Sunday, November 28, 2010
Has Life Gotten a Little Noisy???
There is also a great deal of planned noise around us. When we turn on a radio or CD player or switch on the TV without sitting down to listen or watch, we are adding planned noise. It is still background noise but it is not the surprise of a phone ringing or a baby’s cry. We have been conditioned by the noise in our lives to need that noise. I know of people who cannot sleep without a TV or radio on. The sound of silence has become an alien sound to a people surrounded by noise.
Sometimes we added planned noise into the worship service as well. One writer suggests that we are afraid of losing the attention span of people accustomed to noise so we program noise into the worship service to keep folks from drifting away. The sound of silence often makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know what to do during silence. It is awkward to a people whose lives are defined by noise and activity.
There was a time when silence was more common, when lives were filled with the sound of nothing. Before work became a 24 hour activity, before electricity made lights and sound cheap and accessible, and before we found a constant need to be entertained, people of all ages knew a good bit of silence in their daily lives. The down time we cry for has become a foreign and uncomfortable reality. Silence leaves us too exposed. So we plan noise.
Churches often plan with the idea that folks are excited to be there, look for the good seats, and expect to excitement – expect something worth clapping their hands to or for. So many try to give what they think folks expect. It may be what folks expect but is it what they need?
I wish that I could get away with planning 15 minutes of silence into the Sunday liturgy. I know that even I would find it awkward - at least at first. But we need such “down time” to think, to reflect, to meditate, to ponder. The Gospel is not light entertainment but the story of sin and grace, death and life, loss and redemption. God has entered space and time with a purpose and plan that will not be complete until suffering has suffered and death is dead. This is a profound message with great consequences for us. Isn’t it worth a few moments of quiet reflection?
Amid a world filled with so much noise, it might be intimidating to listen to the sound of silence but it could be very fruitful. As one author put it, “there was a time when our job was to be quiet, to think about God, to ponder our sin, to pray for forgiveness...” Instead of rushing to stand up and say something, maybe we need to take that extra time for some quiet. In the face of such a powerfully story of suffering, death and resurrection it is unnatural and naive to think that we can rush on into the next part of the service. When God welcomes us with the voice of grace and forgiveness, perhaps the most significant thing we can do is to sit quietly as the Spirit works within us the fitting response of faith.
Advent is a great season for some silence. Alas, we have trouble with silence and when it occurs in the liturgy I see people look around, wondering, “Who missed their cue?” But I urge you to take a chance and turn off the radio, turn off the TV, close your mouth, and sit in silence... for a little while anyway...