I am a preacher and a pastor. I make a distinction between pastor and preacher though many will use these titles interchangeably. As pastor, I help lead a congregation as a co-shepherd, as one who comes alongside folks and offers comfort, nurture, support. As a preacher I speak from and about God’s word. It is in preaching that I feel most connected to God, most alive. It was in preaching that I experienced my call to ministry. It is preaching that I continue to find confirmation of that call. I love to preach.
Specifically, I love when scripture comes alive and intersects with the imaginations of those gathered as we collectively participate in the preaching event. I grow excited when a message is transformed through the Holy Spirit to become a shared experience of God.
Preaching is what I most enjoy about who I am, it is central to how I understand myself as a servant of God. Preaching is a pretty big deal.
But preaching is not just proclamation. Preaching is also preparation and discernment and listening. Preaching is silence.
A silence where God gets to speak. Where I pause in asking my questions of scripture and tradition and experience and reason and let God get a word in edgewise. Preaching is the silence that waits for God to share an image or a story. It is the quiet of contemplation. It is more than the absence of my rambling, it is the space where God enters in and does what only God can do. Silence is me getting out-of-the-way.
Admittedly, I don’t always let the silence come. Or more often, I rush its departure. It’s hard to wait. It’s difficult to sit in silence, to let it stretch, to allow the pause to become pregnant, to let the moment ripen.
But this is the most crucial part of preaching. Without the silence, the words are just my words. Without the connection silence facilitates, the message is flat and lifeless. Silence is what gives the words power. It is through silence that they will speak.
But silencing myself can be hard work. More than the cessation of speaking, I mean to calm the mind, to be still and know that God is God.
Ah, but again I recognize the gift of Lent. Silence. It is a practice. It is a discipline. And where do practices and disciplines find room to surface and grow stronger? Lent.
I’m going to try a daily discipline (not a rigid legalistic practice, but hopefully a helpful focus) of silence to build more listening into my life’s rhythm. I plan to start with one minute every hour where I will just pause and listen for God.
You think sitting in silence for a minute an hour is too wimpy? Try and let me know how you do. Better yet, show me a better way and I will join you in the practice.
Life is better together,