Wednesday, April 24, 2013

After These Things...

I am writing this a week after the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  At this point the suspects have been identified and caught.  The story still makes the front page of the newspaper but no longer fills it.  We are settling in and calming down.  With the culture of running that is part of Cape Cod, especially the Falmouth area, many people feel a kinship with the victims of the attack, having crossed the marathon finish line themselves.

Soon we will start hearing stories about the good that has come out of these attacks.  We are already hearing stories of heroes, marathoners finishing the marathon then running to give blood; first responders and soldiers running toward the blast to help others.  There will be other good things that happen as communities band together to help those who were injured.  I do not want to take away from any of these stories.

At the same time I do want to be careful as we hear about the good that comes out of tragedy.  Sometimes we reach a place where we use that good to justify the evil saying, "These attacks were allowed to happen so that good things might come out of them."  This thought process is part of our very human need to find a reason for things.  For Christians this tendency may go back to the image of the cross where we see an ultimate good coming out of a violent action.

Sometimes there is no reason.  Sometimes we need to be clear that evil is evil.  I do not believe that there is reason for the attacks at the Boston marathon that will make sense outside of the minds of the perpetrators.  I do not believe that there is a political or symbolic reason that can in any way justify attacks on the innocent.

But after these things, good will come.  For some people, they will see the good that comes out of evil as a triumph of the human spirit.  For me, as a person of faith, I see the divine at work when good can come from senseless violence.  This good does not justify the violence or the evil, but it reminds me that evil cannot have the final victory.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Now the Silence

During the Lenten season, we hosted prayer services that were shaped by silence.  We would gather together and use different techniques for gaining focus.  One week we used the flame of a candle; another, words of scripture; still another, our large Good Friday cross.  After between fifteen and twenty-five minutes of silence, we debriefed the time, talking about insights and the experience. 

I can't say that we had huge particpation.  I believe at the largest there were ten of us together.  But those that did attend seemed to find the time both spiritually helpful and extremely peaceful.  I was personally impressed with the ideas and interpretation that came out of our work with scripture.

Spending even that short time working with silence has made me much more aware of how the church either lives and works with silence or dismisses it as uncomfortable dead air.  I have attended unprogrammed Quaker meetings that embrace silence.  I have heard people talk about silence as the result of poor planning.  This brings me to my title for this post.

I recently attended a service where a hymn was played during the collection of the offering by the name of, "Now the Silence."  It's a fairly short song with only one verse that is frequently sung in preparation for Communion.  The service was crowded so the song didn't cover the full time for the collection.  In order to avoid a time of actual silence, the organist launched into a second chorus of "Now the Silence."  I had a moment of paradox and irony when I realized that we were singing about silence in order to avoid silence.

Silence is the canvas on which worship is painted.  It is the prism by which light is divided into a spectrum of colors.  The church needs to find a place for silence, for we worship a God who is the God of peace and stillness as well as the God music and celebration.  We worship a God who speaks in a still, small voice as well as a God who speaks out of whirlwinds. 

There is great depth in silence.  I hope that the church can come to experience it as a gracious gift of peace and rest.