This has been a very sad week in our congregation, a week in which two of our families have lost very close loved ones.
I am sure we all struggle to find words to express our solidarity with the grief that others are experiencing. Sometimes, because we don’t know what to say, we do not contact the person who is grieving. Perhaps we find it uncomfortable to be with someone and remain silent. We so often fill our moments with words and music and distractions rather than sitting with the silence.
In the midst of suffering and grief, people often ask where is God? Why does God not comfort us? Why does God seem so far away when we need God’s comfort the most? Why is God silent? Why does God not speak to us? If people do not sense God’s presence, perhaps they feel abandoned. I sometimes wonder if ministers are too quick to tell people that God is with them. Someone telling you that God is with you when you feel far from God’s presence can make God feel even more distant.
Lately I read that ‘silence is the language of God and all else is a poor translation’ (Rumi). Listening for the silences is very important. The other day I was listening to the wind blowing and in the midst of the deafening sound there were pauses as if the wind were drawing breath before unleashing its mighty breath on the helpless trees again. To listen to God we have to listen to silence, to listen to the pauses between the words that are spoken. It is important that we read Scripture in this way, pausing to reflect, to contemplate. Sometimes it is not directly in the words of Scripture that we sense God’s voice, but in the quietness as we sit with the words in our ears.
Recently I have written about listening with one’s heart rather than one’s mind. Eckhart Tolle would call this listening with one’s being rather than listening with the ego. This is listening from a place that is deeply connected with God. What we hear with the heart is often very different to what we hear with the mind. In the mind we often hear what we want to hear, we have lots of filters, that perhaps that drown out God’s quiet voice. But listening with the heart is different the heart is fully open and tuned to God’s voice and can hear even when there are no words and no sounds.
A few weeks ago, my attention was drawn to the word Selah in the Psalms, and I wrote about it in my Sunday reflection. Some believe that the word Selah means, pause, be still, silence. Today’s Psalm contains two Selahs. Please read through the Psalm asking for God to speak to you as you pause and be silent and still after the words you have just read. It may take a lot of practice and patience.
May we all learn to listen for God in the silences. May we learn the language of God.
At this time when we are so isolated from each other and when we cannot be present with one another in our grief may those who grieve find comfort in the silences around them where their loved one no longer lives. Even in our separation may we sense the comfort of one another. Come to us God and may we come to you. Come close to us. Amen.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation