March 28, 2021 - Palm Sunday
How can you create space and silence for God in your daily life?
If you’ve been with us for Lent, you’ll know that we are exploring some of the spiritual practices, or spiritual disciplines, that can help us focus on our humanity, devote some time to self-reflection, and practice turning towards Jesus, who waits for us on the cross on Good Friday. So far, we’ve explored (1) self-examination and prayer, (2) scripture, (3) forgiveness and repentance, (4) fasting, and (5) worship.
Close your eyes and just wait 15 seconds. Did that silence make you uncomfortable? If so, why? Have you had moments of connection with God or others in silence?
We all have a relationship with silence, whether we’ve thought about it or not. Some of us enjoy silence. Some of us wish we had more silence in our lives. Silence, though, makes some of us uncomfortable. We feel the need to fill our time with noise - literally or metaphorically. Some of us have been silenced. How do you feel when there is a silent pause in a conversation? Does it depend who it’s with?
Today is Palm Sunday, also called the Sunday of the Passion, when we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but also the final period of Jesus’ life, the period of suffering leading to death. (The word passion is from the Latin patior, to suffer, endure, or bear.) In contrast to the loud praises of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, the passion story is much quieter and more somber. Silence played a role in Jesus’ last days, and it can help us tune into God’s will for our lives.
Jesus intentionally takes time away from all the busyness of the Passover holiday and tense conversation with his disciples (Jn 14:1-31) to be in quiet prayer with God. This is a common practice of Jesus throughout the Gospels, and we might even say that it’s a spiritual discipline for Jesus. In this quiet time, Jesus asks God that, if possible, could he be spared from the suffering that is to come. But then he turns it back over to God, “yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36). It is in creating the space and silence to LISTEN for God’s will that Jesus hears and finds it. We hear a similar theme in the Prophet Isaiah; in order to truly listen, we must practice being quiet.
Jesus takes a few of his disciples with him to Gethsemane. He asks them to stay awake and to keep watch while he prays. Each time that he returns to them, he finds them sleeping. How often do we tune out or turn our brains off when we are faced with scary or sad situations? How often does the silence make us uncomfortable? Instead of using that quiet time away from the others to pray or simply keep watch as asked, they avoid the silence by falling asleep.
Just moments before, Jesus had predicted his disciples would desert him. Peter and all the others were quick to say that they would not leave Jesus. They were quick to defend themselves. But words and actions don’t always match, and they did begin to desert Jesus, by falling asleep when he asked them to stay awake. What if, instead of trying to defend themselves, the disciples had just *listened* to Jesus. What if they had stayed quiet and let their actions do the talking and actually stayed awake when they were aksed instead of just *saying* that they would. Sometimes we talk too much -- as a way of defending ourselves or trying to convince ourselves and others that everything is going to be okay. Practicing silence as a discipline can help us to be more in tune with ourselves and with God, so that we don’t feel so pressured to always say the right thing. We can learn to be comfortable with silence in hard situations when there are no easy answers or right things to say.
While Jesus’ disciples deserted him, we do not go into our time of silence alone. Silence is not the absence of God’s presence. Instead, it gives us the opportunity to tune into ourselves and to what God is saying to us.
Today’s action questions:
- How does silence work in your life?
- What would it look like if you sat in silence for an extra minute a day? Could you sit in the car for an extra minute after you arrive in your driveway and turn it off?
- How can you create space and silence for God in your daily life?
- What might God be saying to us if we would practice quiet listening?
- Could our congregation find a way to incorporate one or two minutes of silence into our worship, where the sanctuary is intentionally free from chit-chat?