Today we'll try doing the reading in the form of lectio divina, an ancient Ignatian spiritual practice which concentrates our attention on the passage of scripture. Latin for "holy reading", lectio has been a part of monastic practice for centuries and is done alone or in groups.
It is very simple. Sit in a quiet spot where you're unlikely to be disturbed. Breathe comfortably, slowly and deeply. When you are ready, read through the scriptural passage aloud at a normal, unhurried rate. Be intentional about noticing any phrase or word that stands out for you. Pause and rest. Read through a second time. If you are doing these devotions with a friend, you may want to take turns reading, noticing what may sound different to you when the words are read in another person's voice. Rest and notice whether anything is arising to your notice out out the passage, maybe the same or maybe different from the first time.
Finally, read the passage a third time. By now you probably have a good sense of a word or phrase which almost shimmers up from the rest for your notice. Acknowledge to yourself what it is that you're hearing.
Gospel Luke 21:5-19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6"As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
7They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" 8And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them.
9"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." 10Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.
This is a hard passage to hear, just as it would have been hard to hear in Jesus' day. When you read it, what came up for you? Is it hard to hear apocalyptic* messages at this time of year? Why or why not?
Many times it helps to respond to the passage in some tangible way. If you have time, jot a few thoughts or even a brief poem about your reaction. Write a prayer or say one silently to end your time here today.
Remember that just as new beginnings come on the heels of endings, endings are not all sorrowful.
*It may be helpful to note that apocalypse in one of the more biblical senses means "to reveal". Unfortunately we've given it a more destructive connotation in our culture. It does not literally mean the end of the world, but a time when all would be set to rights and the true realm of the Creator would be made whole. If anybody is waiting for all this to happen in accordance with the Mayan calendar, I hope you don't give away all your belongings or anything. Best bets are that nothing's going to happen.