Friday, June 04, 2010

C, Pentecost 2 Proper 5 - Psalm 146 - The Silence of the Lamb

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. 2 I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mere mortals, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— the Lord, who remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:1-6)
Silence! What happens in silence? It’s something we’re not very use to today. If it’s too quiet we turn on the television or the radio. Even when we seek seclusion we rarely seek silence once there. We read a book, or perhaps we listen to our thoughts. The noise of dreams and nightmares disturbs the silent peacefulness desired in sleep. But when the reality of death hits home as the coffin quietly descends into the earth the silence seems to almost deafen us. It appears we would choose busyness, voices, and noise over silence. Why is that?
The English word ‘idiot’ is a Greek word meaning, a ‘private person’, ‘one on their own’, or “an ignorer of everyone except the self’. An idiot was one who kept to themselves, through choice, arrogance, class separation, or was separated by the misfortune of disease, sickness, or uncleanness. To understand the Greek sense of the word today we do well to consider an idiot as a person in seclusion, who only has themselves to talk to. These persons would seem silent, but perhaps they were preoccupied with the noise within themselves. Whereas our understanding of an idiot is someone who does foolish things that no one else would do, hence we would say they’re mad or an idiot.
Perhaps we seek sound over silence so we’re not perceived as idiots. As much as we seek our space, and our own identity, we don’t want to be left out, all by ourselves, with no one else to talk to except ourselves.
But then again maybe we don’t fear the label of idiot coming from outside ourselves as much as we fear it coming from within us. Perhaps we fear silence, and seek to cloud our lives with so much noise so we have no time to stop and see the reality of who we truly are! Maybe in the reality of true silence, we see our fragility, our insecurity, our dis-ease with God, our helplessness and need to be dependant on someone else, or we see our dying mortality.
In the silence of ourselves, in the core of our hidden being, we see sin and chaos are killing us. I’m not talking about the academic knowledge of sin, but the ugly bitter stuff that makes you suffer and grieve and churn and doubt, time and time again. You know - the things you do, the shame and the struggle you go through failing to stop going back to what you promised you wouldn’t do. Left alone to our own devices we see the idiocy, the ugliness, and our complete inability to save ourselves.
If I hid the idiot within— that is, hiding my inner person who tells me what I’m really like— then perhaps I won’t hear the idiot telling me, I have no control, I haven’t got the answers. I’m an idiot, I’m a sinner, and there’s no way I can save myself from the wages of my sin – death. It’s no wonder we find our silence so painful as we watch the reality of humanity’s sin sink silently into the grave at a funeral.
Unfortunately, the very nature of preaching means I make noise! So having just heard about the gravity of our hopelessness, let’s have some silence in the presence of God, to think about all the times we’ve ignored God, to think about the idiotic moments of worry and doubt, and pride, to think about the things we have coveted – ourselves, our time, our possessions. Let’s sit in silence before God who sees and knows everything and will judge us according to what we have done. (Take at least one minute of silence)
It’s a hard thing to do! Notice the noise still trying to creep in, creep out. External noise, internal noise – deafening the silence. No doubt some of you sat here in silence feeling the crushing weight of sin. Some of you thought this to be nonsense or perhaps were embarrassed by the silence, so you became noisy in negativity. Some of you probably felt uncomfortable, like you had to do something, sitting there willing me ‘to get on with it’! Then maybe some felt a bit guilty that nothing was coming to mind, guilty at the sound of silence. Perhaps some of you became busy side-stepping your sin, thinking it’s not really that bad. And then even some of you might possibly be thinking about the ugliness of someone else’s sin.
When we stop and listen to ourselves in silence, we soon see sin. Sin as a result of what we’ve done, what we haven’t done – shame from shame, pride from pride, true sinner from true sinner. Whether we like it or not, in the silence we see our gods. But also whether we like it or not, God of God, Light of Lights, very God of very God, comes to us in the silence and sheds his light on the idiot, revealing the pathetic plight of the pitiful private person.
It’s just as well God has placed the idiot in humanity’s midst. Not so much the idiot or the self-centred person within, but others through whom his strength is demonstrated in their weakness. It was God who fed the widow through Elijah, and when her son died, she saw in the silence of her son, her sin, her hopeless plight, against the perfect holiness of God. All were rendered silent before God, and it was God who saved from death.
Saint Paul too was taken from publicly persecuting the church into private retreat. After he saw the foolishness of his zealous crusade on the road to Damascus, when the Lord blinded him and reduced him to an idiot. God silenced him, spoke to him, and then he used him.
But the greatest is he who came as the least, Jesus Christ. The Son of God came in such a way, many thought he was an idiot, many today still think the church is full of idiots, and they’re completely right. Jesus walked through life toward death; he trusted his Father, submitting to him completely, and was often found alone in prayer. Jesus was a private person, a loner. Yet his loneliness led him to be publicly crucified on the cross. The silence of this Lamb, was idiocy at its greatest, making the loneliness and foolishness of Christ on the cross our greatest victory. Now every one of our idiot gods of folly is nailed there forever, and we have a God privately giving us his silence and peace in our noisy sinful beings.
In the stark reality of death. At the point in time where our inner being runs out of answers and the idiot within is silenced. When our sin and suffering seem to have success, salvation comes in the suffering and silencing of God’s own Son, sent to be our idiot, sent to be the Holy One of God on his own, on the cross. Just as Jesus met the funeral procession on his way to the cross, let him lead you out of yourself and into him at the cross. So in the midst of the noise and clamour of our fallen creation, where death seems to silence forever, stand in the silence of the cross and in the faithful promise God makes to you there in the silence of his death. Amen.
Heavenly Father, when your Son, the Lamb of God was silenced for our sin on the cross, you saved us. And in raising Jesus Christ in victory over sin and death, all who trust in him now look forward to the eternal silencing of sin and death. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts who now gives voice to your Word, so we might know Jesus is risen, trust that Christ is with us, and believe we too will be raised with Jesus to be with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.