Lectio Divina informed by Star Wars
I’m a huge Star Wars fan–okay, a supernerd. I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens three times in theatres, and I now own the Blu-Ray…and I even took my three-year-old daughter to see it when it was shown in a local park. We only made it as far as the Rathtars scene, then she wanted to go home. Fine.
In my first viewings of the film, I noted that each viewing of Star Wars led me to seek out something new of that epic story.
- The first viewing was for the story. What was the story? What didn’t I know? What plot twists were unspoiled, and the experience of the midnight show with friends.
- The second viewing was for the details. What were the moments I missed - the little things that others in online forums picked up on.
- The third viewing was for matching the scenes with the music. I was gifted the soundtrack last Christmas, so I listened to it several times, and better was able to identify Kylo Ren’s theme, Rey’s theme, and others.
- The fourth viewing was after I’d read the novelization. I could then match the characters on screen with their extended stories in the book. This is a common practice: heck, every character glimpsed in the Mos Eisley cantina has a backstory in the books.
Each time, I came back to the same story and soaked in a different aspect of it, and came out with a renewed sense of what the movie was all about.
And it made me wonder: If I can apply that method to a modern epic, can I apply the same to the biblical epic?
One of the more popular devotional methods for reading the Bible is called Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning “divine reading” and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we disregard academic study and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us experientially. Usually the Scripture is read three times, inviting folks to reflect on a single word or term that popped out at them.
The Upper Room describes the ideal process:
- Read the scripture slowly. Watch for a key phrase or word that jumps out at you or promises to have special meaning for you. It is better to dwell profoundly on one word or phrase than to skim the surface of several chapters. Read with your own life and choices in mind.
- Reflect on a word or phrase. Let the special word or phrase that you discovered in the first phase sink into your heart. Bring mind, will and emotions to the task. Be like Mary, Jesus’ mother, who heard of the angel’s announcement and “treasured” and “pondered” what she had heard (Luke 2:19).
- Respond to what you have read. Form a prayer that expresses your response to the idea, then “pray it back to God.” What you have read is woven through what you tell God.
- Rest in God’s word. Let the text soak into your deepest being, savoring an encounter with God and truth. When ready, move toward the moment in which you ask God to show you how to live out what you have experienced.
If you haven’t tried it, it can be a powerful experience for all ages of youth and adults.
Example: Lectio Divina Todd
The Rev. Todd Spencer is a deacon in the United Methodist Church. If you haven’t done a Lectio Divina before, I would recommend experiencing one of his…and you can, right now!
Rev. Todd has a website of weekly lectio divinas that you can download or stream as an audio file. The one I did in preparation for this post (February 14, 2016, First Sunday of Lent) was 24 minutes of a devotional reading by Eugene Peterson, prayer, music, reading of scripture from the Gospel of Luke, and silence.
Take a listen to a more recent one and sound off in the comments what you think.
Fun fact: Todd was my youth minister in high school and was instrumental in my discerning a call to ministry. So you can blame him?
Lectio Divina… a la Star Wars?
So, given the outline of Lectio Divina, and a case study…wait, how can Star Wars possibly inform Lection Divina?
My process above of looking for specific things in the story gives focus to my mind and I think it can work for the Biblical narrative as well.
- The first reading was for the story. Who are the characters, which character fits with you, which one resembles whatever is on your heart?
- The second reading was for the details. What tiny sliver of language did you miss the first time? How does it change the story you’ve told yourself?
- The third reading was for matching other texts or music or movies with what you read. We are increasingly visual/aural learners, so imagining what media the text is associated with could lead to some powerful parallels–or at least good conversation topics.
I’ll warn you this conflicts with the actual theory of Lectio Divina, though it is how I’ve often experienced it in practice. In theory, we aren’t supposed to give any guiding thoughts and simply allow the Spirit to direct us. But in practice, I’ve often seen leaders give some nudge in some direction to guide the group. This is simply another version of those nudges.
I think approaching a Biblical text with the same type of process that a superfan approaches the object of his fandom can yield both energy and a natural process by which the biblical text can be engaged and transformative in a person’s life.
Try it out and let me know.
*The Rev. Jeremy Smith is a United Methodist Elder serving as Minister of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon. He blogs about faith, young clergy issues, technology, internet theory, and geeky topics at HackingChristianity.net. This article was originally posted on HackingChristianity.net.