Visio Divina for 3/27/12 – “And Every Tongue Should Confess” – Day 2 (Meditating)

MEDITATING

Ruminate on the word you were drawn to in yesterday’s scripture passage (Philippians 2:5-11). What does the word or phrase you have chosen mean to you today?

COMMENTS

Yesterday I was drawn to the phrase “but [he] emptied himself.”  As I meditate on this passage, my mind is filled with all of the places throughout scripture where Jesus emptied himself.  It strikes me that the two most significant time of “emptying” was at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ life.  He renounced the power and privilege that was rightly his as God to become a human being and live among us.  At the cross, Jesus emptied himself in death for the love of us.  The life of Jesus was lived in constant emptying.

What does this mean for us?  We know that sacrifice, humility, and “emptying” are all part of the Christian experience.  We can likely identify times in our life where we have done these things well.  But how can we go about our lives with a consistent spirit of “emptying?”  I think that it’ a matter of listening.  Are we quiet enough to hear God’s movements in our lives?  Are we observant enough to hear God’s voice speaking through other people?  If quiet ourselves, we can begin to empty ourselves for the love of God.

Chase M. Becker

© And Every Tongue Should Confess, Suzanne Moore, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/26/12 – “And Every Tongue Should Confess” – Day 1 (Listening)

Listening

Read the text below, preferably aloud.  As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for you this day.

Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

COMMENTS

This text from Philippians is one of the earliest Christian hymns known to have been used at worship.  There is a vast amount of scholarly discussion as to the origin and structure of this hymn.  Some suggest that Paul himself wrote the hymn while others note that perhaps Paul was using an existing, well-known hymn to connect with his hearers.  After all, we often hear preachers today using lines from a hymn to illustrate a point during a sermon.  Regardless of the exact origin of this text, one thing that scholars do agree on is that this text constitutes a hymn that was used in the earliest Christian worship.

As I read through this passage from Philippians, I am caught by the phrase “but [he] emptied himself.”  It is a very simply statement, but one that leaves a lot of room for reflection.  It becomes clear that Jesus chose to do this himself – he “emptied himself” – he renounced his place of privilege.  After all, in the time of Jesus, humility was seen as a virtue to be practiced only by slaves, and as the hymn states earlier, Jesus indeed took the form of a slave.

I am struck by this radical emptying of Jesus.  He willingly and freely renounced what was rightly his in order to be among us, identify with us, and minister to us.  I find myself wondering “If Jesus freely and completely emptied himself, what am I called to do?”   “What does this mean for me?”  As Holy Week and Easter draw ever closer, I find myself looking at my failed lenten resolutions and asking those questions.  While I may not have any answers right now, I do take comfort in the fact that, despite my own failings, Jesus did freely and radically empty himself for me.  I know that I’m surrounded with a love that’s beyond my wildest imagining.

Chase M. Becker

© And Every Tongue Should Confess, Suzanne Moore, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/24/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God” – Day 6 (Becoming Christ-like)

BECOMING CHRIST-LIKE

Return to God’s word. Allow it to transform you. Notice how your faith is being deepened and your way of life motivated.

Psalm 51:1-13

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

COMMENTS

 The psalmist says that God desires truth in our inward being. Toward that end, David asks that God teach him wisdom and put a new and right spirit within him. With that will come the joy of salvation with God and a willing spirit. Equipped in such a way, David promises to teach others from his own experience. Perhaps this why we have the story of David’s sin in the Scriptures: this is his way to teach transgressors of the goodness of God’s abundant mercy.

A new and upright spirit…a spirit of joy and a willingness to teach others of the goodness of the Lord. This sounds familiar to me, like people who have gone through a twelve step program. It is when you have acknowledged your sin (addiction) and know that God (a higher power) forgives and empowers you that there is new life. While there may still be pain due to the consequences of sin, there is a new joy in life. There is a willingness to share with others your experience of pain and forgiveness. In fact, it is imperative to share your story, because it gives hope to others. Not only that, the sharing of your experience of God’s love and mercy, keeps you addiction/sin free.

So this day, are you (am I) willing to share how God washed you (me) clean? how much God loves you? If you and I do, we will know a joy like no other. The sharing will keep us in right relationship with God and enable us to extend mercy to those who are just like us, beloved sinners needing to be reminded of the steadfast love of God.

Blessings on your Lenten Journey

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/23/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God” – Day 5 (Contemplating)

CONTEMPLATING

Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace.

COMMENTS

What does it mean to be clean? For me, it is to have the weight of my sin lifted from me. It is know that it is gone, and that God still loves me and wants to be in relationship with me. Think of how David must have felt. For months he had lived with the knowledge that he had done wrong before God; his sin was always before him. Once it was out in the open and he came before the Lord, he found cleansing and relief from all of his sin. In repentance, he found his love for God renewed and a new hope for life. There were consequences to David’s sin, but God did not take his spirit, his love, away from David. So now, let us rest in God’s embrace, no longer struggling with our guilt or trying to hide the ugly truth from ourselves, others, and God. We are clean and loved beyond all comprehension by the God of steadfast love. Know that God will be with us even in the consequences of our sin. Just rest in the renewed promise of life with God.

