My lectio divina: I

November, 2008

My lectio divina: I

By Allan Roy Andrews

“. . . then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice (96:12; KJV) . . . The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord (97:5) . . . Let the floods clap hands (98:8). . . .”

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) designates Psalms 96, 97, and 98 as the psalms of the Christmas Propers.

As I grapple to make lectio divina a part of my being, I am learning that biblical commentaries don’t aid necessarily my listening.

Commentaries tell me about “enthronement” psalms, for instance, or “psalms of descriptive praise.” They may instruct me in how the RCL wonderfully “layers” the texts of the “Christmas Propers” so that Isaiah’s prophecy is juxtaposed with the Lukan birth narrative and lined up with a passage from Titus delineating Christ’s saving work. Each of the propers is filled out with the above-mentioned “Christmas Psalms,” something like a multi-media show, one liturgist has suggested.

The problem I see with these labels and structures is that they satisfy an anthropocentric need and bias. God gives us metaphors and deep poetry, and we see enthronement, descriptive praise, and multimedia salvation shows. What God’s words emphasize is something superhuman: Trees sing; mountains melt; floods clap hands!

God is not just a big guy; he (she or it) is more than the Big Kahuna. Yahweh, the one of the not-to-be-pronounced name and the vowel-less tetragrammaton, lies beyond our categories of comprehension and expression.

Perhaps the most appropriate delineation is that given to Moses: “I AM.”

Descartes’ cogito ergo sum is trumped by the One beyond our thinking! The great I AM speaks through sacred word—and beyond it. No baptistic limits can stifle God’s voice “in these days.” None can corral or limit “I AM.”

God may even speak in strange tongues that appear to be gibberish, but he more likely speaks in science—stem cells, evolution, viruses, immune deficiencies—or in the cries of undocumented immigrants, starving children, unwed mothers, and those with affections for the same gender. (Do words tell us truly how brotherly love differs from homosexuality?)

Speak, Lord, in the trees and mountains and floods and lightning and thunder—speak in the Son and the Spirit–for your servants listen and seek understanding, faith and love.

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