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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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On the road to Emmaus | Conversatio Divina

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

 

LUKE 24:30–32

 


 

Conversation is neither a science, nor an art. Conversation is a practice. And a spiritual practice, at that.

Of course, all conversations contain moving parts. Equally, all conversations require our creative intuition. Fundamentally though, conversation is something more profound: it is in the very nature of a Trinitarian God, and the way this God engages his creation.

The travellers on the road to Emmaus experienced this as they walked and talked with Jesus. But just when it looked like it was over, they invite Jesus in. He breaks bread with them. Then it clicks: they realise who he is – and understand that they hearts burned because God himself was in their conversation.

What would it take for Christians in workplaces, at school gates, and on street corners across the nation to approach ordinary conversations with an expectation that God is present, speaking, and ‘strangely warming’ hearts? Author Adam S McHugh reflects:

‘We could modify the practice of lectio divina slightly to create a conversatio divina, the practice of sacred conversation. The foundation of conversatio divina is the belief that God is present in and guides the conversations we give him as offerings, and some that we don’t. We listen not only to another person but to the voice that speaks in, through and in spite of human voices.’ (The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction)

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus shows us what conversatio divina looks like.

And at any given moment in any conversation today, we can be deliberate about how we might stoke it. Be present – listen with your full attention. Be curious – ask a question. Or be brave – share something of yourself. As we align our practice with Jesus’ approach, even the smallest talk becomes something beautiful.

My friend Kyle teaches jazz trumpet internationally, in some contexts where the label ‘Christian’ is less than helpful. So Kyle describes himself as ‘a Jesus-guy’. And he practices conversatio divina as a way of sharing Jesus with the people he meets. Even if you don’t like jazz, it’s hard to dislike Kyle. Especially when he describes his approach like this:

‘Conversation becomes a spiritual practice as we learn to listen to others with humility and attention. It’s a happening jam session where everyone shows up, not with a horn, but their soul.’

May we approach conversation as a spiritual practice, and discover the divine in our ordinary interactions. As we do, may we find that souls are connecting. God is working. And hearts are left burning.

Tim Yearsley
Head of Innovation, LICC

How has a memorable conversation left your heart burning? Join the conversation below.

Comments

  1. Thanj you for this thoughtful piece. It sounds like the practice of spiritual direction to me.

    By Rebecca Harris  -  7 Aug 2023
  2. I can’t pinpoint a particular conversation where my heart has been strangely warmed or burned within me but I know there have been some and I can say thank you for this series walking the Emmaus Road together. I have found it gently inspirational and challenging. Thank you.

    By Bev  -  7 Aug 2023
  3. Thanks, Tim, I like this!

    By Will Parker  -  7 Aug 2023

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