. It is a living word, and therefore it must be engaged - we are in conversation with other people of faith through the ages who have wrestled with their experience of the divine. And now we bring our own community and wisdom and experience to the conversation. My sermons during Lent will be brief reflections - and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to invite us to engage with scripture through the ancient practice of lectio divina - which means “sacred reading.” We’ll do it a bit differently each week: here’s how it will work today:

I will begin with a moment of silence, so that we can center ourselves and be ready to listen. Then I will read the scripture slowly. As I read, listen for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that calls to you today. Don’t expect a big epiphany - after all, this is Lent now! Just something that catches your attention - and you don’t need to have a reason - in fact, don’t try to find a reason. Just let that word or phrase catch your attention and let yourself sit with it.
After the reading, I’ll have another moment of silence where I invite you to write that word or phrase down on your bulletin. Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner meditation to invite you into dialogue with God. (Previous instructions adapted from How to Practice Lectio Divina by Father Luke Dysinger, OSB.)

Let us prepare our hearts to listen for a word from our still speaking God...(read text slowly and clearly)

Next Step:

Leave at least a full minute of silence for people to reflect. Then, invite them, as they feel led, to share the word or phrase. Be clear that if someone already said "your" word or phrase, you can repeat it. The scribe will make a notation of those words/phrases called out by multiple people. If you are the only one who has a microphone, it can be helpful to the scribe (and to all present) to repeat what each person says.

Important - Ahead of time, ask a member of your congregation to be a "scribe" to write down people's responses and give or send you the list afterward. Alternately, you can walk around with a smart phone and record responses, but this creates more work later.

Sermon Reflection:

I keep my sermons under 10 minutes so that there's plenty of time for the scripture engagement piece.

Follow Up:

This is the really fun part! After you get the list of words and phrases from your scribe, create a word cloud that visually depicts the responses. I like Tagxedo for its ease of use and variety of shapes. Here's the one I made for the first week. Don't forget to send it by email and post on your social media sites! Have fun!

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