As we come together at the end of a busy day, Let us place the concerns, the burdens and the weariness of the day into God s hands, Silence is kept

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1 Session 2: Renewing our faith through openness to God s Word In this session we will explore how we are called to learn and grow through reading the bible and exploring what lies at the heart of our Christian faith. Have we stopped expecting to discover anything new about God? Do we spend time reading the Bible and other Christian books with open minds and open hearts? As we come together at the end of a busy day, Let us place the concerns, the burdens and the weariness of the day into God s hands, Silence is kept As we come together, O God, may the assurance of your love strengthen us, and the light of your presence set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and for ever, Amen A candle is lit Lord God, open our eyes to see the truths within your word; open our ears to hear your voice as we talk together, and open our minds to receive all the blessings that you have prepared for us tonight. Amen Luke 24: 25-27, 32 Then he said to them, Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures... They said to each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had some familiarity with the scriptures but they had not been able to fully understand them or apply them to the recent events that had so marked their lives. They needed a teacher and guide: one who would open the scriptures and make them so alive that their hearts would burn within. The early Christians treasured accounts of Jesus teachings and actions. They gradually gathered and ordered them into the Gospels we know today. Here, they knew, were words of life, capable of lighting the way for those who chose to follow Christ.

2 Think of a book, magazine article or radio/tv programme that you have read or heard or seen recently that interested and challenged you. Why was the topic interesting? How did it challenge or inspire you? Share your thoughts in 2s or 3s Now think about a Gospel story that you find inspirational or that presents a challenge to you. [Don t worry too much if you can t remember all the details]. Share your Gospel story and why it feels significant to you in your 2s or 3s. For discussion in plenary: How do we open ourselves up to new ways of thinking and being allowing ourselves to be inspired or challenged? How do we move from simply reading the scriptures [or hearing them read aloud on Sunday] to understanding at depth their significance for our lives? When tempted in the wilderness Jesus declared: One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. [Matthew 4.4]. The words come from the Old Testament [Deuteronomy 8:3]. When in a crisis Jesus relied on the food of God s word to nurture him and make sense of his experience. In contrast we see that though the disciples on the Emmaus road had some familiarity with the scriptures they did not understand them and were not able to apply them to their circumstances. The first step is to develop a habit of reading the scriptures. All of the bible is valuable but if we want a place to start then the Gospels will provide rich food. But reading in itself is not enough; we have to develop our understanding of what we are reading. Some bibles have notes that will help us. There are a variety of commentaries on the bible as a whole or on individual books of the bible in particular. It is likely that among your group will be people who use some form of daily bible reading with accompanying notes. This background reading to the scriptures does not replace looking at the text of the bible itself but it will enhance our understanding, giving us new insights, and sometimes challenging assumptions we previously made. The regular reading and study of the bible is essential for our Christian discipleship: we need the food it provides as much as we need breakfast or lunch to get us through the demands of the day. The other ingredient that makes reading the scriptures come alive is prayer. It was when Jesus opened the scriptures that the disciples experienced their hearts burning within them. So as we read we ask the Lord to help us understand the relevance of what we are reading. How does this word touch my life? How are you drawing me to yourself Lord? You ll find in the reflection exercises this week two methods for praying the scriptures. Find time to try at least one of them this week.

3 You may find it helpful to look at the reflection exercises given for this session at this point and have some discussion / sharing in the group about what different people feel drawn to explore. Psalm 19: 7-11,14 As you listen to the psalm notice any particular phrases or words that seem to have meaning for you today The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. 1] Share any words or phrases from the psalm that seemed important to you and say why. 2] What do you find difficult / helpful / puzzling or challenging about this psalm? 3] Share any resources you have found helpful in reading, understanding and praying the bible. 4] Share any thoughts you have about your own way forward in making a greater place for the scriptures in your daily life.

