Monday, March 19, 2007

Silence and Sabbath

Silence is scarce.

As I start to write this, wanting to write on our congregational experience during Lent of sitting in increasing amounts (a minute increasing by a half minute each week) of silence, my daughter is in the room next to me watching a re-run episode of "The Lucy Show." Somehow it seems like a fitting dose of reality. How hard it is to find quiet time, time to sit in silence. This Sunday, it seemed to me as if people were sinking into the silence. There didn't seem to be the shuffling and rustling that we've had in previous weeks. Note to self: don't announce the amount of time that we'll have and then people don't wonder when it's supposed to be up. But there was a power, an enfolding or upholding of the gathered community as the silence deepened. I think we were making space for God.

Even early in the morning, in my supposed quiet time, it's hard to find silence or space for silence. The kettle whistles, the furnace clanks, refrigerator whirs, the computer hums and cars swish by. Even now, although it is quieter since my daughter went upstairs, my chair squeaks and I hear the clock ticking as my fingers are tapping. Why is it easier to find God in the silence than in the busy-ness and noise? I'm not denying that it is—I'm just wondering why we're not wired to find God in rush of everyday?

I read somewhere recently that Sabbath is the most radical contribution of Judaism to the world, or maybe it was the most radical contribution of any religion to the world in 4000 years. Not that Sabbath is always silence, but it is holy time, and it seems to me that we were achieving holy time on Sunday in our silence. Somehow in my mind I equate the spaciousness of Sabbath with the quality of silence we had.

My calendar popup reminders intrude as I try to sit in silence again. And I suspect that if I close my eyes to sit in silence now, I may be asleep—restless night from aching shoveling muscles last night.

If we lost scents and ritual in the reformation, it was a much bigger loss to have lost Sabbath keeping, whenever it was that we did. Blue laws, that remnant of Puritanism, really didn't ensure Sabbath, although the laws helped to control the options. How hard would it be to buck the tide and keep a day of Sabbath in a Christian tradition? How hard is it to find 3-4 minutes of intentional silence? Yet, what an absolute blessing it is when we do.

I tried yet again to sit in silence, and my mind has too much chatter just now. So, there it is. Yesterday I felt enfolded by others around, like being wrapped in a communal blanket of silence. My mind was not nearly so noisy.

I'll miss the silence during service when Lent is over. I'm not sure that I've made enough space for God, but it's been a special part of the season, not a giving up, but a getting.

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