Latin, Really?

JohnSo what we are doing in this time of preaching, teaching and reading John’s Gospel is “lectio divina.”  This is a way of reading the bible that has a long history; Most things with a Latin name have a long history.  I like Latin, as little as i know if it, but I prefer ordinary speech.


the official stages are:

  • lectio, to read in a way the really listens to the biblical text
  • meditatio, which E Peterson defines as “mov[ing] from looking at the words of the text to entering the world of the text.”
  • oratio, to pray in response to the text, all kinds of prayers are possible
  • contemplatio, which seems to mean more than the English cognate, “contemplate”, to also include living out the text.

J. Wilhold and E. Howard in “Discovering Lectio Divina”, (IVP, 2012), translate these to

  • Reading
  • Meditating
  • Praying
  • Contemplating

As a preacher I try to eschew obfuscation.  It seems to me that we can say that the process is this.  Take a selection, find a place and an uninterrupted period of time, without interruptions, and

  • Read deeply to understand what the text means, noticing its shape, genre, art and direction.
  • Think about what the text is saying, how it relates to other things you know, how it relates to your world and your personal life.  Carry it around with you after you have left your reading place.
  • Respond to God in any way that is suitable; Scripture models all kinds of prayer from silent to exuberant, from spontaneous to formal, individual and corporate.
  • Live, with the presence of the Spirit to guide and enable, what you have learned.
  • Repeat as necessary (yes, I added that)

If you like alliteration: Read, Reflect, Respond, Redirect, Repeat.

This is a new topic for me, so I plan to play around with what works for me and also with what communicates to people who are not attracted to tradition, to Latin or to history lessons.  As an unreformed history major, I like all of that stuff.  But tradition is helpful as a gentle guide, not as a drill sergeant.


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