We have spoken before about the importance of reading scripture with open hands, and imaginative contemplation is one way of doing that. The reader places themselves in the story and engages their sense and emotions, in order to bring the action to life and create a space in which they are open to new insight and revelation. It can be as simple as reading a passage and then let the imagination take over, but a little bit of guidance can be helpful, especially if this is a new practice, so while we are on our summer break I will be offering a few written contemplations for you to use. Obviously this is a less analytical approach to the Bible than we have been taking over the past few months, but I hope it will provide some balance and refreshment.
You leave your house and walk into the centre of town. It’s the middle of the day and it’s hot. The air is still and almost shimmering in the heat. Take a moment to place yourself in the scene and imagine what you can see…hear…smell.
You head for the cool of a tree and feel yourself relax as you reach the shade. You’re out of the sun and the scrutiny of your neighbours. Stay in this place a while and rest in the peaceful atmosphere of a cool place in the heat of the day.
After you’ve rested for a moment, you’re startled by a voice asking for a drink. You turn around and see a man sitting just a few feet away. He is a stranger here and yet he feels almost familiar. How do you feel as you look at him?
Again he asks for a drink. Something in you resists the request. What may be stopping you from responding to his call?
The man gets up and walks towards you. He looks at you with kindness and understanding. After a moment he speaks again. “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would ask me and I would give you living water.” You look around but the man has nothing with him. He has no water to give. It doesn’t make sense. What else feels confusing or impossible to you now?
The man doesn’t give up and walk away. Instead he says “No one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.” What does it feel like to hear those words?
You hear yourself asking for some of that water. What is it that makes you long for it?
You are half expecting him to produce a flask from somewhere, but the man simply smiles and sends you on an errand. Your heart sinks as you realise you can’t do what he asks. He obviously doesn’t know the truth and you must come clean. What is it that you need to tell him about?
You could fall down as he tells you he already knows and praises you for your honesty. How does it feel to realise this man knows you so intimately?
There’s clearly something important on his mind because suddenly he tells you, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” What does this mean and how are you called to respond?
You know that this man is very special, but still you are amazed when he tells you he is the one you have been waiting for. How does it feel to be in the presence of the one who calls you back to God?
You run to tell everyone you know about this man you have met, and your enthusiasm is clearly catching because they want to meet him too. When the crowds have quietened down you go back to find him. What do you say to him now?
Take this time to talk with Christ or simply sit in his presence. You may like to return to any thoughts or feeling raised by this contemplation or bring him something else that is on your heart.
I now invite you to bring this time of contemplative prayer to a close. As you do, be aware that you remain in the presence of God, and ask the Spirit to continue to speak to you through this experience of Christ.