Monday, 30 April 2012

Imaginative Contemplation

On Saturday I spoke at our Synod retreat and shared something of my experience of a seven day silent retreat.  One of the things I described was my experience of 'imaginative contemplation' as a way of prayer.  In this method you choose a passage from the Bible and get into the story. You use your imagination to picture the scene. You might want to picture it as a painting or perhaps as a DVD with movement and sound. The exercise is to enter the scene as though you were a participant or a bystander and to consider what catches your attention, and so what God might be saying to you.

One of the stories that I reflected on in this way, when on retreat last year, was that of Jesus’ healing two blind men, as recorded in Matthew 20:29-34.

It was good to enter this story. I felt myself to be one of the crowd, but a subversive member of the crowd. The crowd were telling the men to be quiet when they were shouting, trying to attract Jesus’ attention. I wanted them to keep shouting and ignore everyone else, and was delighted when Jesus stopped to speak to them. I found myself reflecting on four aspects of this scene. The first thing I noted was that this encounter happened as they were leaving Jericho. In every situation the time to move on arrives. The second thing is that Jesus asked them what they wanted him to do for them. He didn’t make assumptions. How would we answer that question? In particular, what is the one thing that we want Jesus to do for us at the moment? The third thing to note is that Jesus did what he was asked. How interesting – and how exciting – that God responds to our requests, but note the motivation. Why did Jesus respond to this request? He did so because he was moved with compassion. And the fourth thing here is the result. The result is that they followed. They did so immediately and without, so far as we know, being asked to do so.

Here, then, is a story of the compassion of Jesus in operation. Here is a story of the generosity of Jesus in operation. Here is a story of the delight of being healed. These two were surely healed in every sense of that word. What did I discover as I explored this story, as I imagined myself into it? I discovered that sometimes it is worth shouting. I discovered that crowds can be wrong. I discovered that Jesus is the servant king. I realised the crucial nature of that question which Jesus asked: what do you want me to do for you?

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