“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”
Rumi, Persian mystic and poet
As the Wednesday Daily Cup blogger, I usually start thinking about what I might write on Sundays. This often begins with phrases or words that are stuck in my brain: Scripture passages, adhesive phrases that I’ve heard and read, or just the lyrics of my life--thoughts to turn into words that will eventually pour out on a page.
Rev’d. Geoffrey, no stranger to the right use of words or a handsome turn-of-phrase, is incorporating a new practice in our Sunday morning worship. Silence. He has requested that we observe some significant silence after the sermon. Even though we have been doing this for a few weeks, I initially forgot last Sunday and was getting agitated at this quiet passing of several minutes with no words.
Maybe it’s different in other parts of the country, but here, time is money and influence; time is control. We’re told that words matter. How many of us get antsy when a conversation lags and we feel compelled to fill the vacuum with small talk?
Some years ago, I flunked my initial foray into sitting with others in silent contemplative prayer. True silence is the emptying of our internal chatter, verbalized or not, to create space, and that was a challenge. Even in bed on restless nights after 20 wordless minutes, my husband would suddenly say, “You’re thinking too loud!” Indeed I was.
It’s probably about getting older, but now I prefer the silence. We learn that what we are thinking, what we have to say, really is not so vital. Our words pale in comparison to just listening and resting in God’s presence. Sometimes the presence is more than enough; often, we gain awareness of God’s wisdom for us.
Annie Rosenbauer, contributor to Krista Tippett’s On Being: “Our silence creates space to listen. Our listening creates space to take notice. Our noticing creates space for amazement. It is our amazement that gives us the energy to create change, whether that be in ourselves, in other people, or in the world.” That sounds like a God plan to me.
Integrating silence into our worship, I am reminded of the power of communal silence. Together, as we quietly center in God’s word for us from the sermon, as we collectively quiet ourselves, we strengthen our relationships with God and with each other. That’s another wonderful layer of worship.
Lent is an ideal time to get re-acquainted with silence, creating listening space in church and in all the other aspects of our lives. This noisy season in our national life intensifies the need for stillness, and for being with the One who gives us life and hope.
Shhh. Do it right now.
“O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Book of Common Prayer