This Sunday evening we are gathering at church to hear the testimonies of our baptismal candidates, as well as sharing our testimonies with them. I remember when I was 17, I had to share a testimony before I got baptized, but it was with a group of deacons. Maybe you had to share a testimony when you were a young adult, you know that it’s a nerve-wracking experience. Speaking in public is never easy, and speaking in public about something as deep as faith is even harder.
Our tradition encourages sharing testimonies before we are baptized because there is a time for words. A time to sit down and struggle to put words to something personal and meaningful. How well will your words express what you need them to express? It depends, but often we find that words are inadequate. They capture something of what we want to say, but not all of it.
This Sunday I will be finishing our series on “God and the Spiritual Life”, and I’ll be talking about the fact that there is also a time for silence. A time where words fail us, a time where we need to give up the word thing and just be with God. When is it a time for words, and when is it a time for silence? That’s the tricky part!
Today’s prayer: Help Claire and Jesslyn as they work to find words that express their faith in you. Help us to have courage to articulate our own faith when we are given the chance. Give us wisdom to know when we are called to speak, and when we are called to be silent.
The verb “retreat” is a bad word from a military perspective. Military leaders don’t like to retreat, they always want to advance towards their goals. Retreat often means defeat. It means to fall back and give yourself a chance to regroup.
In civilian life, though, the noun “retreat” is a good one. This summer you may have gone to a resort that is described as a “retreat”, a woodland oasis, away from the busy city. As a church we have gone on a number of “retreats”, weekends where we go away as a community. I wonder about how we can use the verb “retreat”. Do you ever feel the need to retreat, to stop advancing? Do you ever need the opportunity to regroup?
Jesus felt the need to retreat. At numerous times throughout the gospels we see him taking time to retreat. Sometimes it’s a mini-retreat, an evening on a lonely mountainside alone. Other times it’s weeks of time in the wilderness, where he faces his deepest fears alone. Sometimes his retreats away are chosen, but other times they are forced upon him. He did not want to pray alone in the garden of Gethsemene, but the disciples could not watch and pray with him. It was a lonely time, a time to listen to the voice of God.
This Sunday I want to challenge us all to think about retreats in the context of our lives. What would a retreat look like for you? Is worship a time of retreat? Do you take the time to retreat alone, or are your alone times filled with busy activities and entertainments? What would God reveal to you in a time of silence?
This week’s prayer: Help us to hear your voice calling us to a quiet place, a place where we can better hear your voice. Amen.