A stitch in time saves nine. Time is money. There's no time like the present. We've probably all heard these sayings, maybe even used them ourselves. Our society has an obsession with time, particularly with the constant lack of time. How many of you have ever bemoaned the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day? That if we just had one more hour we could get that much more done? How many times in your working life, and perhaps in your retired life, have you found your schedule completely full? We just need one more minute, one more hour, one more day... There is always one more thing to do. Our society doesn't handle idleness well. From the time we were young, we were probably taught that we should be busy doing something. They used to call that the Protestant work ethic. Parents even brought their faith into the idea of filling time all the time by saying “Idle hands are the devil's playground.”
And time keeps moving whether we like it or not. This summer we are going to start a journey together, a spiritual journey. Everyone is invited, even encouraged to join. This is a journey that will add more things to your schedule and perhaps require you to juggle time to make sure you can fit in the stuff needed for this journey. But this journey is calling to us, encouraging us to look at time a little differently. To see time and experience time differently. In the lesson from Habakkuk that was read, the writer talks about an “appointed time”. Likewise in Ecclesiastes. The time we hear about in the bible is not the time we mark in minutes and hours, but instead it is God's time – a time in which the promises of God will come to pass.
What does this have to do with a spiritual journey? We have a challenge as church people in a world that is so governed by time. We often do not have time, or intentionally make time, for the Holy. And if we do, it tends to be one hour on Sunday morning. “That's it, that's all the time I have for God. I will meet God at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. The rest of the week is mine and there is no time for God in it.” But usually, it's not really that blunt. It's not that we don't have time for God during the other six days of the week, but that we don't know or haven't been taught how to make a daily connection with the divine. Sunday morning is easy. The music, or the prayers, or the sermon or the scripture can lead congregation members into the presence of God. But on our own, with no one to guide or lead us and no heavenly music playing and no one to pray on our behalf? What do I do then?
This summer, I am asking you to intentionally make time for the divine to enter your life every day. Not too many of us have God pencilled into our schedule or marked on our electronic calendars. By the end of the day, most of us haven't really given God or anything spiritual a thought. We typically save that work for Sunday morning when we have a time and a place for that kind of thinking.
But now, I am asking you for the next few weeks, to make room in your day for divine time. A spiritual journey is just that, a journey, a progression, a constant moving. It's about being intentional in making room for the Holy. It may sound daunting or even a little self-indulgent if you have a truly busy schedule or if you like living with routine. But it is important...You see, our busyness doesn't leave time for us to hear the Spirit or to see where God is active in our lives.
You may notice that mainline churches, like the United Church, are declining in membership. Diana Butler Bass has written in her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, that becoming intentional and practising congregations of spiritual disciplines, is the best hope for the renewal of mainline churches. The purpose of spiritual disciplines or practices are to reclaim devotion. It is my belief that God works with and blesses the work of churches that do God's will. But think about this, if we aren't even connected with God on a daily basis, how can we know that will?
Over the next few weeks, each Sunday I am going to teach you a spiritual practice. Some you may already do. That's great! Keep it up. Some may be new ways of connecting with God that you might like to try. The ultimate goal is to incorporate a daily spiritual practice into your life. It doesn't have to be the same practice every day. The key is consistency, intentionality and patience with yourself and God. Be present in the moment – don't think about what to have for lunch, or the housework you have to do, or what's on your schedule for tomorrow. Being present in the moment is an opportunity to let go of expectation and allow God to show up. Trust that the divine is part of your experience.
All this being said, spiritual practices which eventually become spiritual disciplines in the sense that they are intentionally and deliberately made part of your daily life, are really hands on experiences. Things that we do, not just think about doing.
This morning I want to introduce you to the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina. Some of you will know what this is. To others, it may be brand new. Lectio simply means to read and Divina means exactly what it sounds like – the divine. So we have divine reading. Lectio Divina is usually practised using scripture, explicitly a few verses or a short story from the bible. The scripture passage is read three times and between each reading a question is posed that you are asked to contemplate. At the end, the scripture is read one more time.
At this point, I could just tell you to go home and try it yourselves, but you might forget what I just described, or you may not be comfortable that you “got it right” or you might even forget completely. So, we are going to actually practice lectio divina this morning. The passage will be read four times. Between the first three readings, I will ask you a question. Just so you have some time to consider the questions, I will tell you now what they are: 1. What word or phrase speaks to you in this passage? 2. Why does the word or phrase resonate with you right now? 3. What do you feel God may be telling you at this moment? When I ask each question you will be given a few minutes of silence to consider your answer. Some people are uncomfortable with silence. As you hear things that distract you, just acknowledge the sound in your mind, and return to the process of lectio divina. You don't have to report your response to the questions to anyone, so don't be nervous. This is just an exercise between you and God with me guiding the process.
The best way to learn anything is to actually do it, so let's start. Get yourself comfortable – or at least as comfortable as you can be in a church pew. Close your eyes if that helps you to concentrate. Breathe in, out – in, out – in, out. Now let me read from Psalm 1.
Psalm 1: 1-3
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on God's law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
What word or phrase speaks to you in this passage?
Why does the word or phrase resonate with you right now?
What do you feel God may be telling you at this moment?
(Read scripture between each question, then after last question)