In the silent waiting before God speaks the creation’s beginning, and as God’s breath is building over the waters, we are invited to listen, to attend.
And God speaks light. And dark, and sky and sea and land and life and wonder. And humanity.
There are stories woven throughout scripture, and our experience, where it is only in the silence that God’s voice is heard. In our world, where silence is less and less likely, how shall we find the space to attend to what God might say, in between breaths, in the waiting?
Can we attend to God in the silence, in the whispered breath, when we are being subtly attuned only to wait for the next sound?
“Only in silence the word,– Ursula K Le Guin
only in darkness the light,
only in dying life…”
It is not only the audible distractions, there are also the “devices” which drag our attention and decimate our concentration, so that everything is truncated to bite-sized pieces of information – and misinformation. Notwithstanding a vital and historical invitation to listen by our First Nations, to heed their voice from history and in our present, other images fill our screens and louder noises fill our ears because there’s a tax on millionaires or MAFS has another fabricated crisis.
As we are trained for sound bite after tiktok, how we will discern what God has to say, when we need to pause, to pay attention? The measured steps to Easter – the journey we name as Lent – require pauses along the way; we lay burdens and distractions aside so that we might better heed what Christ has to offer us.
However, we have better, more colourful things to do and hear and see. We can find a way for worship and witness to fit our culture, so everyone will be satisfied. If we fill our worship with content, then we can hold everyone’s attention; we can craft a sermonette, so that there’s barely a hindrance to our day and our discipleship; and, of course, silence is “dead space”, so we trim that from our diet.
Yet, Easter finds us, each and every year.
We have always tried to whittle God’s presence from our own, and to shape it for our purposes. Lent is offered to challenge that, gradually; Easter stands, at the heart of creation and history, to repudiate it.
When we are sufficiently deceived to think of power as earthquake, wind and fire, a still, small voice, speaks in the silence and the dark.
Before all the hallelujahs, the whisper of God is heard from Gethsemane to Golgotha. We would want to rush to glory, but there is more to hear and see.
At the moment when Christ is silenced, when his execution echoes throughout creation, God’s fullness is proclaimed to us. In the silence, we listen for what God, in Christ, is saying, and we wait. Here, crucified, is God. There is no moment when God is more completely God than this.
This is God, for us, at the heart of history. In the deafening silence of the cross is Jesus Christ.
There, at the foot of the cross, we wait.
And there, at the tomb, we wait, holding every breath.
Then, in the emptiness of the second, new, morning, everything is transformed. God’s breath is stirring in the silence. God speaks light, and life and wonder. And renews our humanity.
We cannot rush here, nor tell this story in a sound bite. We cannot sprint from cross to resurrection without attending to the death of Christ and the wonder of what God in Christ has done. We dare not let ourselves be distracted from this event of God residing at the core.
For all those breaking, or broken; for all those who are lost, or who have lost; for all those believing themselves beyond hope, this story is essential.
Our hallelujahs rise, because having waited with Christ in the silence, we see what God has done, and is doing. Our hope, our forgiveness, are here, because this event proclaims that death is not the whole story, that resurrected life through Christ speaks more fully than any utterance of death, and our emptiness is filled with the love and glory of God.
Listen, if you have hope, in the silence, for what God will say.