Sunday, September 06, 2009

soak and lectio divina for those wanting to hear God in sickness

soak400.jpg Soak is a monthly (first Sunday) service we run at Opawa. It’s like nothing I’ve ever been involved with before: sung worship, a great space, lectio divina, and then various stations, with people leaving when they feel they’ve finished soaking.

So tonight the theme was Hearing God in sickness. One of the stations was a wheelchair, on which people could sit and pray for the sick they knew. Another offered healing prayer. Other’s offered prayers, poetic and tactile, for those hearing difficult news.

It just felt such a useful pastoral thing to be part of; offering Christian resources – a wide range of Christian resources – for those everyday realities.

For those interested, here’s the lectio divina I wrote. It’s based on a phrase from Ben Harper album, “Two hands of prayer”, which seemed to me the best way to understand Mark 9:24I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!..” Which linked in my head with John 20:27 “Put your finger here; see my hands.” It’s not exegeticaly logical or coherent. But that’s the beauty of lectio divina: it expects God’s inspiration simply because the Spirit is alive and well both in relation to Biblical text and in relation to human imagination. We offer the Bible in many, many ways at Opawa, and the lectio approach is just one of the man.

The theme for the next few Soak services is Hearing God. A focus on a Hearing God speak in different ways: Hearing God speak outdoors; Hearing God speak in silence; Hearing God speak in sickness.

That’s our Soak theme for today. Hear God in sickness.

At Soak we explore this theme, using a process called lectio divina, sacred reading. It’s a way of reading the Bible which invites us to read slowly, pause often, expecting that as we read and as we pause, God speaks through our thoughts, our feelings, our intuitions, our imaginations.

Tonite, as we begin this lectio divina, we proclaim the lordship of Jesus in this place and we seek the guidance of the Spirit.

Tonite, I invite you to remember the times when you were sick.
Recent time. Time long ago.

Time sick enough to be in bed. Sick enough to be in bed at midday.

Out of all those times, I invite you choose one. One specific time when you were sick.

Remember how old you were.
Remember what it was like to be in bed.
Remember what the bedroom looked like. What the pillow felt like.

Run your tongue around your mouth, remember the taste the sickness

Take a breath. Remember the smell of your room. Smell of your body as it was sick.

And in your imagination to reach out and touch the part of you that felt most sick. Feel the pain.

Find the word that describes that pain. Hold that word. Roll it around in your mind.

And then to realise that you hear a knock on the door. Gentle knock. Peaceful knock. Someone enters your room. You’re sick, so your eyes remain closed.

A fragrant smell enters your room. You’re sick, so your eyes remain closed

Feel the person sitting on your bed. You’re sick, your eyes remain closed.

Feel the person quietly they take hold of your hands. Both of your hands.

You realise, with your eyes closed, that your hands actually feel quite different. One hand holds hope. Hope that you can get better. Hope that the pain will go. Hope that this person brings healing.

Other hand holds despair. Despair that you’re sick. Despair that you won’t ever get better. Despair that this person won’t bring healing.

Two hands. Your two hands. Your two hands that express the words of man in Mark 9:24 “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

A hand of hope. A hand of despair.

Words said to Jesus. “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

So imagine that the person sitting on your bed is Jesus. That Jesus is holding both your hands. Your belief and your unbelief.

That Jesus is asking you to open your hands. I wonder which hand you’ll open first? Belief? Or on unbelief.

Whichever you choose, I invite you open that hand, point out to Jesus what lies in that hand. “I do believe. help me overcome my unbelief.”

And once you’re finished showing Jesus that hand, you might like to open the other hand. Show Jesus what lies in that hand.

With both your hands open, your more likely to become aware of the hands holding your hands. Take a moment to consider the hands of Jesus.

Hear the words of Jesus to Thomas: Put your finger here; see my hands. Take a moment to feel the hands of Jesus.

Carpenters hands – calloused, hard
Healers hands – strong, caring
Nail-pierced hands – suffering, scarred.

Hear the words of Jesus to Thomas: Put your finger here; see my hands

What do you need from those hands. Healing? Strength? Comfort?

Take what you need. When you’re done, close your hands.

In the words of Jesus to Thomas: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Posted by steve at 10:35 PM


  1. Thank you Steve that was incredibly helpful to me. I hope this comment might encourage others in the on line community. I live with Bi polar – the hope of medication and great support; the despair of a managed life. Creativity that has a huge weakness for God to make strong.

    I have imagined (in the past) but never put together a visual for “Two Hand of Prayer” various ways our hands can be used in prayer – from the traditional two praying hands – to activists – to groups – to old and young etc etc

    Peace Jo

    Comment by Jo Wall — September 7, 2009 @ 7:19 am

  2. gutsy call to name this publicly Jo. thanks so much, i am sure it will help other readers,


    Comment by steve — September 8, 2009 @ 10:04 am

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