Thursday, November 29, 2007

Even Faithful Folks Can Benefit From Silence

With my Bible Study class last Monday night I worked through the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It is a truly beautiful story that is such a wonderful parallel to the story of Abraham and Sarah. For years Abraham and Sarah had been told that they would bear a son. As a childless couple, advanced in years, it would probably take a while to come to terms with this kind of news. Zechariah, in the throws of fulfilling his sacred task as a priest of the Lord, is given the same news, but clearly the timeline is considerably compressed. As is perfectly understandable Zechariah has to absorb such news. His response to Gabriel is traditionally interpreted as a lack of faith, or doubt. Personally, I think that is a bad rap. After all, we’re told from the beginning that Zechariah and Elizabeth are righteous people who live blamelessly. Rather than doubt it is a statement that seeks understanding. Clearly Zechariah needs to come to terms with this news. Gabriel obliges by striking him mute. He is to be mute until it is time to announce God’s Good News. While some might see being struck mute as punishment, I’ve come to understand that it is truly a gift, an opportunity to make sense of the incredible.

I’ve learned in my own growth in the discipline of silence that it is truly amazing what I can hear, discern and perceive when I shut up long enough to listen. We live in such a loud world and we spend so much time speaking. It is often difficult to hear God, understand God’s Word and come to terms with God’s claim on us in Christ when there is so much noise. So, I’ve learned the value of silence and listening. Even now, so shaped and transformed by the rigors of the Two Year Academy, my need to engage in silence is increasing rather than decreasing. I’ve found the core of my life and faith in listening in silence.

While I haven’t done anything that represents an organized study of this notion, my sense is that all of us can benefit from taking the time to turn off the noise and listen to God. This discipline can do so much to orient us more completely to God. This is consistent with the ways that Paul exhorts the early church (in most of his letters) to stay focused on living faithfully in Christ. This focus can only come when we regularly take the time to turn off the TV, shake off the world and settle into God’s presence. I’ve come to believe that this practice is essential to a perfecting spirituality and relationship with Christ.

Spend some time in silence. Be patient…it might take some time to get into the discipline. In time, it will be worth the time it takes.