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.
This past week my husband attended a family funeral in Manitoba. His cousin’s wife was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 54. The grief was compounded by the fact that this cousin had lost his oldest son in a car accident 13 years ago, so this was the second time that same family had to deal with such a sudden shocking death.
As Eugene was getting ready to go to the airport, he asked whether I would write a card to them. I sat down, with the card in front of me, and thought about this family. I just was at a loss for words. In the end I said, “We can’t find words to express our sorrow. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers constantly.”
Sometimes when faced with grief, we can just blurt things out, trying to say something, anything, to make the situation better. Some nice sounding religious words, “She’s in a better place now.” “God called her home.” I’ve sometimes said things like that. I think sometimes we are afraid to enter into the silence of grief, that lonely soul-searing place where all we can do is cry. The women who stood at the foot of the cross watching Jesus suffer entered into that type of silence.
How does God reach out to us in silence? What role does silence play in hearing the voice of God? I’m going to be talking about in my sermon this week. Maybe we’ll find some silence in our service too, just to try it out.
This week’s prayer: _______________________________________________________________________.
One of the hardest things for me to get my head around is that there is no sound in space. Giant asteroids smashing into one another, quietly. Supernovas exploding, noiselessly. All that space and not a peep. Somehow, when I look at the stars there seems to be a silence that falls from the night sky from all that space up there.
This week I’m thinking about silence, and how important silence is for living faithfully on God’s blue planet. I’m wondering about you. Where is there silence in your life? For some silence is hard to find…toddlers yell and scream, teenagers play drums, noisy neighbours are never far away. For some people in our congregation, the house is painfully quiet because a son or daughter has moved away, or a loved one has died. Between friends there is companionable silence, but then there can also be stony silence. Silence is something that some of us are looking for, and for some of us, silence happens only when the power goes out!
Silence before God is something that is an essential part of the spiritual life. Otherwise it’s like a friendship in which one person chatters on and on…it’s a friendship with shallow roots, because the other person never gets a word in edgewise! Silence in congregational worship is also important. We stop talking, stop singing, stop doing and just wait on God. Our Quaker brothers and sisters can teach us something about this…they’ll have whole services where the group sits in silence, listening for God, waiting for God’s voice.
This week you can make a choice. Walk out the door, leaving behind other people, the TV and the radio, empty out the pockets so you’re not burdened by cellphone or ipod and walk a few steps into the forest or field. At night, look up into the darkness where the silent stars go by. Is there enough silence in your life to hear what you need to hear?
This week’s prayer: Help me to crave silence like water, silence that fills my soul with your quiet presence. Silence like living water.