Silence Please - a summary of Paul's New Year talk. Paul Ad

2015

In 1989 ‘Back to the Future’ offered me the hope of a hoverboard in 2015.  It didn’t even cross my to think that I might not actually want one by then. 

So do I want one?

More to the point - would I spend my money on a hovering skateboard?

No!

A flying car that runs on rubbish, maybe! 

For 2015 I’m hoping:

1.     That we wont be inundated with too many Star Wars trailers.  It’s not that I don’t like Star Wars.  I do, and I’d like to see the film.  But it doesn’t come out until December 18th.  So please, go easy!

2.     For the best for family and friends.  For my children’s exams, for our health, for financial stability, for nothing to go wrong.

3.     For our world to embrace peace, equality, friendship and a sense of responsibility to care for our planet – which includes picking up dog poo as well as tackling climate change.

4.     To allow more space in my mind for the mind of Christ. 

No. 4 came out of a discussion at the Bear leadership team meeting at the end of 2014 (shortly after seeing my first Star Wars trailer at the cinema).  

We were discussing the year ahead and, as the meeting was closing, Richard asked:

Why isn’t God doing more?

Of course we all have our theories.  And they usually range across the scale from: He can’t because he doesn’t exist or he’s evil, through: he is but we can’t see the bigger picture, to: he’d like to but he needs our assistance.

Some of my theories will be in a book that I am hoping to release in 2015.  That’s another hope, a new hope! 

But whatever we think, and infuriating as we may find each other’s theories, the response for a Christian is to trust God, and obey. 

Simple!

But not that easy because it’s hard to trust.   

Yes we start life trusting everybody entirely.  But we grow up to learn that you can’t trust everybody.  Especially, according to a survey in the Week: politicians, journalists, bankers, estate agents, builders and lawyers.

Sometimes we end up not being able to trust anybody.  But that’s not because nobody is trustworthy, that’s because a few bad eggs, in important places in our lives, can that ruin it for everybody.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

It’s tremendously peace inducing reading this.  But it doesn’t mean it’s easy just to trust God. because, apart form growing up with complex trust issues, we’ve also noticed that there’s a lot wrong with the world, and we can’t help but wonder why God isn’t doing more to solve it.

Like I said: we all have our theories.  

But, for now, rather than asking why somebody else isn’t doing more - in this case God – and coming up with a list of things he should be getting on with this year - perhaps we could ask ourselves what we can be getting on with this year?  

So I’m suggesting 3 simple things that we can choose to practice, that provide an environment for trust to grow, and therefore give us confidence for obedience.

 1 – Daily time with God

I know it’s simple but have you ever met a person who really trusts God who does not talk with him every day?  It's unlikely that one of us will be the first.

 2 – Listen more than talk - Silence

Jesus said: “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. – (John 12:49).  And that: “he can only do what he sees the Father doing. (John 5:19)

The only way you are going to know what God is doing is if you listen.

But let’s use the word ‘Silence’.  Listen is a good word but silence seems to have more energy – like something big is going to happen.

Richard Rhor’s daily meditation from the Centre for Action and Contemplation (CAC) on Dec 23rd was entitled:  ‘Silence’.  In it he writes: “spiritual silence has the same practical effect as the presence of God.”  That it becomes “the constant spring inside us, welling up unto eternal life” (John 4:14).  And that: “Without .. silence we are never living and never tasting… ..without silence, nothing has the power to change us, to awaken us, to give us that joy that (Jesus talked about) that the world cannot give (John 16:22).

So, on New Years Day I left the house early to walk my dog.  And I said to God:  “Would you like me to spend more time in silence this year?  If so, will you speak this morning, to confirm it? “

Half an hour later I bumped into The Rev Canon Graham Cornick in Greenwich park.  Graham used to be the vicar of St Nicholas’ church in Deptford.  He was always an inspiration, a man of wisdom and life.  He may be old and frail now but he's still full of wisdom and life in his spirit.  I see him maybe twice a year in the park. 

So I asked him what God was saying this year.  And he replied:

“Paul! The most powerful thing a Christian can do is mediate in silence – to listen to God”

I then asked if he had read Richard Rhor’s CAC updates, to which he answered:

“No, but every day I sit in silence with an angel – my daughter asked the angel’s name – I said I don’t know, but the angel has the mind of Christ.”

I’m not going to discuss the idea of sitting with an angel now but I will say that we should  allow as much room in our minds for the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).  It would certainly help make sense of Richard’s question.

Maybe this word is just for me.  Or maybe it’s for all of us?  Maybe we should all deliberately carve out time to be silent - to push the complexities of life, the confusions and suffering aside – Just for a few moments, and ask God to fill the silence, to give us his mind?

Grahams last words to me that morning were: “The only way God can do anything is if we allow him to use us.” 

“Ok, I’m in”, I thought.

I then went home and watched the Queen’s Christmas message on youtube (having missed it at Christmas).  In it she reflected on the powerful images from the installation of the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, where each poppy represented one of the 888,246 British military fatalities from the first world war.  

She comments: “The only possible reaction was silence.”

Nobody really has the words to describe or explain the suffering caused by that war or any other, or any disease or disaster, but we can be silent to give space for God.

For his presence - for his love to surround us.

Which, as Bear Grylls explained to Stephen Fry on his TV show: ‘Bear Grylls’ Wild Weekends’, is “like swimming – you can feel (water) all around you and you know its holding you up, but its hard to describe it if you never swam, but its actually been the greater strength in my life..”

You don’t know till you try – but you can try.

3 – Be deliberate about accountability.

This is deliberately regularly discussing the things that you feel God is speaking to you about with other people, with people you trust.

Doing this helps remind and inspire us, especially in the more difficult times.  And it means we pray for each other.

Choosing to practice these three things this year will mean that if God does want to do more then we are going to be there too, involved, and not getting in the way.