4 Silence is kept whilst we reflect on what we have discussed, what we have heard and what we have learnt. Music may be played Suggestions- Taize chants The Lord is my light, my light and salvation Within our darkest night Stay with us, O Lord Jesus Christ, night will soon fall, Wait for the Lord, his day is near My peace I leave you, my peace I give you Stay with us Lord, open our eyes and set our hearts on fire, as you open your word, as you break the bread, as we live your life. Enrich us with your grace, empower us by your Spirit, enfold us in your love, as we walk the journey of faith with you. Amen The Grace

5 Reflection Exercises 1] Read a Gospel Often we read or hear the Gospels in small fragments. It can help to read the Gospel as a whole as we would with any other book. Read one of the four Gospels this week. Mark s Gospel is the shortest! When you have finished, reflect on the experience. 2] Lectio Divina [Sacred Reading] Choose a bible passage that you wish to pray, for example a passage from the Gospels or one of the psalms. Make yourself comfortable and still yourself down. Some people find that focusing their attention on their breathing for a minute or two, or repeating a prayer word or prayer phrase helps bring about this inner stillness. Attentive Reading: Then begin reading your passage slowly and gently. Savour each portion of the reading, constantly list ening for the still, small voice of a word or phrase that somehow says, I am for you today. It doesn t matter if you don t get to the end of the passage. Do not expect a dramatic revelation. Most of the time God does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence. Reflecting: If a word or phrase you read in some way connects with you, hold on to it. Slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Sometimes this process is likened to rumination or chewing things over. What does this word or phrase mean for you? How does it connect with the place you are in today? How might God be speaking to you through this word? Expressing: Give to God what you have found within your heart during your reflection. This might take the form of words you speak to God in prayer, whether of thanksgiving, or questioning. Share what you feel, naturally and honestly, and make space to listen to how God responds to you. Resting: Finally rest in God's embrace and in whatever understanding or feeling you have received. This time is more about being present and open to God than being active with your mind. Though this way of prayer is described in stages following on one from another you may find you flow backwards and forwards from one way of prayer to another, now thinking, now resting, and now speaking. It is the Spirit who leads us.

6 Reflection Exercises 3] Imaginative Contemplation: This is a way of prayer that uses the imagination to enter into a Gospel passage and allow it to interact with the place where we are. It may take a little time to settle into this way of prayer. Take your time and relax the fruit of this prayer is in God s gift rather than dependent on the strength of your powers of imagination! Choose a Gospel passage that describes an event in Jesus life. Make yourself at home in the presence of God. You may find it helps to spend a few minutes stilling yourself down, giving your attention to what you can hear around you, or becoming aware of the rhythm of your breathing. Bring to God what it is you are seeking today, for example a deeper awareness of his presence, guidance in a decision you are making, or greater freedom within you to be able to let go to God. Ask God to help you to pray with openness and generosity of spirit. Read the bible passage through a couple of times slowly and reflectively. Put the bible down, and in your imagination set the scene describ ed in the passage. The setting might be similar to that described in the bible, or you may find the setting changes to one that connects in some way with your past / present experience. Use all your senses what can you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? Now put yourself into the story. Who are you? A central character or someone observing from the sidelines? Let the scene unfold in its own way, even if it develops in a way that is different from that described. The story may stick closely to what you read in the gospel or seem to take on a life of its own; rather than fight this, trust that it s OK, and that this is the story that it is important for you to attend to today. You may find yourself wanting to talk to Jesus as the story unfolds or to ask him a question; or that Jesus speaks to you. It may be that you engage with another person in the story. Be aware of your own feelings and responses as you pray through the passage. When you have finished, look back over the prayer. Remember how you reacted and felt at different points. What seems to you significant? Did anything surprise you? Ponder what this might be saying to you, asking God to help you see and understand. Spend some time in prayer with God sharing your thoughts, feelings and needs. You may find it helpful to repeat the prayer at another time, ret urning t o those points where you were conscious of being moved in some way.

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