Silence and Word

EPV - 27 May 2023

I grew up in the country. I don’t think I really noticed a couple of key things until much later – because often you only notice things when they’re not there anymore.

But there were two things. When you would go outside, particularly on a night like this, pretty chilly kind of night. The night sky was just stunning, you know, we were able to see the full. Sense of the Milky Way. Just the full expanse of every single kind of star in constellation – because there wasn’t any light pollution down there on the South Coast, you know, so far away from any major source of light pollution.

But the other thing is the sounds, just the purity of the sounds at night. In those days, the Princes Highway really wasn’t that busy, and so there were long periods when there was no sound at all of traffic and all that you would ever hear was just the sound of nature. Perhaps the cows kind of mooing and the chickens doing their thing, and the dogs and the cats.

But then sometimes they were also still so all you would pick up was just the wind in the gum trees or in the oak trees the sound of the Creek burbling away down in the valley below. It was wonderful and beautiful.

And I remember when I moved to Sydney to go to university, just being overwhelmed by the sound of the city. It’s just like 3:00 o’clock in the morning. I would go outside the house. And I’m like, what on earth is the noise that is there? Just the constant buzz and hum – this constant sound of traffic. Then later on when I moved into the inner city and it was just like worse, just this constant noise and sound that just assailed the senses.

And yet, for us, you know, we love adding extra noise to our day, whether that’s having just the radio or the TV on in the background. And of course, these days we have so many choices, you know, well, mobile devices can be pinging away and giving us notifications on social media. Or what new TikTok video or what new thing on Instagram we need to watch or to view or what our friends on Facebook are up to? Or the streaming platforms of listening to music or watching content. You know, we can be so assailed by all sorts of stuff and every single one of those platforms then has its own ads and other things that are trying to vie for our attention.

Both the visual pollution and the auditory pollution are constant. And yet we wonder why the Holy Spirit may not seem to be that active in our lives. You know, we’re invited first to listen. Pentecost is a Jewish celebration of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The first thing that we hear in Exodus 19. The first commandment that the Lord says to the people is. “If you listen to me…” Then you will be my chosen people. You will be the people that have been set apart and of all of the nations, all the nations of mine. But I want you to be my chosen ones. I want you to be the ones who are invited and called back into life.

But the first thing that we need to do for that is to hear. Saint Paul in Romans 10 tells us that faith comes from hearing, and that makes sense. You know, it’s when our parents above all first began to tell us about the ways of God when they first began to pray with us, when our catechists and when our teachers then also began to share. The good news about Jesus with us, we began to be shaped and formed by the words that we heard. We need to listen. We need to have that heart that opens ourselves to that still small voice.

Again, back in Exodus: the people were, you know, overwhelmed when the Lord showed up on Mount Sinai. Of all of the wonders, the Thunder and the Lightning, and suddenly the whole mountain is wreathed in smoke. And some scholars think that everyone was being invited to come up the mountain with Moses to meet the Lord for the people are like no, no, no! Moses, you can go. We’ll stay down here at the bottom of the mountain because sometimes the presence of God can be a bit overwhelming.

You know, when the disciples that they gathered in the upper room 50 days now, after the wonders of the resurrection, they’re still very much overwhelmed by all that has happened. They’re not yet ready to launch out, but once this mighty wind blows through the house. Once the people begin to experience the wonders of God, once they experience them personally – and it’s always this personal call that God is inviting us into – once every single person there received the gift of the Holy Spirit and they began then to speak.

Think of the wonders. Because there is this interaction that happens when we open ourselves to hearing when we let space for God to speak, then naturally we want to also share that naturally, we want to speak the truth of God into the lives of those around us. And there is this transformation that happens.

Well, the first thing is that we need to just rest. Remember when Elijah went up onto the mountain the same mountain the mountain of Sinai, the mountain of horror? And the Lord seemed to be present in in different ways. There was an earthquake, and there was a fire, and there was a storm. But were told that Elijah didn’t feel the presence of God in anyone of those things. It was only when it’s hard to translate what the next phrase is. It was only when there was the silence or the still small voice. That Elijah recognised that here is the presence of God.

But we need to make space for that to happen. We need to let go of all those other noises. We need to make space to let God. And to breathe the peace of Lord into us. That’s when Pentecost happens. Not in the noise, not in the hustle, not in the bustle. But you’re making space. To let the one who truly loves us speak those words of life and love and goodness. To free us. To restore us to bring us back into his peace and his presence.

This week we get the choice once again to make some space. To shut off some of those other noises so that we can indeed be truly present. To let the love of God be spoken deeply and gently into each heart, calling us and inviting us with his spirit to bring his peace, to create us anew, and to allow the wonders of God’s love to be revealed within our world.

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