By Michael Smith
A Reading from Deuteronomy 8:1-10
1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. 3He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
God’s people had wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. The time had finally come, however, for them to enter the land promised to their ancestors. As part of his final instructions before doing so, Moses reminds them that God met their physical hunger by providing manna for them, in part so they would learn that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” During Jesus’ 40-day sojourn in the wilderness, he quotes this same scripture when tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread to assuage his hunger. The 40 days of Lent can be a good time for us to be intentional about listening to “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
There is an ancient practice in the church known as lectio divina or sacred reading. It is a way of reading the Bible, not so much for information but for transformation.
In lectio, I listen for what God is saying to me personally. There are number of methods taught but one of the simplest is from Trappist monk Basil Pennington in his book, Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures:
1. Come into God’s presence and call upon the Holy Spirit.
2. Listen for ten minutes to the Lord speaking to you through the sacred text.
3. Thank the Lord and take a “word.”
Find a form of lectio divina that works for you to practice during Lent and beyond.
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Trinity Parish, St. Augustine, Fla.
Church of the Province of Central Africa