Means of Grace- “Searching the Scriptures”

 

DSCN0069 FixedI lost my sunglasses this week.

I would say it’s not a big deal, because in the grand scheme of what else is going on in the world right now (Nepal earthquake, Baltimore protests, etc.) it’s really not, but it still bothers me.

I don’t usually lose things. Keys, wallet, phone, watch, wedding ring all have their usual landing places, so I always know where it is, and when I can’t find something, it drives me a bit crazy.

And what do you do when you lose something? You look for it. You take as much time as you need to, and you start hunting for whatever it is you lost, big or small.

You start in all the usual places you would usually leave it, right? For me, it’s in my bag I take to work with me, on the charging station, or in the car.

Usually.

Sometimes they get left in another place- like my dresser in the bedroom, or on my desk, or the printer that sits next to my desk, but those are still pretty obvious places, and make it easier to find.

But today, they weren’t in any of those places.

This afternoon, I had to drive my three year old daughter to school, which was when I realized they were missing. So I checked the usual spots quickly, and rushed out the door to get her to school on time, trying desperately to remember where I left them.

I’ve noticed that after wearing sunglasses pretty much year round, that when you don’t have them, your eyes develop a sensitivity to light.

Here’s the thing: it’s rather annoying (I know, first world problems, right?).

So, later on this afternoon, I started looking for them again, this time looking in somewhat ridiculous places- like in the refrigerator and freezer, or my daughter’s bedroom, or under the bed. Places I knew I wouldn’t find them.
But once you eliminate all the usual places, you have to start looking in the ridiculous ones, right?

As Spock, the beloved Vulcan, from the original Star Trek TV show, once said: “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

With each passing moment, I found myself wanting more and more to find that small black hunk of plastic, until it was time to go see Avengers, Age of Ultron (which was a great movie, by the way).

But what fascinated me about looking for these sunglasses (which are really just a cheap $20 pair I bought at a mall kiosk because the pair I had before broke), was the intensity with which I looked as time passed.

Because after a while, you don’t just look, you search. 

You pour yourself into what you’re looking for.

It’s the same way with what John Wesley called “searching the Scriptures” as a “means of grace.” Or, in other words, an ordinary way for God to channel grace into our lives and souls:

“Secondly, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in ‘searching the Scriptures,'” (Means of Grace, III, 7).

Wesley pushes back again the idea that it’s not a “command” but rather an “assertion,” and draws from Acts 17, the Berean Church:

“And what a blessing from God attends the use of this means appears from what is recorded concerning the Bereans, who, after hearing St. Paul, ‘searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed’- found the grace of God which he had ordained (Acts 17:11-12),” (Means of Grace, III, 7).

They looked through Scripture to see if what Paul was preaching was the truth, or not. They read it for themselves, they searched.

And with searching comes intention.

And that’s what I think these “means of grace” are meant to be- all about discipleship, what John Wesley called Christian Perfection. It’s a way of deepening our knowledge, love, devotion, and understanding of God, a way of going further- becoming people of substance.

So how do you “search the Scriptures?”

So glad you asked.

In terms of spiritual formation- it’s called “Lectio Divina,” which is Latin for “divine reading.” It’s a way of approaching Scripture in an inspired way.

You pick a short passage, and read it. Then, you read it again. And again. Until something “sticks out to you,” a word or phrase that resonates with something connected in your own life- something you experienced, or are experiencing, a struggle, a joy, something you are learning, etc. Then, as you begin to meditate on that, you can reflect on it on a “spiritual reading” journal.

In terms of knowledge, though, the more technical and perhaps cumbersome process of exegesis will prove to be most beneficial. Exegesis is simply “reading out of the text,” seeking to understand as much of it as possible. There are many ways to go about it- but it all starts with observation. It’s similar to Lectio Divina, in that you begin reading a text, over and over, but this time, it focuses more on patterns, and seeing what’s going on. You look at context, you look at themes, you look at what’s called “structural relationships,” you look for similarities and differences, you note repetition of words or phrases. You also write down questions you have about the text.

Then, you turn to a trusty bible dictionary, or concordance, to help you sort out what you have observed, to make sense of it. Once you do that, you can begin to see connections, and draw conclusions from the text. This is called interpretation.

Finally, you arrive at application- really seeking to answer the question: “How can we flesh this out?” or, perhaps more simple: “How can I apply this to my life?”

Obviously, I’m an advocate of both ways of interacting with Scripture, and believe that both are a “means of grace.” What you’re looking for, though. will depend on how you use it.

In closing, I’d like to share with you a video from Seedbed, the publishing “arm” of Asbury Theological Seminary, where I am currently attending.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to be a “second half” gospel person. I want to be about those last two columns- profound love for God, and profound love for people.

After all, grace is everywhere. We just need to know where to look.

 

(Update 5/4/15: I found my sunglasses! They fell out of a jacket pocket onto the floor in the coat room at work. Now I can see outside again!)

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