Step 1: Select a text, or texts. Unless I feel compelled to speak about a particular issue, or topic, or theme, I usually follow the Revised Common Lectionary. (Know, should you choose this route, that there are pros and cons, either way. The Lectionary dodges the really difficult texts far too often. Your own choices might do the same.)
Our text this third week of July: Genesis 28:10-19 and Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
Step 2: Find the texts in the bible. I prefer books to Kindles, because the books tend to have better footnotes. Read the footnotes. Can’t tell you how often those little things have sent me in interesting directions. I have a shelf full of five bibles: NIV, NRSV, Good News, Message. (In case you’re counting; that’s two different versions of the NRSV. I do love footnotes.)
Here’s what I found doing this step for Genesis: this represents Jacob’s first encounter with God, place could also mean shrine, which linked in my head to a great post on stadium vs sanctuary, documentary hypothesis tells us that the “J source” may have added to the conversation and expanded v.15.
Now, Matthew: it’s a parable. Footnotes only go so far.
Back to Genesis: 28.14 is a promise, it’s not a ladder so much as a step, the words, “he had a dream” jumped out at me.
Step 3: Pray. I usually try to do this first off, but it usually happens after I get a little more clarity about what I am thinking about/working with/dealing with. I’m not really sure if God appreciates focused prayers, but I know it helps me to have a little bit of a direction to face.
My prayer goes something like this: help me God to find the way forward. Open my eyes and ears. Grant me strength for the journey.
Step 4: Commentaries. I don’t have the luxury of having a complete set of any particular commentary series. I tend to find them in second hand stores and used book stores. I figure the books that come into my life are the books I need. This means I have a pretty eclectic mix of stuff to begin with, which combined with the typical pile of library books I have lying around, becomes a pretty strange brew.
I’ll continue this post series tomorrow, but for now, here’s where I’m at.