March 2016

Lost for words

I am not a great one for living by a routine, but I do try every Tuesday morning, if possible, to do the pew sheets, and, when I do so, I look at the Bible readings for the coming Sunday, knowing that I am going to have to say something about them. And I do try – and usually fail – to say something which I hope will be relevant and helpful to the people who will be sitting uncomfortably on the pews.

And there is something ironic about this. For, despite appearances to the contrary, a great deal of thought has to go into sermons to explain or elaborate upon that which should be fairly obvious. After all, Jesus’s followers were ordinary people and his message was designed to be readily understood by ordinary people, yet now it apparently needs explaining. And that is not always easy. I sometimes look at the readings and think that weaving something out of it is going to be fun, but then there are occasions when I look blankly at the page and wonder what on earth I can make of that.

St Francis of Assisi said to his followers that they should preach at all times, using words only when absolutely necessary. You preach by the way you lead your life. And there are occasions when words simply are not enough. You can see a wonderful sight - either artistic or natural - and words simply will not do. And you can hear a wonderful story, and the same thing applies. And there is no story more wonderful than the one we celebrate as we pass through Lent and Holy Week and on into Easter. 

There is sometimes the feeling that services should always be full of noise - of people singing or reading or praying. But often that should not be the case. There should be space for something else. I am weaning myself off the use of the word ‘Silence’ and it summons up images of dyspeptic bespectacled librarians. It is a bit threatening. I do like words like ‘Quiet’ or ‘Stillness’, and I do feel that we should try to make space for them in our lives, and in our services, space which allows us to move unencumbered by words deeper into the heart of the mystery of God’s compassion. Some adults tell me that children cannot cope with that: I would have to say that my experience is entirely the reverse. I am going to try to allow more space for it in services, but I think that now is a good time for us to allow space for quiet and stillness in our day-to-day lives: time to look at ourselves and how we can best use our gifts and talents, time to look at the story of Holy Week and what it means to us, and time to celebrate in our hearts the wonder and joy of Easter and its message of love and hope. You don’t need words for that.