SACRED READING

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: Share a scripture passage that is meaningful to you with someone who needs encouragement.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Sometimes I yearn to experience sacred text the way my ancestors did; out loud, pouring forth from wisdom voices they loved. I am fascinated by the oral tradition, this diligent story keeping and telling of what felt important enough, true enough to pass on generation after generation, a holy preservation.

I don’t know if this is how it happened, but I imagine that we are around a fire together in a night where there is no light but flame and star. There are no conveniences to distract us, no shows to watch on TV or radio to dull the sound of silence. There is just us, our lives, our hopes, our questions, and these words made flesh by the lips that speak them. How might I hear differently?

My relationship with sacred text has been an up and down one. At first, the Bible was the warm blanket of my devotions and anything that did not feel comfortable I did not read! During my religious studies, I dissected meaning as if in a laboratory- the text a cold, lifeless thing to analyze.

Today my relationship with scripture is multifaceted.

I search for truths that live beyond what actually happened or did not happen, for the living story that is pulsing in the page, what is still happening.

I read for comfort and find confrontation.
I read for confrontation and find comfort.

I read because I am drawn to poetry and metaphor and prophetic vision and letters and dreams.

Some days I find myself opening the text with caution- like I’m in a mystery and the uncatchable God is on the loose. There are clues in every passage as I pursue the great I AM.

I dare to open these pages because…

I want to hear about living water that flows unceasing.
I want to hear the voice crying out in the wilderness.
I want to see Jesus flip the tables of our complacency.
I want to hear that the kingdom of God has come near.
I need to hear in my heart again, “DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
I crave the invitation, “Come follow me.”
I yearn to let the oppressed go free.
I want good news.
I want to see.

I imagine the potency, the power, of the text for the first hearers- true enough, real enough, to pass along.

And now in my hands is this holy puzzle of words that somehow still stirs my response and quiets my fear. If I listen closely enough into the silence as I read, I can hear the breath from the words spoken through the ages- passed along in sacred purpose, voices still alive from the telling as they find home in my heart now.

STORIES WORTH LIVING

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: We find peace and hope in returning to ancient memory and story. Consider your family and faith heritage. Spend time in gratitude for those who have gone before you. Find time to share a memory of your heritage with someone, and listen to a memory of their heritage.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

We are shaped by where we have been.

We are being called in unmooring times to return to the stories that have made us who we are. This is not to glorify the past, but to see how our lives take place in a broader context than just the complex urgencies of this moment. We are part of an expansive, unfolding story of humanity, of creation, of the cosmos, of the holy still creating in our lives and world.

Each of us is called to reclaim the ancient vocation of storyteller.
There are stories we need to remember, stories we need to hear, stories we are called to live, stories we are living now that will impact what is told beyond us.

What stories are shaping you?

In the desert times of life, I find a strange comfort in my wandering Israelite ancestors who wavered between resisting and rejoicing, hungering and hoping, for 40 years in the wilderness. The dream of milk and honey keeps us moving. Something is worth it just beyond the horizon. The way back is bondage. The way forward is freedom.

During Lent, I contemplate the meaning of the Christian story of death and resurrection as metaphor, as cycle. This pattern of renewal revealed throughout the earth, a daily occurrence. I am shaped by the perennial hope of life made new.

The story of my Community of Christ ancestors began with a God-seeking heart surrounded by creation’s beauty. There are days when I wonder if this is somehow an origin of the perpetual seeker within me, pursuing the divine presence in all things. I am not afraid to come before the holy with a question. Can you think of a more faithful way to approach the mystery?

In seventh grade, I witnessed my parents struggle over one of the biggest decisions of their lives- to leave a successful job and comfortable life and move us across the country in response to a sense of call. They would take long walks, prayerfully pondering. The radical choice they made was to leave the allure of financial stability to respond to God’s call, which felt more compelling than anything else. No one said the word “discernment” to me at the time, but this is where I learned it. As a seventh grader I could not comprehend the meaning of this move, but today I see how my own approach to decision-making always involves a preference for the holy.

Our heritage does not always positively impact us. Sometimes our ways of being are a rejection of what has occurred, a reclaiming or redefining of what feels distorted or unjust from the past. My feminism, for instance, is in response to a long, oppressive patriarchy still very much alive where I live and across the globe. The unfolding story I live is the laboring of justice in each generation to be born anew.

There is peace though, in our ancestor’s failings. In imperfection, whining, wandering, we are slowly learning about forgiveness and grace. Each faltering step embedded somewhere deep in our spiritual DNA- a lesson living in us, a hope for the future.

Tell me again of how my ancestors kept faith when it all felt impossible.

Tell me again of how the disciples walked for miles with Jesus and never knew he was beside them all along.

Tell me every story my heart yearns to hear so I can hold on to hope when it feels like all hope is lost.

What stories are shaping you? What stories are you called to tell? What stories are you called to live?

LIVING WORDS

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: Practice Lectio Divina
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

Living Words
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

What does it mean
That words are alive?

Do they continue to speak
Long after the moment
They are written
Or uttered aloud?

Is their message the same
Even as they say different things
At different times
To different people?

Are living words literally words
On a page
In our mouths
In our hearts?

Or are they also what is being spoken
That is wordless?

Streams of sunlight through branch’s porous patterns
The tall grass trembling in the unseen wind
Season’s cycles of death and renewal
Breathless awe atop mountain expanse
Love’s embrace
Fresh bread
Birdsong
Birth

What is all this beauty saying?

And what of

Desecrated mountain tops mined and abandoned
Rubble and burnt bodies disfigured from bombs
Not enough rice in the bowl of the hungry
The calloused hands of the homeless
Pushing their carts down the sidewalk
Of the busy street where I
Sit comfortable in my car

What words are alive in
The warzone
The hospital
The famine?

Do we really want to hear?

What do these words on page
Have to say to these words enfleshed?
How do these words on page
Yearn to be words enfleshed?

Feed my sheep
Love your enemy
Welcome the stranger
Let the oppressed go free
The kingdom of God
Has come near

Am I a living word?
What is the source of all words
Laboring inside me to say?
Am I living what is being
Spoken within?

Speak us into being
O Holy Speaker
Open our ears to hear
Your word that breathes life
In all things
Living Word
Live through me

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” –John 1

The Practice of Lectio Divina (From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent)

Select a passage of text that you feel led to dwell in. Relax your body and breathing and offer a prayer for guidance as you interact with the text. Read the text four times, allowing time for meditation and prayer between each reading.
Lectio —read the text to get a sense of the story or setting. Imagine the scene, senses, emotions, and tensions involved in the text.
Meditatio —read the text again to focus on meaning and understanding. What are the surface and underlying meanings? What does the text tell you about God? How do you relate to the text?
Oratio —read the text again to focus on your emotional response. Do you feel joy, sorrow, fear, anger, or guilt? Share your feelings with God in prayer. Ask for help in listening deeply to these emotions and meanings.
Contemplatio —continue in a time of receptive prayer. Breathe deeply and calmly, entering a deep silent state of listening. Wait for whatever God may bring to you in the quietness.

Record in a journal any impressions or insights that come to you and return to receptive listening. If no particular awareness comes, let your mind return to the text. When you feel your prayer and meditation has ended, offer a word of thanks to God to close your time with this practice.

Recommended Lenten Text: Isaiah 58:6–9
Pay attention to the questions that come to you as you engage in this practice. Live in the questions and see how they begin to shape your journey of repentance and renewal.