It is a tradition that our Minister writes a letter every month which is printed in our magazine, "The Messenger". Here is Deacon Marilyn's letter which appears in the November edition.
When God is Silent
Communication has a higher value in society than contemplation and information is in greater demand than reflection. It’s more and more difficult for us to choose silence when communication is possible. To let the phone ring, to leave the email unread, to turn the mobile off … to choose silence for even an hour, we must risk the loss of connection with other people, who may have a hard time understanding how anything could be more important to us than responding to them. We must also handle our own sense of anxiety … what if that call is an important one … what about the thing I want to say that just can’t wait.
Sometimes silence can produce so much internal chatter that it cancels itself out. I have recently read a little book called “When God is silent – divine language beyond words” by Barbara Brown Taylor. In it, she reflects on the yearning for communication with a God who often seems to be silent, the limitations of the language we have at our disposal to speak about God; and the huge responsibility upon anyone who attempts to “speak” for God, whether in preaching or pastoral encounter.
She recalls a story of James Breech going to hear the poet W.H. Auden. The lecture hall was packed-out, with hundreds of people chattering. When Auden stood up to read his poetry, he spoke so softly that even with a microphone he was hard to hear. People began whispering to each other what they thought Auden had said until the poet himself could no longer be heard. His would-be interpreters had drowned him out.
Breech commented that for the speaker’s own voice to be heard, the go-betweens must be silent. For us, when the poet happens to be God, this advice takes on special Ordination Reflections significance. The space behind the microphone remains empty, because God does not show up to read God’s own story – that job has been delegated to us. Whatever form our proclamation takes, if God’s story is to be heard, then we must be the ones who share it; but not without being quiet first – listening for the voice of the author.
Barbara Brown Taylor gives a beautiful image of finding silence in a cathedral. She describes it like another world. It’s so quiet that the people can hear each other breathing. So quiet you could hear the candles burning and the flowers spilling their sweet scent. There’s no question where the silence is coming from. It’s rolling towards them from the altar, where it is so quiet they can hear Someone Else think.
As we launch forward into the round of the church’s year, the meetings, the groups, the committees, in emails and all the talking, can we be, will we be willing enough, brave enough, trusting enough, to model to those around us the need for silence so we can hear God speak?
Lead us into the silence that can both listen and hear,
into the openness that can receive,
into the rest that holds us in your way.
Lead us within the mystery of silence.
Help us to hear the great silence at the heart of God.
Help us to trust the eternal listener in the silence,
the mysterious presence at the heart of silence that sustains,
enables, listens within and to the depths that we shall never exhaust or fathom.
(Donald Eadie – Grain in Winter)
God bless you
Deacon Marilyn Slowe