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/22/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God” – Day 4 (Praying)

PRAYING

Pray to God, allowing for the transformation of your being and feelings. Give to God what you have found in your heart.

 

COMMENTS

O God of steadfast love, it is so hard to conceive of a love and loyalty like yours. There are people that I love and to whom I am bound in relationship, but it is a struggle to be merciful when I am hurt. I want to tell everyone around me how I have been mistreated. Somehow, if I am able to gain sympathizers, I wil feel better. I find myself hoarding my hurts  like precious treasure. Unlike You, O God, my loyalty wavers. Instead, I want to sever the hurtful relationship and no longer invest myself with those who harm me. But, You, O Lord, are loyal to who you are. Unlike me, you stay true to those in relationship with you, even when we (when I) sin against you. You blot out our transgressions completely, and you wash us cleaner than the newest, white snow. You are so Other, so different from us, from me.

O God of abundant mercy, teach us through this psalm which is so right for this time of Lent. Help us to see that we can approach you in confidence like David did. He had committed atrocious sins and yet found forgiveness and renewed life in you. Help us see this as an invitation to bring our own iniquities before you and, with our little faith, believe and hope that you will deal with us in the same way. After we experience your undeserved mercy, may we show mercy to others when we are hurt. May I remain loving and loyal to you and to others, like You, O God. Amen.

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/21/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God” – Day 3 (Seeing)

SEEING

Return to God’s word for the purpose of “hearing and seeing” Christ in the text (Psalm 51:1-13). Fix your gaze on the illumination. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart and enable you to see what God wants you to see.

 

COMMENTS:

The task of seeing with “eyes of faith” in the psalms of The Saint John’s Bible is slightly more difficult than reflecting on illuminations found in the other volumes. There are no illuminations in the Psalms. The Committee on Illuminations and Texts chose not to illumine the prayers of Israel, but to let the words of these sacred hymns ‘sing’ for themselves. This is done in several ways. First, each of the five books of the Psalter have been handwritten by only three calligraphers using certain techniques.  For instance, the titles of the psalms of each book are set apart from the others by distinct colors.  Psalm 51 is written in purple, a royal color so appropriate for these songs attributed to King David. There are not even special treatments, in the style of the Magnificat found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. There the words are in gold with a rich blue background. Here in the psalms, the first and the last, Psalm 1 and 150, are also written in gold but no color to set them off. Second, modern readers of psalms in The Saint John’s Bible will ‘note’ the digitized chants of the Saint John’s monastic community running horizontally throughout the volume. In addition, the chanting of other faiths can be seen running vertically on the frontispiece as well as on the scroll-like panels beginning each of the five books. After all, this is a hymnbook, so the depiction of gold chords and notes ascending in praise or lament to God, is brilliantly appropriate.

Psalm 51, while not a special treatment, stands out as one of the foundational psalms for our faith. Sally Mae Joseph has written the title and the entire first verse in purple. To me, the words are difficult to read; I have to look very closely in order to decipher David’s prayer. It’s almost as if it is a code cut into the vellum. That said, once you know the code, you have the secret to life, life with God. This psalm is all about relationship that acknowleges who God is: a God of abundant, overflowing mercy and love. The opening words of the psalm give me permission to come before God and ask that my transgressions be blotted out. Going back to the dictionary, it says that to blot out means to ‘obliterate’ or to ‘utterly destroy’ something. This God of abundant mercy is able to completely and utterly wipe out my transgression so that it is no more. That is new life.

What may be holding you or me back from experiencing a clean slate? A new life with the God of love and mercy?

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/20/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God” – Day 2 (Meditating)

MEDITATING

Ruminate on the word you were drawn to in yesterday’s scripture passage (Psalm 51:1-13). What does the word or phrase you have chosen mean to you today?

COMMENTS:

As I listened to the psalm yesterday, the phrase that stood out to me was, “according to your steadfast love”. I am always drawn to the word ‘love’, but what does it mean to be steadfast? According to the New American Heritage Dictionary, to be steadfast means 1. Fixed or unchanging; steady. 2. Firmly loyal or constant. In the Hebrew, the word used of God’s steadfast love is hesed, focusing on the second definition above. One way that God shows love is by being fiercely loyal to the relationships made with those he loves. This is who God is. Because I believe that God loves me, I can trust God to hear my cry, just as God heard David’s cry for mercy. I know that not only will I be heard, but forgiven, as well. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I may abuse my relationship with God and commit sin and then demand forgiveness. That is not what love does. On the other hand, it does mean that when I mess up, I can come before the Lord, and ask that my sins be washed away. I can  know that out of God’s steadfast love, I will become whiter than snow, ready to face a new day in relationship with God.

So today where am I in need of God’s steadfast love? Like David, where have my thoughts turned into unhealthy desires? Have I acted upon these desires, hurting others and myself?

