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Listening in silence

Listening in silence

The alleluias rang out on Easter Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection. The hymns were sung with greater volume, reflecting the joy of the day and more voices in church.

And then Monday came, and while the din was different, there was still a lot of it. North Korea. Syria. Immigration. Health care. Tax reform. Gun legislation. It is lot of noise, and for many of us – and certainly for me, I can't seem to turn it off. Not only does it threaten to crowd out the Easter memory, on some days it has become a perverse addiction. The noise keeps many of us in fight-or-flight mode, rendering our psyches on perpetual red alert.

While we celebrate Easter with great fanfare, the original story was one of silence. An empty tomb. A quiet morning when the women first arrived. Easter was first proclaimed in silence.

Over the years I have discovered that silence is an important and life-giving exercise. Spending time in silence is a form of listening, not to mention an important balance to the cacophony that surrounds us. I have found that silence is a unique gateway to discerning clarity, receiving God's blessing and claiming our belovedness.

Some of us are relieved that Lent is over, and whatever we took on or gave up for that season is now in the rear view mirror. But now we have the Easter season, which gives us seven weeks to absorb the Easter story and accept the gift of new life – for Jesus and for us as well.

I invite you to experiment with some intentional journeys into silence this Easter season. Start with a couple of minutes. Invite God in, and when the various tasks, concerns, anxiety and pain inevitably creep in and take up space or take over your mind, don't punish yourself. Gently go back to the silence. Or stop and try another time.

About twenty years ago I visited the ecumenical Taizé community in southern France. Their music, mode of hospitality and style of worship draws thousands of pilgrims each week from all over the world. The entire community gathers three times a day for worship in a barn-like structure that can expand to accommodate up to 5,000 people. The prayers and chants reflect the linguistic diversity of the gathered community. And then there is ten minutes of silence. At every service. After a few days there, with so many languages being spoken and sung, I discovered that silence is the world's common language.

We listened in silence. And that silence drew us closer as a community as much as the music and hospitality did. Ever since the community was founded during World War II, Taizé's mission has been the practice of reconciliation, which they have carried out quietly but effectively all over the world. A mission grounded in silence.

We need silence. The world needs our witness of silence – which is not simply the absence of sound, but the space in which God's presence shows up in a unique and life giving way. And which can provide clarity as to how best to move forward in a world that is flooded with noise, and how we might better listen to one another.

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