Eugene Peterson has said it is good to read less, not more. And he probably said it is good to read slow, not fast. We are inundated by an information age when almost any question we have can be answered at our fingertips. We are used to having what we want, now.
When reading the Bible, we need over time to read the entire Book, yes, Genesis through Revelation. But we also need to settle down into one book and learn to read meditatively, looking at each part in the context of the whole. And we need to get hold of not only the words, but the thoughts they convey, and not only the thoughts they convey, but something of the reality behind them.
Of course that reality will differ depending on what we’re reading, but if we’re reading something pertaining to God, then we need to get beyond mere thinking to begin to enter into something of the reality of the thought.
The ancient Bible reading practice of Lectio Divina can help us in that way. And this practice is good for both individual and communal reading. One reads preferably out loud a particular text a number of times. This can be done according to headings, for example John 1 in the NIV has five headings and therefore five sections. One of the sections could be read according to the practice of Lectio Divina. It is read more or less straightforward the first time. The second time it is read more slowly. And the third time we listen to what stands out to us.
While Lectio Divina is not the only or even main way we should read the Bible, it makes an important contribution, and perhaps especially so in a culture which is committed to words and information, but at the same time surfeited in it, so that what has been the end all can become basically meaningless.
Too often we let ourselves be satisfied with what has been called head knowledge. But if that’s all it ends up being for us, in the end it might seem meaningless, since it really doesn’t meet us or matter, where we live. One might say in our present day, irrelevant.
What we need to do is to hold the thought for something more. What do the words mean, what is the thought behind them? And just what is meant to be conveyed? We need the Spirit to help us in this so that we can begin to understand something of the depth in reality of what is being said, what is written. And so while we’re reading, we need to hold that thought.