• The Rev. Frank St. Amour, III

Sermon - Last Sunday after Epiphany

In the Name... One evening, a couple had an argument and decided not to talk to each other for the rest of the night. The man, though, realized he had to get up at 5 a.m. to be at a pre-work meeting. So, he gave his wife a note which said, “Wake me at 5.” The next morning, he got up and saw it was 7:00. He was about to shout at his wife when he noticed on his bedstand a note which read, “It’s 5, wake up.” From our Gospel, today, "Then from the cloud came a voice that said "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent." I suppose if you or I went through an experience like that of Peter, James, and John we wouldn't have a lot to say either. One moment we're catching our breath after a long hard climb; the next we see our leader chatting with two of the greatest figures of ancient history. And, if that isn't enough, we hear a voice out of nowhere telling us that, of all of them, he's the one to whom we should pay attention. No wonder they were silent. I can't imagine what they could say. But, there's a lot more to this silence than meets the ear. There are many Greek words meaning to be quiet, or the absence of sound. The word used here, however, "haysuchia", carries with it the sense of stillness and tranquillity and was also the word which meant what we call inner peace. So, the disciples were silent because they experienced an overwhelming sense of peace and that is what comes from being in the presence of God. It's a wonderful place to be and yet so many people live in the constant presence of anxiety and distress. The presence of God is the farthest thing from their minds and that's really strange when you think about it because, as St. Paul often says in his letters, you are the Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit lives within you. So, none of us can really ever be out of the presence of God. What can happen, however, is for the "haysuchia" of inner peace to be drowned out by lots of noise. A famous conductor once said that the rests in music are as important as the notes. And, what is true of music is also true of life. Without intervals of silence, however brief, life, like music, loses much of its beauty and we miss out on hearing the still, small voice of God. This shouldn't come as a great surprise. After all, many of the world's great discoveries have been made in silence. Archimedes discovered the law of specific gravity while relaxing in his bath and Newton woke up to the law of general gravity while snoozing under an apple tree. Galileo was kneeling in the cathedral of Pisa when he realized the principle of the pendulum and Freud unlocked the secrets of the human mind on a couch. The point is that the scientist does not set up shop in the middle of a crowded street, but, in a laboratory secluded from the affairs of the world. Likewise, if we are to make discoveries about God, we must be silent. But, we live in a noisy world. Cars have to be soundproofed because traffic is loud. A news item reported of a large dog that died when cornered and barked at by two small dogs. Even a hundred years ago, noise was identified as a health risk. How, in the midst of this, are we to have any hope of enjoying the tranquillity of soul God wants to bring us? Sometimes people say we have to get away from it all. Go to the beach, or the mountains, or the country. Others head for retreat centres, and that can be helpful. Although, even one of the saints wrote, "It is not necessary to retire into a barren place to practice the presence of God because it is quite possible to do this and remain in one's own home." As WW2 was ending, President Harry Truman was asked how he was able to bear the stress of his office. He replied, "I have a foxhole in my mind." A foxhole in my mind. As a soldier finds his foxhole a place of physical protection and rest, so, too, we need to have a place within ourselves where we may find spiritual rest. Jesus knew about a noisy life. He was always surrounded by crowds. St. Mark describes a typical day: In the morning, he taught in the synagogue, drove out an unclean spirit, healed Peter's mother-in-law (that's probably why Peter denied him later), and then ministered to the sick until bedtime. Wow! But, the Bible also says that Jesus would find ways to take time for personal silence. Our lives are no less noisy than his. We owe it to ourselves to set up a practice of silence. For example, do we log-on for e-mails before we've said our morning prayers? Our minds are always active. I love the phrase, "lost in thought." Maybe we get lost because it's unfamiliar country. But, about what are we thinking? The movie on TV last night, the argument we had with a co-worker. Why not take advantage of our restless mind to focus on some good things? For example, when we're in traffic, instead of turning on the radio to entertain ourselves, why not take advantage of the opportunity to lift our soul to God and pray? When we're stuck behind a garbage truck, or slowing down to pass a road crew, give thanks for the workers and pray for the well-being of their families. When we see someone who's been pulled over, say a prayer that it's not too serious and that everybody stays calm. If we lift our mind upward, we might pick up something coming downward. Even waiting in line at the car wash can be put to advantage. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all. In a couple of days, we begin the season of Lent and next Sunday's Gospel will tell us of Jesus preparing himself for his mission by going away by himself for some spiritual reflection. We too need to go away in ourselves and into the silence of the interior life, the foxhole in our mind, so that we can obey the Father's command to listen to Jesus. When we do, we'll hear a voice that speaks of love and forgiveness, of courage and strength, of life and hope. And hearing it, we can return to our noisy world filled with peace. Filled with haysuchia. In the Name…




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