Sunday, February 7, 2021



Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, 

where he prayed.

Mark 1:29-39

When I was a young boy, we lived across the road from my grandparents. We simply ran back and forth all day, as if we had a home and a branch office across the road. One of the things I remember clearly is going in the front door of their house after dark, knowing they would be sitting side-by-side in the dark in their rocking chairs.

They sat down in their rocking chairs after supper and, even though the sun had gone down and it had gotten dark, they didn’t bother to turn on a lamp. They just sat there, probably in silence, rocking. I always knew where my grandfather was sitting because I could see the red dot of his unfiltered Camel cigarette glowing in the dark. It never crossed my mind whether they thought my arrival was a nuisance or a relief from the solitude. I guess I thought I was doing them a favor barging in uninvited!

I read somewhere that couples who can enjoy their time together in silence will always stay together, but a child cannot imagine anyone actually enjoying silence.

Today we read about Jesus getting up early in the morning to go off by himself for some silent prayer. Notice some of the things the Scripture text says. "He rose, very early, before dawn, to go off to a deserted place." “Everybody was looking for him.” “The whole town was gathered at the door.” “They brought to him all who were sick or possessed.” “He cured many of the sick and drove out their demons.” After all that, it says he rests, prays for direction and then moves on to another town to minister to the people there.

This is the pace and pattern of Jesus’ ministry – frantic activity, withdrawal and rest, prayer for clarity and then back to work!  We see it here and we see it again and again. In chapter six, after an especially busy time, it says that Jesus took his apostles to a deserted place to rest and pray before going back to work. Sounding very contemporary, the Scripture text says, “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat!”

For many people today, this kind of "silence in a deserted place" can be downright scary. There is a term for it – sadatephobia. This “fear of silence” was relatively unheard of  fifty years ago, back in the days my grandparents ended their day sitting together in silence, but today psychotherapists are seeing large numbers of individuals who cannot tolerate silence and they believe the numbers will continue to rise in the coming decades.

Many experts believe that technology has given rise to the constant need for sound, therefore producing a greater number of people suffering from sadatephobia. For many more people, not just the young anymore, it is impossible to sit in a quiet room for even a few minutes without their phones, music, TV or the noise of traffic around them.

I have suspected for a long time now that there is, as well, a connection between the noise level of the world and the loss of our sense of the divine.  Simply put, it seems to me that the world is so noisy today that even God can’t get a word in edgewise.

There is a beautiful moment in the Bible when the prophet Elijah feels God’s presence. The Scriptures say that a powerful wind tore the mountains apart, but God was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. It was the whisper of God. From all I know about God, he doesn’t yell, he whispers. Maybe that is why we can’t hear him too well these days. 

Silence, today, is looked on as odd, when in reality it may be dangerous to do without it. American writer and journalist, Susan Taylor, says, “We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly - spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.”

Several years ago, we dumped the idea that we need to honor the third commandment that tells us that we should stop every seventh day to rest and pray. Thinking that the whole idea of regular day of rest was outdated, thinking that we know better than God, we created the endless-loop workweek. Now we are dealing with the results of such arrogance: stress related diseases, alienation among spouses and children, and the rise of the drug culture to kill the pain and to help us sleep. Thinking that the whole idea of a regular day of prayer was outdated, thinking that we can do without God’s guidance and input, we replaced regular prayer time with recreation, shopping and more work.

Is it a sin not to observe the Sabbath, not to rest and pray with the community once a week, like they used to say it was many years ago? Yes, I believe it is! Yes, I believe it is a sin! Why, because it hurts God? No! It's a sin because it hurts us! God gave us the third commandment, not because he needs our worship and he needs rest, but because we need to express our gratitude and we need to rest, because we need to listen for God’s direction in prayer before we go back into our frantic lives on Monday and because we need to spend some quiet time, on a regular basis, with our families and friends.

The world tells us that the secret to success is to do more. God tells us that the secret to success is to do less. Who are you listening to?

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