the ancient/future practice of lectio-provocateur

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Steven writes... in my own faith community in central maryland, we have entered into a season of re-digging old practices inspired by a passage in Genesis 26: And Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of Abraham his father; or the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the names which his father had given them.

we have been trying to cut away to reveal more of the essence... the root, so-to-speak... and find that root taking fresh expression among us. one of the ways i have excavated a little deeper into our profoundly rich church roots has been to re-claim and bring into the future a particular set of ancient practices rooted in something called lectio divina or sacred reading. the fresh expression that i am witnessing to you today, i personally call: lectio-provocateur.

first, let me give two other examples besides myself that i have witnessed emerging at about the same time as i began my own fresh expression of sacred reading (and the subsequent blogging thereabout). the first is my friend kevin rains in cincinnati. check out his lectio thoughts here and here.

the other is ken wilson, another friend who has taken this up, and you can find his thoughts on his blog labeled: lectio (meditative prayer)

for myself, there are several ancient practices linked and at-work in what kevin, ken and i are expressing; i typically envision it much like henri nouwen does: listening to the Living Word; reading the written word; speaking words born from the gentle silence and humble heart that reflects on the Living and written word; and after more prayer, reflection and meditation: writing from the experience of all of these practices. it seems to me that it the writing element has taken on a very communal texture, especially as we have taken to blog and share the way the lectio process provokes us. (hence my calling it lectio-provocateur)

i am fascinated as i witness this kind of thing emerging...i guess i would call it the shared-nature and creativity that is at the heart of the fresh expression of an ancient tradition. it's the communal aspect to the newer practice and being provoked in it and from it...and let me state that we each began doing this separately and only found each other doing very similar stuff after we had each began. So, here is a taste of my own most recent provocation from the practice of lectio divina that i have christened lectio-provocateur:

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Into your hands I commend my spirit,* for you have redeemed me, O LORD, O God of truth.

Psalm 31:5

veritas...quo est veritas?

truth...what is truth?

...so recorded is the (most-times assumed sarcastic) question of Pilate (although the above is in the Latin) back to Jesus in our sacred scriptures

in this season of lent, my thoughts and meditations have turned toward truth

...to Pilate, i imagine truth was something he definitely was striving after...considering the deceptive dealings he was having with the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, not to mention the Roman Senate and Emperor and his 'colleagues' throughout the Empire seeking their own advancement over his with much political intrigue...with carefully nuanced words and double-meanings...not to mention his own cultural background as a Roman (veritas as a virtue, like all virtues, was not innate but something that had to be worked-at...something to strive for and find and claim)

now, in the Greek, 'truth' is 'alétheia'...and as i grope for some understanding of truth, i'm not sure Aristotle helps with his definition: 'to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.'

i was recently hanging with dave nixon in cincinnati, and he explained his understanding and delved into the linguistic thought-world behind 'alétheia'; you see the 'a-' at the beginning in the Greek is a negative prefix, which we would see evident in English words like 'il-legal', 'im-moral' or 'il-legible'...which when tied to the Greek 'léth' (which means to conceal or deceive or obscure) you get literally: 'to not obscure' or 'to make evident'; thus the thought behind the word is something like 'make self-evident'...

...and this word 'alétheia' is known to occur in the classical Greek literature of the Iliad and the Odyssey in connection with verbs of 'saying'...and is tied to its opposite (see 'léth' above): to tell a lie or to deceive. in this Greek literature, we might come to conclude, for Homer the writer who is 'telling' an epic adventure: Truth has to do with the reliability of what is said by one person to another.

i like that. it takes "Truth" out of the conceptual and puts it in the utmost practical of life-settings: how we speak to one another. we find this is part of the Hebraic thinking as well, as we see in Zechariah chapter 8: 'These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth...'

it also very much reminds me of Jesus words to let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'...

now, i think many of us have bought into a one-dimensional static thought-pattern with regard to 'truth' in the history and cultural milieu of the Western world; we have conceptualized truth as moving from some Socratic and static 'essence' that flows to being some sort of correspondence between how i perceive/think about something and how 'real' it is in the world and to others. this makes truth (conceptualized) somewhat amorphous...but what captures me today i as was reading psalm 31 is that it also sort of excludes truth from being a verb; truth is both a verb (very Hebraic thinking there!!) and a noun...and anyone who grew up on american saturday morning 'School House Rock' can sing it with me: "...a noun is a person, place or thi-i-i-ing"!

ok, before i get lost in my buzzing beehive of thoughts, back to Psalm 31: YHWH is the God of truth, because God speaks truth, His Living Word...and ultimately God is Truth (both conceptually and practically)...but that Hebraic focus on the dynamic, creative nature of truth is leading me somewhere...somewhere that has to do with the now-and-not-yet...with spiritual formation and christlikeness and forming us in preparation for something..."Behold I make all things new"...a new creation that no longer seeks to conceal but to reveal. so, is that why we can entrust God with our spirit, as Psalm 31 says, and why redemption is tied to God being truth/

...at least that is the thought i am wrestling with today...

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Your thoughts...

what is your impression of this fresh expression of an ancient practice? in your faith community, have you witnessed and/or practised fresh expressions of ancient traditions/practices?

how communally-oriented or privately-oriented have the newer expressions been?

have they been enfolded in public gatherings? how has that worked?

have these newer expressions of tradition caused conflict with others who might think that you are abusing and warping the ancient practice?

how has the practice of these affected the larger community?

Steven Hamilton