“Wash me, Lord, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/19/12 – “Have Mercy on Me, O God ” – Day 1 (Listening)

Listening

Read the text below, preferably aloud.  As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for you this day.

Psalm 51:1-13

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

COMMENTS: “Have mercy, O God, according to your steadfast love.” This is what stands out to me when I listen to this psalm.

Psalm 51, found in the second of five books of the Psalter, is traditionally attributed to King David, when the king’s prophet, Nathan, came to David after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Of all the stories of David found in the Bible, after the story of David and Goliath, the one of David and Bathsheba is perhaps the most famous. Where the first narrative highlights David’s boyish heroism and faith in God, the latter story is saturated with lust, adultery, and murder. It begins in the spring of the year. When most kings go out with their troops to war, David stayed in Jerusalem. One evening he went out on his palace rooftop to catch the breeze, and because his residence was more grand than the others, he was able to see down into the roofless inner courtyards of his neighbors. There was Bathsheba, bathing in the privacy of her own home. Her husband, Uriah, one of David’s soldiers, was away fighting as soldiers do in spring. When David sees her, thoughts of her beauty become desire to take her, which he does. When Bathsheba sends word that she is pregnant, David attempts to cover up his sin by arranging for Uriah to come home and sleep with his wife. However, Uriah, mindful of his soldier status in time of war, does not sleep with his wife. Instead, David sends word to his general to place Uriah in the front line, where  Uriah is conveniently killed.

These are the transgressions of David of which the psalmist writes. With the use of story, Nathan the prophet has made it painfully clear that David’s sin is known to God. So David comes before the Lord to beg for mercy and to be washed clean of his sin. He understands that he does not deserve to be made ‘whiter than snow’. In fact, his iniquity is so great, it is as if he had been guilty from the womb. David also understands that forgiveness is based on the very nature of God; the Lord is merciful and full of steadfast love. This God is in covenant relationship with David, which means that God desires more than anything to forgive his beloved servant of the bone-crushing weight of his sin in order to renew a right relationship with him.

In this fourth week of Lent, how does this psalm of repentance touch your life?

-Kathy Janku

© Psalm 51, Donald Jackson, 2004. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Visio Divina for 3/17/12 – “Poisonous Serpent” – Day 6 (Becoming Christ-like)

BECOMING CHRIST-LIKE

Return to God’s word. Allow it to transform you. Notice how your faith is being deepened and your way of life motivated.

Numbers  21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by way of the Red Sea, to bypass the land of Edom, but the people’s patience was worn out by the journey; so the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water?  We are disgusted with this wretched food!”  So the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of the Israelites died.  Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you.  Pray to the Lord to take the serpents from us.”  So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.  Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.

COMMENTS

Today, we return to reading the text for the third time. As we encounter God’s word, we ponder how this text is making a difference in our journey of faith.

As the Israelites looked on the seraph on a pole and were healed, so we too look with the eyes of faith on this “Poisonous Serpent” illumination as a way of touching our aching hearts.  We see the call to open our eyes and simply look.  We, therefore, look in faith and trust, making room for God, so that God can show Godself to be worthy of our trust.  Look and live!  As God alone is the healer, by looking, we open ourselves to the possibilities of life, the possibilities of becoming Christ-like.

Look and live!  Look on what God wants us to see in our midst and not, consciously or unconsciously, filter out what we choose to ignore.  Look to see as God sees – with a compassionate heart.  Look to hear as God hears – with a tender heart.   Look to touch as God touches – with a caring smile.  Look to love as God loves – with a gentle embrace.  Look to live as God lives – with an eternal and forgiving heart.  Look to live!

Are you looking but not seeing Christ Jesus?  Where has your life been touched and changed by prayerfully practicing visio divina this week?  Have you been looking on the poisonous serpent?

– Fr Kirtley Yearwood

© Poisonous Serpent, Thomas Ingmire, 2003. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved

Visio Divina for 3/16/12 – “Poisonous Serpent” – Day 5 (Contemplating)

CONTEMPLATING

Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace.

COMMENTS

As I sit quietly and rest with this text of the poisonous serpent and the Israelites in the desert, I am able to better appreciate the movement within the story itself as I open myself to what God is up to in my life.

This encounter with the serpents is the hinged point in Israel’s excursion between their wandering travels in the desert and beginning their journey toward the Promised Land.  And yet, true to human nature, the Israelites begin with complaining.  The story then moves to judgment by snake bites and death.  Repentance comes next as the Israelites confess their sins.  Moses intercedes on behalf of the people and God instructs Moses on what to do.  Moses obeys.  Those who look upon the bronze serpent on its pole live.  Thus the healing takes place in response to the action of the Israelites looking at the bronze serpent. 

God provides the means of healing in response to some action on our part.  Where are the snake bites in my life that are in need of healing?  What is God requiring of me?

– Fr Kirtley Yearwood

© Poisonous Serpent, Thomas Ingmire, 2003. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota.  Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.