A Scholar's Devotion

A Scholar’s Devotion with Jonathan Moo

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Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. Jonathan Moo if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord? 

I find it works best for me to take time during my breakfast and morning coffee to pray and read a bit in the Greek NT and Hebrew OT (especially the Psalms) and sometimes a longer section of Scripture in English. If I am to use the time well, it’s essential for me to avoid checking email or news or my phone or any of the other things that might distract me until afterwards; otherwise it’s too easy to get caught up in whatever else is facing me that day and then to rush through my reading and prayers or neglect them altogether.

I usually work through a biblical book that I haven’t read in a while, though often during the school year I focus my morning reading on something I’m teaching later that day. Sometimes, especially during Advent and Lent, I add poetry or readings from theologians whose writing I find especially compelling. Less often (though I’m beginning to think it should be more), I will use the time to practice lectio divina. Whenever the weather’s nice enough, all this is done outside in the garden.

I’d like you to think that I’m consistent in always spending lots of time on this, but the reality is sometimes it’s ten minutes over breakfast before heading out the door. I admire those who are more disciplined and consistent in the time they give, but what I find most important is simply to do it at all. In summer and breaks, my morning reading and prayer time tends to be longer, and sometimes I’ll relive my years as a PhD student, when I’d spend up to two hours in what amounted to a combination of devotional time and language study, reading Scripture and theological texts in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, German, and French. Sigh. Call it too much work, too little sleep, or a lack of discipline on my part, but that doesn’t happen much these days.

2. How do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ?

Sharing in the Eucharist reminds me every week of my union with Christ and with my brothers and sisters here and around the world. It is this that holds me and indeed strengthens me in my love for Christ. And despite my own lack of musical skill, my love for Christ and for his people and his world is deepened in profound ways that remain mysterious to me through music and singing together.

I also find it absolutely necessary to spend regular time outside, preferably in quieter places away from human settlement, where I can walk or run or snowshoe or ski and just sit and look and think and pray. When I’ve lived in the center of cities, even a small park or particularly beautiful tree will do, but the wilder the better for recalling me to my place in the community of creation and re-centering me in Christ. Such times are part of a pattern of Sabbath rest, which I neglect to my peril. These include at a minimum substantial time away from the distractions of phone and email and at best time outside in the mountains, working in the garden, reading Scripture and poetry and natural history and books that have nothing to do with my work, listening to music, and eating good food with beloved family and friends and students. This may seem an odd response to a question about practical things that deepen my love for Christ, but, alongside Scripture, it is through these gifts of God’s good creation that the incarnate Christ is made visible to me.

Besides all this, I have the extraordinary gift of spending much of my life teaching Scripture and theology, and in this joyful work I am confronted over and over again with the shocking love of God in Christ who through the Spirit sustains and strengthens me in my weakness. I have found that it is so often in the giving of ourselves to others in the service of Christ’s kingdom that we find God doing the greatest work in our own lives.

Jonathan Moo is Associate Professor of Theology at Whitworth University. He has edited As Long as the Earth Endures, Let Creation Rejoice, and Creation Care (my review)

Thank you, Dr. Moo!

Other Scholars’ Devotions

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