ADVENT REFLECTION: Bearing The Word by Enuma Okoro

December 24, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light, which lighted every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Seeing Those Who Dream by Enuma Okoro

December 23, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part Three: Trusting and Receiving God’s Word Trusting God is a daily discipline that cannot be dependent on how we feel.  There will be countless times when we do not feel like trusting because circumstances seem insurmountable.  Yet, we will ourselves to claim the truth of God’s trustworthiness because we claim the truth of God’s unchanging character.  Scripture and community are indispensable to our waiting seasons.  Scripture holds countless testimonies of God’s enduring faithfulness throughout the history of God’s people.  It holds countless stories of people just like us who received God’s word and struggled to trust God’s word and often tried to take matters [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 21 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 22, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent When God calls us, God equips us with holy strength and human support.  No one bears God’s word alone, and yet, nothing can make us available to God but the state of our hearts and spirits.  The refiner’s fire can have many manifestations.  It is a call to repentance, introspection, and communal engagement.  During Advent there is a need to be called apart from and called into a journey with the community of God. No amount or configuration of words can do justice to the experience of the Annunciation.  How does one describe the descent of a message-laden angel to the home of a seemingly average teenage girl to tell her that the Spirit of God will soon inhabit her youthful [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: What Are You Waiting For? by Enuma Okoro

December 21, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. (Luke 1:53) We assume the time John the Baptist spends waiting and preparing in the wilderness is in order to steep his identity in God.  From before John’s conception, God has claimed his life.  John’s primary identity will always be in relation to Jesus and in how John lived out his call to ministry.  Someone like John is always bound to make people, including us, uncomfortable because his existence points us away from ourselves and toward the Kingdom of God.  We do not naturally and without some inner resistance make the shift from self to God.  John’s life and ministry compels us to [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Holy Friendship by Enuma Okoro

December 19, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:56) Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (James 5:7-10) The narrative leaves out so much information concerning the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Mary And Elizabeth by Enuma Okoro

December 18, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: The Refiner’s Fire by Enuma Okoro

December 17, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Wait And Prepare by Enuma Okoro

December 16, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part Two: Preparation and Laboring With God’s Promises The psalmist pleads with God, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long,” (Psalms 25:4-5).  In the earnestness of this prayer we get some sense of what waiting means for this psalmist.  It is not a passive waiting on God but a waiting that anticipates growth, development, and guidance.  Even when the waiting period is painful the psalmist can pray for openness to what God desires him to learn within this space. When the circumstances of our lives suggest that God is calling us to a season of waiting, we [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 14 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 15, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Waiting is difficult business.  Sometimes the hardest work is staying still and trusting that God works even in silence.  We want the confirmation of burning bushes, pillars of fire, and visiting angels.  That is not the stuff of ordinary life, but it does not mean that miracles are outdated or that we cannot expect God to speak new and even unbelievable possibility into our individual and collective lives.  There is something to be said for conditioning ourselves to anticipate these possibilities.  Most of us do not wake up ready and able to receive or understand God’s words.  We have to train ourselves to become the type of Earthly vessels that can endure the challenging joy [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Holy Retreat by Enuma Okoro

December 14, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Divine Preparation by Enuma Okoro

December 13, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. (Luke 1:24-25) After Zechariah’s visit from the angel, he returns home with nothing to say to his wife.  But soon, to Elizabeth’s astonishment, she becomes pregnant.  Elizabeth remains in seclusion for the next five months, and it is just as well given Zechariah’s muteness.  What can there have been to say?  Sometimes contemplation is the most fitting response to God’s word or action in our lives. In traditional religious circles, we are rarely taught the value of quiet [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Dwelling In God’s Strength by Enuma Okoro

December 12, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) We have all said at one point or another, “If I just knew what would [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Silence by Enuma Okoro

December 11, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. (Luke 1:20-23) Traditionally we read Luke 1:20-23 as God’s punishment of Zechariah for his lack of faith in God’s words.  The angel [...]

