Saturday, November 30, 2013

Create Silence

My psalm for this week has been Psalm 62. In it the psalmist writes, “Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation…My soul, wait silently for God alone.” So I thought it fortuitous that I came upon this quotation from Kierkegaard during the week:

“If I were a doctor and I had to prescribe one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would say: “Create silence.” For even if the Word of God were proclaimed in all its splendor, it would not be heard among all the panoply of noise in the modern world. Therefore, create silence.”

I wonder what Kierkegaard would say if he were alive today? He lived from 1813 -1855, hardly a world that we would call “modern”, but it was modern to him. If there was unceasing “noise” then what do we have today? We are so accustomed to it that we don’t hear it, we think cacophony is normal, we don’t know it for what it is, chaff drowning out the Word of God.   

I’m reminded of the following passages from Psalms, “My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch fro the morning – I say more than those who watch for the morning [130:6]. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” [131:2].

It isn’t just that those who don’t know Christ are so noisy that they can’t hear the Word of God, it is also, and in a sense more distressing, that those who profess to know Jesus Christ are so noisy they can’t read and hear God’s Word. Our souls clamor for noise, for stimuli, for immediate diversion, gratification, and answers. We approach the Scriptures as if they are to be mastered like multiplication tables, when we are the ones who should be mastered by God’s Word. We cannot remain with a passage long enough to absorb it and to be absorbed by it, we move so quickly in our mind and heart that the Word has little opportunity to piece our inner person, the depths of our soul. We scatter the seed of the Word on surface soil…and then we complain that we can’t recall Biblical passages, or that we don’t understand this section of the Bible, or that we don’t really like reading the Bible because it’s so hard to understand.

Soil preparation is critical to gardening; only a fool of a gardener complains that there is no crop when all he did was scatter seed on rock and on the surface of the ground. Just as we’d rather purchase our produce at the grocery store rather than grow our own, we’d rather rely on someone else to tell us what the Bible means…never having a direct encounter with the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, never investing our time, our minds, our hearts…never quieting our souls. It is amusing that some Protestants still accuse Roman Catholics of needing human mediators when the Protestants have their own mediators of Scripture and experience. (Yes, we all need others in our lives to experience the Bible and church life, koinonia is critical to our life in Christ – but we are all to participate in koinonia, we are all to bring produce from our gardens.)

How is it that daily Bible reading is looked upon as something that only a certain class of Christians do? How is it that daily Bible reading is looked upon as something unusual within the church? How have we come to this? How is this possible? And how is it that when we do read the Bible we often do it surrounded by noise? The noise of the world, the noise of electronics, the noise of study Bibles, the noise of commentaries? (Study Bibles and commentaries have their place, but it is not the place of first impression, it is not the place of learning the content of the passage, it is not the place of first-impression communion with the Word of God made alive by the Holy Spirit).

Two of the key characteristics of Biblical Christians are now looked upon in the Western church as only to be practiced by unusual Christians – daily Bible reading and witnessing. While this may not be an articulated attitude, it is a functional attitude. This is tragically amazing..we are too noisy to hear God and we see nothing wrong with that.

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