Shush

Sermons

Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on Proper 25 Yr A (Sunday, October 29, 2017)

Proper 25 Yr. A: Shush

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46

The Reverend Paul D. Allick, Church of the Advent, October 29, 2017

 

I was recently reminded of a book by Susan Cain called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” Cain’s thesis is that we live in a culture that names extroversion as strong and interesting and introversion as something that needs to be cured.

 

This idea came back to me when I attended Holy Eucharist at an unnamed Episcopal Parish in another state while on vacation. As soon as I walked in I knew I was in for an introvert’s nightmare. The sanctuary was loud with small talk and laughter as the pianist played the prelude.

 

I bowed my head in prayer as I attempted to center myself amid the social hour going on around me. Within moments a gregarious woman came up into my space and purposely tried to make me open my eyes by greeting me with a loud, “Well hello there. Welcome!”

 

Apparently, my quietness and attempt to pray made her uneasy. The rest of the liturgy was just fine and the sermon was amazing. The only problem was that the nice young family in front of us talked and fidgeted throughout the entire service. The quiet must have made them nervous.

 

Why are we so afraid to get quiet? Why is it so hard to find peace and quiet at most mainline religious services? Why are we so intent in being relevant to the culture around us?

 

The LORD told Moses to tell the people, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” The Hebrews were to shine among the other nations. They were to be different, set apart, sacred. They were to stand out by not rendering unjust judgments, by being impartial and by not slandering their neighbors. They were not to hate their kin in their heart, to bear grudges or take vengeance. They were to love their neighbor as themselves. In short, they were to live out their religion, not just profess it with their lips.

 

 

The words “holy”, “saint”, and “sacred” all mean to be blessed. To be sacred is also to be set apart. The baptized are holy saints of God because we are called apart to become sacred. This is not about perfection. Our ancestors whom we officially label as “Saints” were not perfect. Only God is perfect. We celebrate their lives and ask for their prayers because they are examples to us. They show us how to strive toward our own holiness in Christ. 

 

This striving toward our blessedness calls us to get quiet. It calls us to be different. This life in Christ calls us to cultural irrelevancy because it calls us to become religious.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals the core meaning of the Law and the Prophets: Love God with all that you have and love your neighbor as yourself. He isn’t telling us to forgo the Law and the Prophets; he is telling us to fulfill the meaning of them.

 

We have a religious manual to help us become more holy, compassionate and peaceful. It is the Book of Common Prayer. It calls us to a life of daily prayer. It calls us to put the Holy Eucharist at the center of our lives. It guides us through the Holy Scriptures. It calls us to observe the Holy Days throughout the year as we learn about the meaning of Christ and the good examples of the Saints. It calls us to understand and own the Creeds and Catechism of our faith. It calls us to be holy people striving to live in harmony with God, each other and all of creation.

 

This is the tradition we steward. This tradition calls us into a good deal of silence and meditation. It calls us from the world of Martha to sit at Jesus’ feet with Mary and hear the one thing that really matters.

 

The world needs some introverted energy right now. The Church, instead of joining in the worship of extroversion, could help by showing the way toward the sacred.

 

Susan Cain wrote, “Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea…which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place.”

 

Even the good Lord himself sought solitude. He took time to think before speaking. I wonder how he would do in a world of Twitter and Facebook? The other ways we avoid silence and contemplation.

 

Cain says, “We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking. … But at the turn of the (20th) century, when we moved into this culture of personality, suddenly what was admired was to be magnetic and charismatic.”

 

I wonder if that is what we’ve been trying to do with Mother Church? Move her from a culture of character to a culture of personality? The world is getting a bit weary of the idolatry of personality right now. Maybe we can give people a place to rest and get quiet.

 

 

 

Quotes from Susan Cain come from Wikiquotes online.