Friday, March 20, 2009

Silence: A rest in eternity to impact time

Excerpt: The Parable of the Seed Growing Silently

Because Jesus knows that he must serve his neighbor (literally, those nearest here and now) he can confidently leave to his Father the things farthest away, the great perspectives. By being obedient in his little corner of the highly provincial precincts of Nazareth and Bethlehem he allows himself to be fitted into a great mosaic whose master is God. And that's why he has time for persons; for all time is in the hands of his Father. And that too is why peace and not unrest goes out from him. For God's faithfulness already spans the world like a rainbow: he does not need to build it; he needs only to walk beneath it.

So, because Jesus knows which way the switches are set, because he knows what the outcome of growth and harvest will be, the words he speaks are not prepared, tactical propaganda speeches. The propaganda of men, even when it masquerades as a kind of evangelism and becomes an enterprise of the church, is always based on the accursed notion that success and failure, fruit and harvest are dependent upon our human activity, upon our imagination, energy, and intelligence. Therefore the church too must guard against becoming merely a busy enterprise and pastors must beware of becoming religious administrators devoid of power and dried up as far as spiritual substance is concerned.

Jesus is not a propagandist. And there is one fact which shows that he is not, and that is that for him speaking to his Father in prayer is more important than speaking to men, no matter how great the crowds that gather around him. Just when you think that now he must seize the opportunity, now surely he must strike while the masses are hot and mold them to his purpose, he "passes through the midst of them" and withdraws into the silence of communion with the Father.

Why was it that he spoke with authority, as the scribes and Pharisees did not? Because he was rhetorically gifted, because he was dynamic? No; he spoke with such power because he had first spoken with the Father, because always he came out of silence. He rested in eternity and therefore broke into time with such power. That's why he is so disturbing to time. He lived in communion with God; that's why his speech to men becomes an event of judgment and grace which none can escape.

Jesus' powerful speech derives from the power of his prayer life, and the very reason why he can afford to pray so diligently and give the best hours of the day to this communion with the Father is that he knows that while he rests in eternity it is not that nothing is happening but that in doing this he is rather giving place to God's Spirit, that then God is working and the seed is growing. Woe to the nervous activity of those of little faith! Woe to the anxiousness and busyness of those who do not pray!

Luther once said, "While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer the gospel runs its course." That is truly the finest and most comforting thing I have ever heard said about beer. The conversion of a man is not something that can be "produced." The new life comes into being only by letting God work. Therefore, Luther can cheerfully and trustfully step down from the pulpit; he doesn't need to go on incessantly crying, shouting, and roaring around the country. He can quietly drink his little glass of Wittenberg beer and trust in God. The Lord "gives to his beloved in sleep." In most cases today we do not sin by being undutiful and doing too little work. On the contrary, we ought to ask ourselves whether we are still capable of being idle in God's name. Take my word for it, you can really serve and worship God simply by lying flat on your back for once and getting away from this everlasting pushing and producing.


Helmut Theilicke, "The Parable of the Seed Growing Silently," The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, translated by John W. Doberstein (Harper & Row, ©1957)

No comments: