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Eating the Book

January 25, 2013

I am currently reading Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. In it he writes about the idea of formational reading: engaging a text (the Scriptures) on a deeper level, in a way that shapes our life. Peterson writes,

Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son. (18)

That excerpt sounds really good to my Anabaptist ears. We take in Scripture, the Spirit works in us through it, and good things are produced. But the reading practice he’s identifying goes even deeper. It differs from reading a newspaper article or blog post or an instruction manual (informational reading). It’s not the same kind of study that I do as part of sermon preparation (exegetical). Those kinds of reading and study have beneficial effects too. But formational reading is reflective and meditative (Lectio Divina). It allows the text to read us in a way-it pays attention to ideas, feelings, or reactions that normally might go unnoticed. It requires space and invites us to slow down-because this process cannot be done at a quick pace. I know, because I’ve tried it that way and it DOES NOT WORK.

How we read a text like the Bible is important, and can put us in touch with the Spirit in meaningful ways. As a spiritual practice, meditative formational reading can help connect God’s Story and our story.

I have been using this practice for a few years, both individually and with groups. Meditating on scripture has been a good starting point for my sermon preparation. I have also experienced meaningful conversation in church groups where we have dwelled in a passage for an extended period of time (i.e. meditating on the same passage together for a year).

I am planning to post some brief reflections here from my own experience with spiritual reading. The posts will fall under the title “Eating the Book” and will include a Scripture reference. I’m hoping that this will help me to become more disciplined with this practice, and maybe even encourage someone else through it. But ultimately I’m hoping to create space for God to shape and form me.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with scripture meditation I’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading.

One Comment


  1. January 31, 2013 | Franconia Conference

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