….and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence 1 Kings 19.12
Since the Day of Ascension (last Thursday) some of us have participated in Katholikentag, including at church hosting a conversation around ‘women in leadership’ and then our Evensong with stunning music and traditional liturgy pushes the weekend into the monthly welcoming of 2 sets of people: at the Anglican Centre our Refugee families, followed in Church by our Kathy’s Vesper guests. Lots of activity, lots of conversations, lots of engagement.
All this with my verse, at the top, on ‘sheer silence’ still standing. Because these ten days between the Day of Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost (next Sunday) offer a unique form of silence to accompany us on a journey, to invite reflection, to build into our own spiritual disciplines.
Jesus went – the suffering and the disappointment and the despair that summarises the closing days of Holy Week. Jesus and indeed God – absent.
Jesus returned – the joy and astonishment and the disbelief that capture something of the resurrection and the 40 days that follow.
Jesus went – a very small group watched him ascend finally. A very different departure to Good Friday. A very different absence to Holy Saturday. Promises had been made and repeated. Yet the disciples are still cowering in fear. There is not the despair, but there is, one senses, still the ‘what now’, still the ‘where do we go from here’.
For us these are such well known emotions around life experiences.
There are such times between medical tests and diagnosis.
There are such feelings between knowing a marriage or a working relationship is failing and the time when resolution is found, if not yet (or indeed ever) healing and forgiveness.
There is such a sense of feeling lost during periods of unemployment, of mental health struggles, of an exam failed.
We too hide away. And words fail us. Staring into space.
We have this 10 day window every year where we can pray for those known to us who are in such a place, or ourselves.
We can pray for the places in conflict and in rising poverty and the associated hunger.
With all these prayers there is, during this 10 day window, not so much a need for words; rather a ‘holding before God’ of people of situations of places.
But then there is too the call to action.
Precisely because some really big things are not best tackled by what is now termed as ‘blah blah blah’. If not the Church as an institution, then certainly people of faith are called to action.
Silence in this context is standing by and doing nothing when there are those who need us to act.
Just one example – the Evensong collection is going to ‘Brot für die Welt’ (which you can still give to) because Hunger is such a desperate need that is lost. Even in non-war, non-pandemic times, it is a scandal of epic dimensions that there is such a crisis in global food distribution. We in the West have not begun to grasp the difference between Needs and Wants. I am continually shamed by my own ‘entitlements’.
Both the cost of the pandemic and the most recent and for us most local war, are driving up prices, all of us feeling the pinch. There is the world of difference between feeling the pinch and going to bed hungry especially if you are a child.
So here is my challenge – a triple challenge:
- yes hold those in that silent lost place in your prayers
- yes also give give give
- yes combine prayer and giving by daring to ‘fast’*
and may there in coming days / weeks be fewer children going to bed hungry, and may there in coming days / weeks be more people who feel themselves ‘held’ in prayer as they suffer.
May the silence and the waiting for the promised Spirit lend power to our prayers and our actions.
*if you have never fasted before please get in touch for some pointers to get you started
if you feel passionate about those starving (lit):
Brot für die Welt
Share the meal (there is also an app you can download to make one off or regular donations)