The house is silent, but for the rhythmic ticking of my study clock, and the muted rumble of passing traffic.
I am home alone and all is still. Time for coffee; a small, strong, espresso cup, Italian sized coffee. Pause; enjoy the silence, lay down the busyness of the day; if only for a moment.
Regular readers will know that this coffee break is my indulgence. Many years ago, I was in Rome for a conference. This was the conference that set me on the path to ordination. Amidst all the excitement and anticipation of the weekend, I can still remember slipping into a little back-street supermarket with a couple of friends (one of whom like me now ordained), looking for an Italian coffee pot. An unusual souvenir to bring home perhaps but so much cheaper in Rome.
Whether we are truly busy, or pointedly ‘busy doing nothing’ (as Bing Crosby once sang), work can always expand to fill the time available. Busyness can become a way of not listening; so we all need silence. Not just a lack of sound, but a stillness of mind. Coffee or no, we all need something to intrude into our busyness, something to help us stop, if only for an instant, and create space to hear God speaking to us.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus frequently made space in his busy life to speak with his heavenly father; space to avoid the crowds and focus on what really mattered. Sometimes he made the time; got up early or sent his disciples on ahead; on other occasions he just took the opportunity when it came. These were the moments that recharged him.
Generations earlier the prophet Elijah, on the run and in fear for his life; after experiencing earthquake, storm and fire, found God in the sound of sheer silence (1 Kings 19: 11-13 – NRSV). From that encounter he gained a new strength.
Time for coffee, time for silence. The beauty of this time is its impermanence – a gift from almighty God.
Rev. Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 6th September is available in the Download section.