When I first advertised lectio divina, I added a subtitle, "It's not an exotic dancer."
It was partly tongue in cheek, but few of my regulars and even fewer of our hoped-for group have experienced communal, ordered, and prayerful reading of Scripture.
Helfer's Good Eats has been a restaurant for 50 years, and for most of those years it was run by the same family. They retired a while ago, and since then there has been a stream of nearly a dozen proprietors, each more alarming than the next.
That was until Dan and Helene took over last year. It is again a place where all are welcomed, usually with hugs, and all are fed without overmuch attention to their ability to pay. And while they won't be featuring exotic dancers, it is a place full of surprises.
Helene is joining our church, and her decision to do so has much to do with the Tuesday night Bible study. While I breakfasted at Good Eats one morning, she asked if I might hold a Bible study there. And then she bribed me with free coffee.
She envisioned a gathering of the unchurched, but it has turned out to be a very diverse gathering of mostly devout folk. Many are not entirely happy with their congregations, but they are loyal nonetheless. We have mystics and activists, scholars and big hearts.
I thought that lectio might be a common point — a way to reel in their extraordinarily far-ranging discussion just a bit. I thought that extremely short readings might help, too.
This is what we do. We gather ourselves with prayer. Then someone reads the passage, we sit in silence for a while, then folks share a word, an image, an idea — something that has caught their attention.
The same reading from another translation is followed by more silence, and then anyone who perceives God speaking in the passage shares what they have heard.
One more reading, more silence. People talk about actions they are moved to take. Then we close with prayer.
Then the dam bursts. Silence is not the group forte. We've yet to make it through anything like a timed session. Apparently these folks get their nourishment quickly. They are energized, excited, and ready to spend the rest of the night talking about what they've encountered. They want to spin off in a dozen directions.
I follow as best I can.
And they go to good places. The restaurant was robbed last week. Later the same day, one of the Bible study members showed up with a card and $175 he'd collected. Doesn't sound like much? Trust me, to Good Eats' regulars, it is.
When I celebrated an ordination anniversary, they threw a surprise party — with a disc jockey. Also present was a glorious array of the underchurched — among them a big, boisterous family whose mother had been one of our members. They made me stop the DJ so we could sing a big, boisterous, and woefully off-key rendition of the Alleluia we often use as a gospel acclamation — because it was their mother's favorite song, and it was her birthday.
They left for another party soon afterwards. They were doubtless a blessing there, too.
The Bible study group wants to continue lectio. They love it, they adapt it, and they make it their own.