Do you ever just stop to listen in to the silence?
One of our elders on session right now is really good at this sort of thing. We were catching up with one another for a few moments after the meeting Sunday night. It began raining. She interrupted the flow of our conversation, "Shhh. Heart that?"
I was caught off guard a bit. Sure, the hiss of the droplets flopping and sliding down the year's last leaves numerous times per second was obvious. But that's not at all what she meant. This elder demonstrated in a mere moment how to stop and tune in to listen to the silence. While I was crunching droplets per square foot estimates in my non-mathematical brain, she quieted her mind and became aware in an instant of nature's vastness and the creative mind of God. The fact that she was bold enough to interrupt our socially graceful conversation and risk it all in a moment because of her sense of the kingdom of heaven at hand (Matt. 13.44) in order to share her joy with a brother in Christ makes this story especially churchy. Through the silence, this elder witnessed to me and exhorted me at the very roots of our faith (Rom. 1.20) in a mere passing moment.
I see the power of this silence at work in other elders as well. As I write, two of them are spending the week in New Orleans with a sister PC(USA) church from the Columbia area, still quietly helping that city recover from disaster long after all the news coverage went elsewhere years ago. In my other job, I get to work side-by-side with one of our elders and his partner in the real world of repairs and services. And each day, they win the hearts and minds of people in the greater Columbia area of every race, creed, and status because they're fair, diligent, and give their best to everyone. It's almost like this elder and his partner silently engage in a living prayer (Phil. 4.13).
Sure, we could go on and on about all of the ways our elders silently take up their crosses and follow Christ. Grass is cut and trimmed. Signage shows up mysteriously on the lawn. Hours are spent shaping up and focusing our committees around our strategic plan. Great leaps occur in the budget in times of financial crisis. Bulletins, newsletters, worship A/V shows up so consistently we take it for granted. Silently, the work goes on and on above and beyond the call.
Yes, I've only mentioned a group of nine folks ordained to lead the way in ministry. Endless examples abound in the way our staff faithfully but silently makes our worship and small group experiences meaningful and thought provoking. And of course, you all are there silently serving on committees. You serve and welcome visitors with the hospitality of the Holy Spirit week after week. You do too many other things to mention. But, most of all, you show up to participate with this faith family as she does her most important work: worship.
It feels like, at least when I tune into the silence, that God has us in a particular season of ministry. The message is deafening in that silence: If you will just be faithful in listening for and following me, I will take care of building my church. Christ builds his church. Our only task is to be faithful to him at each passing moment.
"Shhh. Hear that?"