I’ve never been a fan of the spiritual exercise “dwelling in the word” for a couple reasons. The primary reason for me, is that I generally need time to ponder and reflect and a few minutes doesn’t provide time for this. The second issue which spins out of the high speed nature of such a practice, is that outcomes tends to lean towards the superficial side of things which made me doubt whether it was worth doing at all. After running the exercise through 3 times over the weekend on a single bit of scripture during #lovewalkdo, I’m rethinking this.
In a nutshell, “dwelling in the word” consists of
- Hearing a short bit of scripture in a group, followed by a couple minutes for reflection
- Pairing up with a reasonably friendly looking stranger to discuss said scripture for 4-5 minutes
- Pairing up with a second set of folks, where each person presents what their partner originally shared for a couple minutes
- Then as the set of 2 pairs, trying to discern what God might be saying for another couple minutes.
I believed one pitfall of this is that most of us have trouble with elevator speeches, and even more so are greatly challenged when it comes to creating an elevator speech on the fly based upon some scripture which one hasn’t had much time to ponder with. After this weekend, I’m don’t believe this is the mountain I was making it out to be. Rather it seems something that would become less and less of an issue the more one practices doing it.
Another pitfall is that one person will predominate… which is something I struggle with, but the practice in and of itself limits it due to time compression. One has to be concise and cut oneself off to ensure we are hearing what others are saying. Along this line of thinking, is that over-analyzers such as myself need to be careful not to get hung up on their own thoughts, such that the words of others get crowded out.
Over the 3 days, I heard the views of 9 other people during the process as well as presented 3 thoughts of my own. That is 12 different views. Out of those 12, I remember mine clear as a bell, as well as the thoughts of 6 others somewhat… but try as I might, I can’t remember the other 5 at all. Granted, their is an element of cominging going on with this which muddies the waters.
The scripture at the heart of #walklovedo was Micah 6:6-8
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Thus out of the 12 views shared:
- In Ethiopia people walked everywhere, including in the middle of highways.
- In the Ethiopian church, Christian education focused on rote memorization to an extreme. This was a requirement (It was freaky how my original partner and I had an Ethiopian slant to this)***
- Don’t remember
- Walking humbly can be considered walk prudently and confidence in our beliefs is part of this.
- The scriptures point out the failures of works based salvation, and how futile our sacrifices are.
- The first born sacrifice of parents due to bad theology when their kid comes out as gay and they disown him/her, their church disowns him/her, and the kid attempts suicide. ***
- Don’t remember
- Don’t remember
- That only the super wealthy could possibly be able to make such sacrifices. Ie, who could own thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
- That burned up offerings turn to ash, and our bodies return to dust, but what we do matters, even though justice may take generations for change. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” MLK***
- Don’t remember
- Don’t remember exactly, but talked about errant Christian radio, and how despite heartburn, it is useful to listen so we are ready to respond.
Thus the listening failures for me tend to occur when the second set of views is added. In part, this could be do to that fact I’m not presenting their views to the group, and as such memory circuits are not engaged in a similar fashion. There is also an issue that comingling of ideas tends to occur more so at that stage than earlier. Over time and with practice, I would expect listening failure to become less of a factor.
In his book “Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World” Alan Roxburg describes dwelling in the word.
Dwelling in the Word is different from the practice of Bible study. In Bible study we analyze a passage in order to get at its basic meaning. Usually such analysis depends on study guides, commentaries, and teaching summaries. The goal is to get a clear understanding of what the text was intended to say and, sometimes, how to apply it to our lives … Dwelling in the Word is a different practice with different goals and therefore a different method. “Dwelling” suggests sitting before and living with. We bring ourselves and wait (or dwell) before the text in a spirit of receptivity. Dwelling is not driven by the need to get the text right, but by the desire to listen for how God might be addressing us. We might say Bible study is how we read the text; dwelling is letting the text read us.”
I think its a fascinating approach, but its also one where in a critical mass of willing parties is needed… and to get buy in by such a group, it truly needs to be experienced in a positive light. I never liked it in the past, nor did I see much value in it as it was a random thing we’d do on some Sundays and about all I could remember was how rushed and superficial it was. Light bulbs came this past weekend, as it was a daily practice with the same set of scriptures over a 3 day period with hundreds of folks from 74 different churches.
Could one get buy-in from folks attending the average 65 person church? Is it sustainable in a smaller church since one will eventually run out of “reasonably friendly looking strangers” Can it work successfully when its mostly lay persons as contrasted with sessions where in there was a 1:4 chance of having a pastor in said group?