Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sermon for 21st August 2011

This sermon is a “worked over” version of one of my recent blogs on prayer.


The Revd. J. Michael Povey, at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL.

Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Do you suppose that God ever gets weary with our words and whines?  Has it every occurred to you that God is bored by our prayers? Do you suppose that God sometimes wants to say “be quiet, let me get a word in!”

In 1999 I spent a week at the Taize Community in Burgundy.  I went there for the music.  It was a quiet week in Taize.  There were only about two thousand pilgrims there.  At least sixteen hundred of them were under the age of thirty.  Can you imagine two thousand voices united in singing:


“In God alone my soul can find rest and peace
In God my peace, my joy.
Only in God my soul can find its rest
Find its rest and peace.

The singing was everything I had hoped for.  But I was in for a surprise.  As part of the Taize meetings, we two thousand pilgrims would keep prolonged silences.  Two thousand pilgrims in one big Church, most of them seated on the floor, and you could’ve heard a pin drop.

Oh those silences were difficult.  I was a twitterer before “twitter”, and in the silence my mind tweated ad infinitum.   That was at first.  After a couple of days I began to cope with the silence.  Two or more days later and I began to enjoy it.

At last I was giving God a break from my incessant nattering, and allowing her to speak.  I was learning to listen to God.   And for that I needed silence. I still need it.

We all need silence in the presence of God.  St. Paul reminds us that our call as disciples of the Lord Jesus is this:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).

There are barriers to discerning God’s good and complete will.  

Our minds will never be renewed in Christ so long as we pay so much attention to the nattering nabobs of the left and of the right, and their constant chatter on radio, TV and through the internet.  Those voices will fill our minds with anger, self righteousness, greed, envy and fear.  That is not good, or perfect, or acceptable.

If only we had the sense to take a break from these self appointed experts in order to listen to God!

But it’s not just the the pundits. If only we were courageous enough to take a break from our own natter and chatter, in order to listen to God!

And here’s a revolutionary thought! If only we could entertain the notion that some silence in our services might be necessary in order for us to hear God’s word.  Ah, there’s a novel idea.

It was probably eighteen years ago that Susan, a parishioner in Pittsfield, MA came to see me one Saturday morning. She was and is a very smart business woman.  The spectre of alcoholism was destroying her husband’s life.  She wanted to talk with a christian priest.

Susan began her tale.  Within a minute or two this priest began to talk as he  moved into his male “problem solving” mode.

Susan drew herself up in her chair.  She looked at me and said  “Michael Povey, I am perfectly capable of figuring out my own problems.  I did not come here for your advice.  I came to see you because I wanted someone to listen”!

I suspect that God often wants to say the same to us. God is probably saying “my dearly beloved, I truly do not need your advice.  I simply want you to listen”.  That’s why we need, and I mean need silence in prayer.

“In God alone my soul can find rest and peace
In God my peace, my joy.
Only in God my soul can find its rest
Find its rest and peace.

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