The method presented here was developed for neighborhood gospel groups by the Lumko Institute. From there, it has spread into many African countries and has been well-received in other countries as well.
It deals with a method of communal, prayerful approach to the Sacred Scripture which may help us to encounter God and one another and to help us open our eyes to the presence and to the working of God in our everyday life. The Bible contains, is and imparts the Word of God. It is a book which concerns us personally and likewise can make us concerned. This method provides the opportunity for: allowing the Bible to speak to oneself first and, out of this perplexity, to share with one another (rather than just "talk about" the Bible).
On the other hand, the Bible is a book which renders the faith experiences and faith testimonies of peoples from different times and cultures. We are standing in the living tradition of the People of God who has heard the Word of God since Abraham and lived because of it. The Bible is therefore at times a strange and disturbing book. Hence, the meditative prayerful approach directed towards life is not the only one; rather it should be supplemented by biblical study.
Bible discussion and Bible meditation groups should not be too large. The ideal size is four to eight participants so that everyone may have the opportunity to talk. An atmosphere of quiet and calm is necessary. Just as important is an attitude of openness, of reciprocal listening in addition to the readiness to talk about oneself, that is, one?s life and one?s faith. The function of the facilitator consists only of this - that he announces the individual steps of the method.
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2. Motivation from Africa
"The Council has opened up the Bible anew for the people. It has become for the small communities the most important communication/life-element... Now the faithful have the possibility to read the Bible together - to mediate on it in order to be able to live from it.
Ever since we have had translations in the most important regional languages, the Bible has become a very important source of everyday Christian living. Our people begin to live with the Bible... On account of the Bible we are just now on the way to becoming a people, a community."
The above words are from the African Cardinal Malula as he described the situation in his native country. The situation, however, may differ in other countries.
Perhaps our brothers and sisters in differing Churches of other African countries may find motivation and access to the Word of Life in this common prayerful and life-related approach to Sacred Scripture.
3. The Lumko Method
THE SEVEN STEPS
The Seven Steps look very simple and indeed they are.
Our experience in the dioceses of South Africa and elsewhere has shown us however that these "simple" steps may also lead up to an encounter with God and our fellow humans.
Steps 1-4 help us to "persevere" with God, to "Iisten" to participate in the biblical action, "to surrender ourselves to God".
Step 5 brings us together as brothers and sisters because we risk sharing our experience with God with one another. This is not the most important step, but it gives great joy to all those who want to build and experience a deeply human community in God.
In step 6 we confront our life with the Word of God. It is often the case that in this atmosphere of prayer, individuals discuss problems which they wish to resolve as a neighborhood group.
In step 7 all are invited to share in spontaneous prayer.
FIRST STEP: We invite the Lord
Once the group settles down, the facilitator asks someone to volunteer "to invite the Lord". The belief in the living presence of the Risen Christ in our midst is the presupposition and basis of our meditation.
We want to meet the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. We remember Jesus? promise: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be there with them." (Mt 18,20).
SECOND STEP: We read the text
The facilitator announces the chosen text. First the book, then the chapter. He/she waits until everyone has found the chapter and only then does be announce the verse.
When everyone has found the passage, the facilitator invites someone to volunteer to read the text. A moment of silence follows.
THIRD STEP: We dwell on the text
The facilitator continues: "We dwell on the text. Which words strike you in a special way?"
In doing so, almost the entire text is very listened to again. The participants spontaneously read aloud the word or words that have impressed them. Whole verses are not read, only short phrases or individual words.
The participants are encouraged to repeat those words silently to themselves three or four times. It is extremely important that a moment of silence be kept after each person has spoken, allowing the message to "soak in". As a result of this step, "simple" words often take on new meaning.
FOURTH STEP: We are quiet
After spending time on the individual word, the entire passage is read again slowly. Then the facilitator announces a time of silence, giving the exact length of time, for example, three minutes.
We advise the people to spend this time in silence before God. "We are open to God." "We allow ourselves to be loved by him." "We let God look at us."
A helpful practice during this silence is to repeat a specific word.
Meditation: Simply to be open to God, to wait for him, to be with him, "in fact he is not far from any of us" (Acts 17,27).
FIFTH STEP: We share what we have heard in our hearts
After the time of quiet, the facilitator announces the next step: "We share with each other what we have heard in our hearts."
We do this to share with one another our faith experience and to help each other to grow in the faith. The entire Sacred Scripture is nothing less than a God experience which the People of Israel and Jesus "share" with us.
It is somewhat strange that we can talk to friends about almost every aspect of our life yet when it comes to sharing with others our experience with God, we become shy. In this Bible meditation method, however, anyone can learn "to risk" this sharing in a very natural and unpressured way.
SIXTH STEP: We search together
The facilitator announces: "We search together."
Now the time has come for the participants to examine their lives in the light of the Gospel. At this stage, a basic community might discuss everyday problems as:
Someone needs help in the neighborhood...
Children need instruction in the faith...
Who will lead the Service of the Word next Sunday, since the priest will not be there?...
How can we settle a discord that has arisen?...
What can we do about getting the street lamp repaired?...
None of these problems need to have a direct connection to the Bible passage which had been read and shared. However, they emerge and can be resolved because of the mutual confidence that now exists in an atmosphere of the presence of God. Things look different when God is allowed to be present.
SEVENTH STEP: We pray together
The facilitator now invites everyone to pray.
The words of Scripture, the various experiences of God?s Word, the daily problems - these all become fuel for prayer. Some find this form of sharing in prayer the easiest way to communicate with others.
The participants are encouraged to incorporate in their personal prayer whatever has been of special importance to them during the meditation.
Only at the end is a formal prayer known to everyone recited.