Silence March 26, 2014

Silence has long been considered an invaluable and sacred spiritual discipline—especially during Lent. To be still makes space for the Spirit to stir. Silence consents to the Lord’s presence and acknowledges his providential hand. “Be still and know that I am God,” we hear in the Psalms. Silence before God is silence with God, a communion of faith too deep for words.

If you’ve ever practiced intentional silence, then you know while sitting for a minute in silence can feel like hours, silence for an hour feels like a minute. It’s as if you transcend time once your enter God’s presence. For others, silence only feels like a waste of time. Yet from a spiritual perspective, this is what makes silence so significant. Silence is a basic act of faith precisely because you cannot know for certain that anything is to be gained from it. Of course, if nothing else, a moment of silence makes time to mentally run through a neglected to-do list, think about brunch, or rework your March Madness brackets. This is one of the problems with silence: it has a hard time keeping quiet.

Coincidentally, we worship a God who hasn’t always been so quiet either. The Lord speaks from the very beginning of Scripture and shows up loudly throughout. He booms forth in thunder and earthquake, fire and wind. He employs prophets to speak and sing, to rant and rave. A noisy God deliberately contrasts with quiet and worthless idols. The true sign of a false god is that it can’t make a sound. The noisy, true Lord invites noisy worship: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;” sings the Psalmist, “break forth into joyous song and sing praises—with the harp and trumpets and horns. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD.” On Palm Sunday when Jerusalem’s religious leaders tried to squelch the boisterous crowds praising Jesus, he informed them how, “If the people keep quiet, the very stones along the road will cry out with cheers.” At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit made a huge racket, crashing down as fiery tongues, no less, to form the first church.

Created in the image of God, one thing that sets people apart from other creatures is our capacity for speech. As people redeemed by Jesus, the word made flesh, we use words to help and to heal, to do right and make right. Silence has long been considered an invaluable and sacred spiritual discipline—but silence is not an end in itself. Mother Theresa put it this way: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”

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