Beyond (Before?) Theological Hermeneutics III

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was enriched by attending a session on contemplative spirituality at Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration led by Randy Harris, Rhonda Lowry and Gary Holloway.  In this post I will describe how Gary Holloway reminded me of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina which has been part of my spiritual meditations off and on over the past ten (?) years.

I summarized Lectio Divina (divine reading) in fairly traditional fashion in this series’ first post as (1) reading [or listening to the text]; (2) meditation; (3) prayer; (4) contemplation. You can find a description of that process in that post or in other resources available on the net (e.g., here or here among many, many others).

Gary chose Isaiah 30:15-22 as the text for reading. He designed the experience as a group exercise. [Below, of course, is my rendition of the experience and not necessarily how Gary would outline it as a procedure.]

  • Silence — we began with a few minutes of silence.  The purpose was to center ourselves, rid ourselves of all the “mental stuff” in our busy lives, and focus on divine presence. 

I used my usual technique, described in my previous post, of breathing in and out the “Jesus Prayer.” [I often find silence so difficult, but this technique helps me; it has the added benefit of a prayer itself!]

  • Reading — Gary read Isaiah 30:15-22 slowly as we listened. Gary asked us to listen to the word and open ourselves to the possibility that a word, phrase, or sentence would strike our heart in a unique or significant way.  Centered on God’s presence and listening to his word creates the opportunity for God to say something specifically to us through a text of Scripture.

What I heard at that moment in the reading was quite striking. The text Gary chose had a direct and uncanny relationship to my journey over the past five months.  I heard “In rest and repentance is your salvation.”  I heard “The Lord longs to be gracious to you.”  I heard “the Lord gives you the bread of adversity.”  I heard “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’.”

  • Meditation — Gary then asked us to meditate for a few minutes on that word, phrase or sentence that struck us. 

I thought about how my workaholism was my “flight into Egypt” to escape dealing with the “bread of adversity” (my grief trauma) that God had given me (God was certainly responsible for not adverting my the circumstances that caused me grief).  I thought about how I was looking in all the wrong places to hear the voice of the Lord; I sought many teachers (books, academic articles, etc.) rather than listening to his voice which was ringing in my ears and gnawing at my heart by his Spirit. I thought about how I had not rested and now have been brought to repentance and my soul has been forced to rest.  I meditated specifically on the call to “repentance and rest” and the promise of salvation attached to command.

  • Sharing — Gary asked us to share the word or phrase that struck us with the group.

I shared “repentance and rest” with my two group members. This seemed to epitomize the last five months of my life.

  • Reading and Silence– Gary then slowly read the text again.

This time, while still hearing “repentance and rest,” I heard even more clearly how the Lord had given me “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.” Hearing this in relation to “repentance and rest is your salvation” was a moment of hope, comfort and peace for me. God is at work to heal and renew life. His purpose is gracious.

  • Contemplation — Gary asked us to reflect on how this word/phrase/sentence touched our lives in the present.  What do we hear or see in the text?  What is God saying to us?

I heard the promise of salvation and redemption through repentance and rest as I seek God’s voice in my life rather than fleeing into Egypt (e.g., workaholism) to escape my adversity and affliction. That was powerful for me. I am convinced that Gary did not chose that text isolation from God’s purpose for me that day.  How can that be?  I don’t know; it just seems so clear to me, however.

  • Sharing a Life Response — Gary asked us to share with the group how we will respond to this text in our lives today.

I shared that the group experience, led by Gary’s reading of this text, has confirmed the direction of my life in the last five months. It has confirmed my need for rest and that it is a path of redemption and renewal.  It reminded me, however, that this process must be one of listening to the divine voice rather than the voices of my heroism and desire for approval.


I hope this illustrates how “theological hermeneutics” is a dead end unless Scripture also comes alive through contemplative (spiritual) reading that encounters God and transforms the soul.  It is in this kind of reading of Scripture that we face God’s demands on our own lives and receive the power to obey. When the Word meets us through the word, we will face the choice to obey or disobey. This is the sometimes painful but often transformative process of being conformed to the image of Christ.

2 Responses to “Beyond (Before?) Theological Hermeneutics III”

  1.   Matthew Says:

    I love Gary influence in my life. He was the man who inspired a passion in the Restoration Movement. I had Restoration History numerous times before, but he made it come alive. I wish I was there for these classes, but I just got back from Vacation and did not want to be gone from the congregation again. I love the direction he is going in this style of reading the text. Also, thankyou for the form, it will help in my reading.

  2.   rich constant Says:

    john mark

    now that is a funny old word,
    un packing,sorting out, and throwing out the load that we all packup and pick-up between our two ears, as we travel in this life and pick-up the burdon of our Lord.

    the pain of the past fear of the future.

    and all we have to do is love him as he loved us through his SOn,our Lord.

    your a pretty smart guy john john mark,

    thats why i picked up that phase

    some things are just to simple for my complex mind , or to complex for my simple mind.

    it’s all relitive, isn’t it.

    may be that is why god made us a BODY of beleiver’s each haveing different abilities.

    most of us just cant learn that word transparent,(in the church)
    so the membership suffers from a lack of enlightenment, and have grown comfortable with the burdon they carry so being complacent
    we slip into a conspearisy of ignorance of self- deception.


    that is a funny old word isn’t it ?

    rich in calif

Leave a Reply