Milford skies October 2022
I like the early mornings before others in the household are up. The quiet is the best time to think and pray. Of course the cats must be fed first or there will be no peace. Helping a friend move the other day, I was tasked with disposing of unwanted books and other items. Before I went to the charity shop drop-off, I spied the Henri Nouwen book The Way of the Heart in the discard pile, among other things. My library grows, almost against my will.
Nouwen's book is a study of those who chose the desert life, and the spiritual discipline of silence. Before you roll your eyes, he does not advocate that we eschew speech altogether, but rather that we cultivate times of silence in God, from where we speak and act as Christians. We stand apart from the scrolling, spinning, babbling world, and speak a word from silence. 'Teaching about Christ begins in silence.' (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
In a society in which entertainment and distraction are such important preoccupations, ministers are also tempted to join the ranks of those who consider it their primary task to keep other people busy. It is easy to perceive the young and the elderly as people who need to be kept off the streets or on the streets. And ministers frequently find themselves in fierce competition with people and institutions who offer something more exciting that they do. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (p.56)
There is a great challenge in the present century, in that many churches seek to entertain with the sound and light extravaganza. There is another challenge on the North Shore of Auckland, where other activities often beckon and church becomes a lower priority, because people generally have resources, means and options.
What is it that we want? Do we even desire to follow God? We must be honest with ourselves. I am in no doubt whatsoever that the scripture is true when it states;
"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1:6 NRSV). Yet there is a responsibility upon us to be an active participant of that completion.
The ministry of spiritual growth and subsequent Christian thought, word and action begins in the ministry of silence before God. We do not cultivate silence for it's own sake, but rather that from the quiet God would nourish us and enable loving action and wise speech to grow and flourish.