I’m Fr. Charles Erlandson, assistant rector of Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal Church in Tyler, teacher at Good Shepherd School and at Cranmer Theological House, and husband to Jackie the wonder wife and 6 soul-trying, soul-enriching children.
Welcome to Give Us This Day, the daily Bible devotional I’ve written for every passage in the New Testament.
When I first began writing Give Us This Day, I surveyed the other daily devotionals that were out there and immediately noticed some differences between what I was writing and what others had written. I was concerned that most of the other devotionals only dealt with a verse of the Bible for each day, and I could find none that provided a devotional for every passage of the New Testament.
I also noticed that what I had written was usually longer than the uniformly bite-sized devotionals that seemed to be the publishing norm. In addition, most other devotionals did not include suggestions for further meditations and virtually none offered suggested resolutions to help put into effect what God had revealed through a given passage. At the end of each Give Us This Day meditation, I therefore offer not only a Prayer but also some Points for Further Reflection and a Daily Resolution.
“Give us this day our daily bread” is the most fundamental prayer we can ask on behalf of ourselves. Knowing this, our Lord not only commanded us to pray for this every day but also offers Himself to us as our daily bread.
In one of his sermons, St. Augustine expressed his belief that the feeding of the 4000 isn’t just about filling the bellies of men with bread and fish, nor is it solely about the Holy Communion. For St. Augustine and others, the Bread of Life is also the Holy Scriptures, upon which we are to feed every day, for they are the words of life. That the Word of God is also the Bread of God is satisfyingly illustrated by the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer, in which we ask God to “Grant that we may in such wise hear them [the Scriptures], read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”
However, Christians in the twenty-first century often do not properly eat or digest the Word of God. I’ve noticed some of you snacking in a sort of hit and run fashion, as you rush to lead your “real life.” “I’ll squeeze in a chapter of Bible reading today,” you think. Some of you are to be commended for devoting yourself to studying the Scriptures, but unfortunately it is in such a way that only the mind is fed. Meanwhile, the soul gets spiritual kwashiorkor, which may easily be identified by your distended spiritual belly.
Scripture must therefore be eaten with prayer, which may be likened to the spiritual blood into which the bread of life must be digested and ingested. Through a life of prayer, the Word of God is carried into every part of your life and becomes your life, just as a piece of digested food is broken down, enters the blood, and is carried to every part of your body.
The most fruitful way I know of to receive my daily bread of Scripture is through the ancient practice of the lectio divina, or divine reading, with which I hope many of you are familiar. The essence of the lectio divina is not just another Bible study to inform our minds. Instead, the lectio divina is formative reading, in which we allow the Holy Scriptures, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to form our very being. There are four basic steps in this divine reading:
- lectio – reading/ listening
- Cultivate the ability to listen deeply.
- Your reading is slow, formative reading.
- Your reading is based on previous reading and study.
- meditatio – meditation
- Gently stop reading when you have found a word, phrase, or passage through which God is speaking to you personally.
- Ruminate over this passage, as a cow ruminates or chews its cud.
- Say the passage over and over, noticing different aspects – “taste” it!
- Allow God’s Word to become His word for you at every level of your being and to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas.
oratio – prayer
- Pray – or dialogue with God – over the passage.
- Interact with God as one who loves you and is present with you.
- Allow God to transform your thoughts, memories, agendas, tendencies, and habits.
- Re-affirm and repeat what God has just told you.
- contemplatio – contemplation
- Rest in the presence of the One who has come to transform and bless you.
- Rest quietly, experiencing the presence of God.
- Leave with a renewed energy and commitment to what God has just told you.
I look forward to reading Holy Scripture with each of you day by day!