Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Work of Lent: Part 4

Over a year ago I wrote a series of these "blurbs" about the intersection between sabbaths and Sundays.

One of the properties of sabbath that is often lost on Sundays -- especially as Christians observe them -- is silence.  Few worship workshops, church growth seminars, church convention vendor booths or diocesan guidelines regard silence as something on which to build or grow.

A quick review of the church supply catalogues and other resources that arrive and beckon incessantly will demonstrate the point just as well.  They offer us the latest in microphones and speakers but NO sound proofing materials.  We are encouraged to upgrade to the newest in multilevel membership tracking software but nothing to promote meditation or mindfulness. We are bedazzled with elegant and ornate vestments, sterling vessels and gilded fixtures with hardly a wooden candle stick or processional cross to consider.  We vote on purpose statements and slogans galore but say nothing about "communicants in good standing" being determined by how well they maintain silence.

I get it that this silence thing is not an easy way to build a church.  You need all those other elements and practices just as much.  Unfortunately other than the mandates on Ash Wednesday just before the imposition of ashes, during the entrance and prayers of Good Friday or when the BCP says "A period of silence is kept" following the breaking of the bread in holy communion most of what we establish is a permissive or suggestive practice of silence.  Indeed, no word accompanies the word "silence" in the BCP more than the word "may."

So how do we build with silence?

One answer is implied at least and mentioned often in the Growing a Rule of Life curriculum.

When we are led to work through the delayed gratification of not yet fashioning a rule of life more than four weeks into our study but instead have shared our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, our relationships with others and our relationship with God we are implying a silence.

It is a way to say to those of us who would prefer a beginner's kit to hit the ground running, that we must first survey as much of the world in which our rule will be practiced and take the time to create a space, one as clear as can be of obstruction and distraction.

The gardening metaphor is ideal for this task.  It recalls our actions on the Tuesday before we begin our Lenten journey.  Then we "shrived" to rid our spiritual pantries of those wasteful and spoiled things we have accreted and stored in darkness.

Shrove Tuesday may be busy but by being a first round of weeding it sets the stage for silence.  Gone in a rush of intentional over-exposure are the fats and sugars, the toys and glitter that would litter or distract us.

I love how we have been led by our Cowley brothers in this study.  As much by what they have not said as what they have said.  As much by what we have not yet done as we have done.  They have given us so much but they have not given it all or promised too much.  We still have more to do, to name, to imagine, to practice.

But under all of this is a silence.

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