April 15th – “Quiet”
Awful weather this morning, so I skipped church, stayed home and watched golf.
You could say that golf and church have nothing in common, but there is one similarity, they both require moments of complete silence. I know why churches need silence in their worship time, but I have always wondered why golfers insist on silence when they are about to make a shot (they are even surrounded by course officials with none-to-subtle signs that say “quiet”). I assume it’s because they need to concentrate and focus. But what a about a basketball player lining up a three-pointer, or a pitcher going into his/her wind-up? They don’t require silence to prepare, in fact they seem to feed off the boisterous energy of the crowd. I even tried to put myself in the position of a professional golfer. I think the silent eyes of hundreds of people watching me would be so intimidating I would miss my shot. I would prefer the crowd to be busy and distracted. Still, golfers and tennis players (and probably a few others) nurture their skills in silence, and it seems to work for them.
There is a favourite story of mine in the Bible about the prophet Elijah. He was on the run from a difficult situation in his life, and he wanted a reassuring message from God. Long story short, he finds himself in a cave on a mountain. And then all heck breaks loose. There is wind, fire, an earthquake, rain and thunder. Elijah assumes that this is God, thundering a message to him. But it is not God. It is only when the storm passes and “sheer silence” settles in, that God speaks, in what the Bible describes as a still, small voice.
Perhaps the point is that just as there is no one way to perfect our athletic skills, there is no one way to perfect our spiritual skills. Some people need the energy and noise of music, or dancing, or even passionate preaching or motivational speaking to feel the sacred move within them. Others, need to wait for the storm to pass and mine the silent aftermath for the whisper of the holy.
Perhaps a good church provides for both, a place where the energy of the stadium, and the silence of the tee, come together to offer a pathway into the presence of God.
“Silence is an ocean. Speech is a river” – Rumi