Sunday, 22 July 2012

Reading the Word with heart and mind

Pentecost 8 year B 12 Sermon Ephesians 2:11-22
Now listen again to Paul’s words…
with your heart and your mind

With Jesus…the very Word of God made flesh as the
cornerstonewe are joined together
and we grow into a holy temple…built spiritually
into a dwelling place for God.  [pause]

And as we learned last week…the Bible is all about
human life… ‘with God’
and how God makes life with God

We heard why Jesus was given the name Immanuel
which means God with us…because in Jesus
God’s everlasting purpose was revealed in the flesh
that we who are made in the image of God…
should in every way be a dwelling place…for God.
That’s you and I together… as the Body of Christ

From Genesis to Revelation we see how God’s been with us all along…from creation to rebellion and 
And last week in part one of this series…
we saw when we step back from scripture’s many parts…
we have a new perspective
when we step we can see the unity of the whole… 
revealed in a grand mosaic
of the with God life…hovering over the waters of creation and incarnate in the person of the Christ…
promising us…. ‘I am with you.’

and asking us
 ‘will you be with me?’

And once we step backto view the Bible on this grand scale what we have isn’t only human story tellers and poets
but a place for us…to meet…to be with…
the divine author of all things.
And with that in mind...we learned to approach scripture

And above all humbly

Expecting God to meet us there. Expecting God to breathe a word into our lives. Attentively… searching 
the Bible’s stories and themes …and with humility
because an encounter with the living God… is holy ground.

And also last week we practiced together…the spiritual discipline of divine readingpraying for God’s word 
to us in Scripture… reading out loud…then silently…
noticing what words and phrases seem rise to our attention.

Jesus confirmed the greatest commandment of life with God …that we’re to love God with all our hearts 
and all our minds and all our strength… so today in part two we learn how to read the Bible this way too… 
with our hearts and our minds…
and how by this we gain strength… not by trying harder
but by training like an Olympic athlete…and practising more.

First our minds…we read the Bible in four ways
with our minds…and our objective is to gain understanding

The first way we read the Bible with our minds… is literally …from cover to cover …internalising its life giving message. Only by reading the whole of Scripture can we begin to understand its force and power. And so 
we enter into history weeping with Sarah at her bareness struggling with Abraham to offer up his son puzzling with Job at the tragedies of life,
rejoicing at Israel’s release from the house of bondage,
Bowing in awe with Mary…at the messianic promise and cringing with Peter as he contemplates his 
betrayal of Jesus.

Word slide
The second way to read the Bible with our minds is in context. This means being firmly respectful of the 
original writers intentions… and how they tried to depict life with God.
It means not trying to control their story
or impose our own meaning on it.

Third we read the Bible in conversation with itself.
Standing back…to see how the whole gives structure
and meaning to each part.
How the Gospels and the letters are in conversation
with the books of the prophets and the law

Fourthly…Christians are to read the Bible
in conversation with the witness of the whole People of God…past and present

The Church learned from the Synagogue…
that it’s the whole community who read the Bible
not just one person. Our brothers and sisters in Christ
throughout the centuries… can help us understand
the nature of life with God. They can provide insight
and discernment… to enrich our own spiritual life…

We never read scripture alone…but always in the mystical communion of saints. We read in conversation 
with the living…like Rob Bell and Tom Wright and those who are no longer with us except in their writing…like 
St Augustine …Theresa of Avila…John Calvin and Martin Luther and Thomas Merton…

To shine a light on the many ways life with God can be experienced…we read with wise and mature 
of scripture…And we see that reading with the mind
is critically important to our understanding  [pause]

But reading with the heart… is also a time honoured way
for the people of God…and we did some of this divine reading last week

In reading the Bible with our hearts
we take a deep breath…and slow down…
With the heart we read in six different ways…
Reading with the heart we listen…Listening…we submit…yielding to what God wants to say to us
through the text.
Allowing its message to flow into us
instead of trying to master it.
Allowing God to apply the text to our lives.
Reflecting on the text…fully engaged –with the drama.

A fourth way to read with our hearts…is to pray the text.
When we pray the text…we allow it to express our gratitude our confession… our fears and complaints…
and our requests to God.

A fifth way to read with our hearts is by applying what we read to our own lives.

Which of course leads us to obedience…always turning… from our selfish ways…to the with God’s way… 
of Shalom

This is the very life to which you and I are called.
What Jesus means when he says
‘I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.’ The with God life is a life of unhurried peace 
and power. It’s solid. It’s serene. Its’ simple…it’s radiant.
And though it permeates all our time we must take time for it.

So let us meet with God together in scripture once more…

Hand out scripture
Pray… Lord, pour the living water that comes from your very Word in Christ… into our dry and thirsty spirits. 
In Jesus’ name AMEN.
Read out loud
Now read the passage again in silence noticing what stands out for you from the passage. [Read in silence right through]
We will continue our reflection as the band begins and they will sense when its time to sing.
Ephesians 2:11-22
So then remember that… at one time you Gentiles by birth,
called ‘the un-circumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’
a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands
Remember you were at that time without Christ,
being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,
and strangers to the covenants of promise,
having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall,
that is the hostility between us.
He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances
that he might create in himself one new humanity
in place of two thus making peace,
to reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross,
putting that hostility to death through it.
So he came to proclaim peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near;
for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,
but citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined and grows
into a holy temple in the Lord;
And in whom… spiritually…you are also built together
into a dwelling place for God.

Holy Reading
Expectantly   Attentively   Humbly

Lord, pour the living water that comes from your very word in Christ… into our dry and thirsty spirits.  In Jesus’ name AMEN.

Once again I acknowledge with gratitude Richard Foster's book Life with God as a rich source for this sermon.