“Know”

GOSPEL | JOHN 3:1-8

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”  Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”  5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I have been reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms this semester with my mentor, and her explanation of Lectio Divina (“sacred reading”) has been very helpful for me as I have been reading the gospel of John (the lectionary’s text for Lent) and practicing Lectio.

Read:  It usually takes me several minutes of fighting my attention to quiet focus before I can read well, and even then, I have to read it through several times before my brain will stop trying to exegete the passage for its historical context and its cultural background and its preaching value, etc. Once I can appreciate the text for its own voice today, and not for the voice I want to give it, then I’m ready to be still and listen. The word that the Spirit lifts to my attention today is “know.”

Reflect:  After reading again, “Know” shows up twice: Nicodemus says that the Pharisees “know” that Jesus must be from God, and Jesus says that Nicodemus does not “know” where the wind (and thus, those born of the Spirit) is moving. Much, if not all, of my energy is spent in knowing. I read books, I listen to sermons and lectures and reflections, I write papers and blogs and reflections, and then I have discussions and ask questions and answer questions and give opinions. My primary occupation (being a student) centers on knowing. But do I really “know” the Lord? Or am I just learning about him? On my best days, it’s both. What about today?

Respond:  O Lord, grant me the curiosity of Nicodemus, that I may come to you; but let me come by day, without shame or suspicion, with the full help of your light. And let me come with questions, but not merely to get answers. Let me come to You, and to Your Word, as one seeking conversation, relationship, intimacy. As I open myself to Your Word, know me more, and let me know you more. Guide me deeper and deeper into this shared space, Lord. Meet me there.

(Rest)

Resolve:  I had not encountered this step of Lectio before, but it has been a profound addition to the practice. The Latin for this step, according to Barton, is incarnatio, “enflesh.” How will I enflesh this? Primarily, by continuing to carve out space for Lectio in my weekly rhythm. Lectio reminds me that God (and thus, God’s Word) has an agenda for my life, and then Lectio helps me to understand that agenda through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Rather than always coming to the text in order to make it work for my purposes (teaching, preaching, proving a point, finding an answer, etc.), I am being crafted to work for the Bible’s purposes, namely, to bear witness. I had resolved to let Lectio be my Lenten practice, but as it takes hold of me, I think this may become an all-year-long practice.

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