Palm Sunday and Polyvalence....aka) yet another geeky spiritual post...

On Palm Sunday we had church at the nature preserve. I think I've mentioned before that when you are a church without a building, there is more flexibility in where and how you meet.

Anyway, David-the-Artist-Pastor put together a series of five exercises rooted in ancient Christian tradition that people could walk through the nature preserve and do on their own in one-on-one time with God. (We all met back at the end for lunch. I think there were about a hundred of us.)

One of the exercises was "Praying with Scripture" (Lectio Divina for those of you who grew up in a liturgical faith or went to seminary). Lectio Divina typically focuses on one passage of scripture and has four steps: listening, meditating, praying and contemplating. In this exercise, we were to focus on the word or phrase from the passage that jumped out at us with meaning. The passage listed was John 15:1-8 which starts: "I am the true grapevine and my Father is the gardener...."

The staff--who were handling the logistics on Sunday AM--went through the exercises the Monday before so they could experience it ahead of time. David's wife, Chris mentioned to him that he really should consider listing multiple passages for the Lectio Divina because there was only one word that people would truly focus on: "remain."

Nancy-the-Insightful relayed that story to me at Bic's on Thursday morning because Chris laughingly shared it after she'd heard all of the radically different things people had gotten out of the exercise.

Nancy said the words that stood out to her were: "grapevine" and "gardener." She was impressed that all the grapevine had to do is grow grapes. The gardener was the one doing all the watering, seeding, harvesting, etc. For me, the concept of pruning struck significant. I never before thought about the fact that sometimes when God cuts things away from our life, they are good things. After all, when I'm pruning roses I sometimes cut away perfectly good blooms so that more blooms will appear. In the passage, the same is true of grapes. The idea of God cutting away something good so that more good could come was stunning to me. (And made me think that maybe I should not mourn the loss.)

The concept of polyvalence in literature is that multiple people can read the same thing and come away with different meaning because each person is in a different place and has a different perspective. With Scripture that becomes even more true as God engages with the reader.

Scripture is dynamic. It is rich and multifaceted and can be read again and again and always produce. It saddens me when people dissect it like an earthworm to limit it to a single "right" meaning. It occurs to me that commentary and teaching is useful to show things you may not have seen on your own, but if you stop there as if that is all that is there then you miss the the life and breath in it. The beauty of Scripture isn't just in the words. It is in the Author Himself. And the beauty of Jesus Christ and His resurrection at Easter is that we no longer have to go through priests (or preachers or teachers) to connect with God. We belong. Our souls have restoration.

God is living and He speaks. Spending Palm Sunday at the nature preserve walking through trees and by streams afforded the opportunity to be quiet and listen.

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Maira Gall