Bulletin #4: January, 2017
In our world, there are plenty of distractions – from the constant pings of our phones, emails, social media, to constant TV watching, to radio, to the general busyness of life. Having a “Sabbath” has to do with disconnecting ourselves from the distractions of our everyday life, so that we can connect with God and hear what he has to say. When we regularly withdraw from the world like this, we allow ourselves to hear God’s perspective on situations around us. As Christians in an ever more troubling world, cultivating the discipline of silence and unplugging from distractions, is an essential tool in our arsenal against injustice. Without this discipline of silence and the God-given revelation that it supports, we will behave in a knee-jerk manner in response to unjust situations just like the rest of the world does and will have very little light to shed on the troubling issues of our day.
Here’s An Applicable Scripture:
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him, Habakkuk 2:20
God is not a powerless bystander in the world today – he resides within us and is always communicating with humans and the entire earth. Our role as believers is to accurately deliver God’s messages to the rest of humanity. We are under a sustained spiritual attack of noise and distraction and therefore the ears of our hearts are becoming hard of hearing. In the face of the injustices, paralysis and wrongdoings in our world – we are all commanded to be silent, to be still, to listen carefully, so that the revelation of God for our generation may pour out of the temples of our hearts, in simplicity, in truth and with life-giving power.
Will you take a “Time Out” This Month?
As human beings made in the image of God, we were created to have rhythms of silence, noise, community and solitude. What if we, as the church in Boston, decided to do a collective time-out for one day each week on all of the noise and busyness? What if we had a technology-free day? No TV, no internet, no phones, no radio or i-pods, or social media? It isn’t just having the quiet though. We can use that quiet to create a rich environment for sorting out our internal voices and to hear the voice of God on some of the most pressing justice issues of our times. By “hearing the voice of God” we aren’t necessarily saying that we will hear an audible voice with our natural ears. Instead it is our heart that hears. In order to having hearing hearts, we must sort out all of our inner voices to hear the foundational truth of the matter. We then test that “truth” to see if it is accurate – and this is a practice that cannot be rushed. What if the Christians in Boston were known for having “hearing hearts?”
S. Korea: People Gathering Strength and Clarity
In the 1800s, South Korean Christians, a small minority, were faced with persecution and even death for their Christian beliefs. Masses of these believers started the practice of ascending nearby mountains during the early hours of the morning to pray and intercede for their country. Today over 30% of South Koreans are Protestant Christians (whereas only approximately 6% of Bostonians are Protestant Christians) and they are the second largest provider of the world’s Christian missionaries. Seoul contains 11 of the world’s 12 largest churches. Despite daily threats of annihilation by hostile North Korea, South Korea remains one of the world’s most successful economies. Today, the South Korean Prayer Mountains are national treasures where people still travel to pray in solitude.
Think about an area in your home, garden, your car, on one of the beautiful New England mountains, or some other location where you might regularly be able to be completely alone and in quiet. What are some of your barriers towards using that location regularly? Discuss strategies on how to remove those barriers. Does being alone, doing nothing, frighten you? Why?
Esther Circle Activity:
Carve out 2 hours of free time and space. Make sure you aren’t terribly busy before or after that 2 hour window and then – for the first hour, do absolutely nothing. Don’t try to produce anything. You may pray or sing a little in the beginning to get yourself focused on God, but this is a listening exercise, so make sure you leave 45 or more minutes to just listen instead of praying or singing. Then consider one perplexing issue, like terrorism, environmental issues, community violence, forced labor or refugee issues. Unlike meditative exercises, you aren’t trying to empty your mind from the issue, you are trying to hear your thoughts about the issue. You are also trying to discern the difference between your thoughts, information that the world is telling you about the issue and then finally what God is saying about the issue. Then, for the second hour, write down what you are thinking, feeling, seeing and hearing about the issue. Were you able to sort out the voices? Then share what you have experienced.
Extended Activities You Can Do:
To increase your capacity to hear with the ears of your heart, make it a regular practice to unplug and practice quiet and solitude. Consider an at-home “stay-cation” where you spend a week or more being still and in solitude. Or if a quiet house isn’t possible for you, research retreat locations where you can go away and spend a few days or more in quiet. Many retreat locations are very low cost – you can travel to one with your spouse or a friend.