Friday, November 20, 2015

Sursum Corda

Let us lift up our hearts in praise

The Latin phrase sursum corda literally means ‘upward hearts’ but it is generally translated as ‘Let us lift up our hearts.’

Despite the diversity that exists within God’s church I think we would benefit in remembering that our different church traditions and denominations have a common heritage. For example, over the past two millennia most Christian gatherings have in some way called us to lift our hearts in praise and thankfulness to the God of our salvation. This is the point of our worship services.

Sursum corda or let us lift up our hearts calls us to acknowledge our absolute dependence on God. The plurals ‘us’ and ‘our’ express our desire to join our voices in praise with the vast company of fellow believers around our world. These plurals are a powerful testimony to the communion of saints which surrounds us now and remind us of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

In spite of our differences, all Christians acknowledge the Scriptures as God’s Word. Let’s celebrate our common faith and heritage by joining all of God’s church in praising God through praying the Psalms together.

In his book Meditating on the Word Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches us, “It has proven helpful to meditate on a text of approximately 10-15 verses for a period of a week. It is not good to meditate on a different text each day, since we are not always equally receptive… It is a great help if a community knows that it is concentrating all week on the same text.” He goes on to say, “Meditation and prayer must be practiced earnestly… So the first rule is not to become impatient with yourself. Do not become confused and upset because of your distractedness. Just sit down every day and wait very patiently (emphasis mine). If your thoughts keep wandering, there is no need for you to hold on to them compulsively. There is nothing wrong with letting them roam where they will; but then incorporate in your prayers the place or person to which you have gone. So you will find your way back to your text, and the minutes spent in such diversions will not be lost and will no longer be any cause for worry.”

As we enter into our Thanksgiving season I will be meditating on Psalm 138 each day for a week beginning this Saturday. I invite you to join me as together our little online community lifts up our hearts in praise to our God for all the many spiritual and physical blessings he has given us. I encourage you to join me in investing 20-30 minutes each day of Thanksgiving week in silent lectio divina meditation on Psalm 138.  Here’s a version of lectio divina which works well for a 20-30 minute meditation.

Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit.  Set the timer on your phone for the allotted time then put it out of sight. Begin with silencio. Quieten your heart and mind by taking three deep, slow breaths. From this calmness we move to lectio reading the entire Psalm to get the rhythm of the complete passage. Pause a moment then slowly read the Psalm a second time listening for a word or phrase that calls out to you. Let the rest of the text slip away as you move into meditatio silently repeating your word or phrase in sync with your breath. As your meditation deepens let your word or phrase go and simply listen. Sit quietly in contemplatio with the rhythm of your breath.  When you become distracted or the voices in your head start speaking up (and they will) use the rhythm of your inhalation and exhalation to bring your focus back.  Continue to sit silently with your journal practicing scriptio when words come and waiting patiently in contemplatio when they don’t.  When your time is up graciously thank the Lord for this time with him and his word. Then return to your day secure in the firm foundation you have laid.

Remember, spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.  Let us now return to the world reflecting Christ from this solid, calm, and peaceful grounding in his Word.

P.S. I’m testing the waters to see if these meditations are something you and others would like to receive.  Please let me know what you think and, if you like it, please share with a friend. 

P.P.S. I’m also working on an online silent retreat course and some ideas for other courses which will be open to the public soon. I need a few people to look at the beta version and give me feedback.  Please email montyperegrine[at] if you would be willing to help.

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