Having – hopefully – made the theological case for contemplation (as St. Ignatius of Loyola describes it), in this episode our pal, Jon Saur, gives a short example of the practice.
This sermon was preached on Palm Sunday 2015 and thus uses the traditional story of Jesus’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem as the gospel text to be contemplated.
If a short refresher is helpful, the goal of Ignatian contemplation is encounter, not “exegesis.” That is to say, in contemplation we read the scriptures so as to find ourselves within them (vs. writing an academic/interpretive commentary that explains the author’s intended meaning). As we read the story (particularly stories from the gospels), we try to identify the perspectives and experiences of the original participants. In this case, what was it like to be in the crowd as Jesus entered? How would a 1st century Jew have interpreted the events? How would a Roman soldier? How would one of the 12? (Clearly this requires a good bit of exegetical/interpretive background to be able to answer and thus we spend a lot of time in other sermons on this!)
As we move around the scene – viewing it from various perspectives (like scene in a movie being shot from the vantage point of different characters) – we ask: Where am I (in this moment in time) in this story? (And we know the answer might be different tomorrow.) And having identified ourselves we then ask: What does God have to say – through this story – to someone in my position? And what might God, then, be saying to me?
Because such reflections are deeply personal, they obviously are not the stuff from which doctrinal theology made (or, at least, ought not be!). And – as Ignatius regularly reminds us – if the direction we receive in such moments of prayer feel dramatic or at odds with our current course, we need very much to discuss them with wise counselors before acting. But as a habit of prayer, contemplation has done me – and many, many before me – a tremendous amount of good!
This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), March 29, 2015. To learn more about Canvas, click here!