I guess because I have spent several chapters of my life in and around schools, I am hard wired to follow an academic calendar. September is the “beginning of the year,” when new programs and practices are introduced… Initiatives climax in December and May, with final papers and exams… Summer is for planning and wondering and rest.
I could become more liturgical, using Mary’s pregnancy in December as a starting point, and organizing my body clock around Jesus’s public ministry, but to me the clang of classes begun and ended has always been more evocative than church bells. I love the intensity of the program year, with its expectations and assignments, and I’m also drawn to the sultry space of a summer day. The ebb and flow heals me. With that in mind, I offer you a particular way to engage the scripture this June, July, and August. I call it “Jane Wolfe’s Bible Study.”
A little background: Jane Wolfe was a friend and mentor of mine in Little Rock in the 1980’s. Sometime in the middle of that decade, she felt a palpable call to create a new way to study the Bible, and she presented her excitement to the Bishop of Arkansas. Funds and time were arranged, and Jane spent the year in research and reflection, fully expecting to craft a detailed curriculum for lay people. She sat with scholars of the Old and New testaments. She corresponded with leaders in churches around the world. She reflected on pedagogy.
And when she met with the Bishop a year later, she sheepishly presented him with an empty notebook. “What’s this?” he asked. Jane answered, “It’s what the Spirit has given me—an empty notebook and three questions. You probably think I’m crazy, after a year of conversations with experts, but this is what I’ve got.” The practice she discovered was both simple and profound. I continue to use it 40 years later, and I offer it to you for the summer.
- What Lord are you saying to my heart?
- What Lord is the response of my heart?
- What Lord would you particularly like for me to remember?
- Buy a notebook.
- Over the course of the week, read the lectionary readings assigned for the coming Sunday several times. (lectionarypage.net)
- One day each week, write the three questions on a blank page of your notebook, and sit with them.
- Write your response to each question. If nothing happens at first, that’s fine. If you fall asleep on your notebook, that’s fine, too. At a certain point, words will come. Write them without editing or second-guessing or criticism.
- You will be showing up—to yourself and to God.
- Something in you will open up. Some part of you will speak. Some part of you will hear.
Summer is for wondering and planning and rest. I’d love to hear what you discover.