Thursday, August 14, 2008

Priestly Goth Preaching Chronicles IV

This past Sunday it was my turn in the rota to preach at Reconciler. The church is in transition, we are looking for a Baptist Pastor and looking at calling an interim. At the beginning of the year a few people who had been coming somewhat regularly for a few months in the fall decided to move on and go elsewhere. This has lead some members to question a number of things both about their involvement at church and the overall ethos of the congregation. Ordinary time is an excellent time to explore the life of faith and of the congregation in sermons, so it would seem a perfect fit, ordinary time and this questioning. Yet where this has all lead me is spiritual disciplines and mysticism. I preached from 1 Kings 19 the story of Elijah, running for his life and ending up in the desert and meeting God in the holy silence, and Mathew 14 the story of the walking on water. Upon my first reading of these texts, I saw the need to preach on keeping moments of silence and solitude as important aspects of our spiritual life. I also saw in these texts a message of grace that we didn't necessarily need to transcend or escape the busyness and noise of our lives but were offered the ability to meet God in silence in the midst of turmoil or the noise of our lives. It was clear to me this was there in the Elijah story: Elijah meets God in the Holy Silence and then is sent by god right back into the midst of what he was fleeing, with a new sense of direction certainly but this all happened as both internally and externally Elijah was in the midst of crisis. I thought something similar might be going on in the story of the walking on water but couldn't put my finger on it. Then last Thursday I saw a friend of mine who at Ennui where I met him a few months back. He is a Theology student at Loyala and we talked about my sermon and what I was thinking I'd preach on. He then latched on to Peter stepping out of the boat on to the water, and that the texts says that it was when he noticed the wind that he began to sink. He then said that if one were seeking to film this that one would have complete silence as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and until peter noticed the wind and began to sink at which point the sound of the wind and the waves would return. And there it was the silence in the midst of the storm right there and I hadn't seen it.

I ended up concluding my sermon talking about small disciplines of silence people could use, from the Jesus prayer to breathing, to taking five minutes with a journal, and some others. In the end it is weird preaching on silence, and disciplines of silence. I have practiced meditation for years, but it always feels a bit awkward to me to tell others to practice it. Largely because I know that I am not as consistent in these things as I could be and that in many ways I am only begining to scratch the surfaces. So, I also attempted to encourage them to not expect to find silence from the start that in many ways there are those who feel called to focus solely on these disciplines their entire lives, so it is not necessarily easy but God meets us, and while taking time to be alone in silence takes faith, also it builds our faith, in part because God is there ready to grab our hand when we step out and try it and begin to sink anyway. God wants us to seek out a relationship with God to be able to find that silent space of that relationship even in the midst of wind and waves of live that can seem overwhelming, but God does not expect us to attain that perfectly but wishes us to seek it out so that our faith and our relationship with God can grow where finding that silent ground of our being becomes more and more natural over time.