POETRY: Aprons Of Silence by Carl Sandburg

December 11, 2018

Many things I might have said today. And I kept my mouth shut. So many times I was asked To come and say the same things Everybody was saying, no end To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me-too. The aprons of silence covered me. A wire and hatch held my tongue. I spit nails into an abyss and listened. I shut off the gable of Jones, Johnson, Smith, All whose names take pages in the city directory. I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. I locked myself in and nobody knew it. Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow Knew it—on the streets, in the post office, On the cars, into the railroad station Where the caller was calling, “All a-board, All a-board for . . . Blaa-blaa . . . Blaa-blaa, Blaa-blaa . . . and all points [...]

PRAYER: Second Tuesday Of Advent by Mitch Finley

December 11, 2018

From Season of Promises The nearness of silence means also the nearness of forgiveness and the nearness of love, for the natural basis of forgiveness and of love is silence.  It is important that this natural basis should be there, for it means that forgiveness and love do not have first to create the medium in which they appear. (Max Picard, The World of Silence) Where are you right now, this minute, as you read these words?  Where are you?  Where are you not only physically – in a house or apartment, in a church, riding on a train, bus, airplane, or subway – but where are you in your heart and in your mind?  In your mind, are you in a quiet place or a noisy place?  Is your heart quiet or full of noise? To wait quietly during [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: A Song From Hollowed Space by Enuma Okoro

December 10, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Oh that thou would rend the heavens, that thou would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burns, the fire causes the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!  When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou came down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.  Thou meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Barrenness by Enuma Okoro

December 9, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. (Luke 1:5-7) It is a cold word, hollow-sounding, devoid of warmth, almost iron-clad in its finality: barren.  Elizabeth is a barren woman.  Could anything be more devastating in a culture that prides women on the fruits of their womb?  Imagine her wondering what Zechariah might secretly think [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Doubt And The Believing Community by Enuma Okoro

December 7, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) It can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are experiencing doubts.  We [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Devoted Doubt by Enuma Okoro

December 6, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:18-19) How do we hold onto our belief in God’s promises in the midst of doubt?  At what point do our prayers become rote, tinged more with habit than with hope, based more on what we feel is required of us than in what is possible with God?  Zechariah has a difficult time receiving the angel Gabriel’s words because they do not fall in line with the reality of his and Elizabeth’s circumstances.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Remembered By God by Enuma Okoro

December 5, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard,” (Luke 1:13a).  It is difficult to put ourselves in Zechariah’s shoes as he heard those words.  How would we respond if God sent a personal messenger to tell us that our pleas had reached God’s ears and all that we had desired was coming to pass?  Do we have a big enough imagination to believe that our prayers can indeed rise up to God?  These five verses from Luke 1 are packed with so much grace and divine kindness that it is hard simply as a reader not to be overwhelmed.  How must Zechariah have felt?  The angel informs him of God’s abundant generosity.  Not only has Zechariah’s prayer been heard, but [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Intercession by Enuma Okoro

December 4, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. (Luke 1:10-13) Prayer has a power we will never be able to understand.  We may never know how the prayers of others may have impacted our lives, or how our own prayers of intercession affect other people.  When Zechariah enters the sanctuary, behind him is a community praying.  [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Lament by Enuma Okoro

December 3, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.  Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Waiting With Unanswered Prayer by Enuma Okoro

December 2, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Part One: Surprised and Silenced by God Traditionally when we think of Advent we immediately call to mind Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.  But in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah and Elizabeth are the first two people we meet in the Advent narrative.  Much as John the Baptist was the forerunner to Christ, his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth seem to be the forerunners for the holy family.  The angel Gabriel comes to them first to astound them with good news.  Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth teach us that receiving divine good news can be fraught with all kinds of tensions and questions.  It is an understatement to say that Zachariah and Elizabeth are caught by surprise.  Their [...]

POETRY: I Wanted Only A Little by Jane Hirshfield

August 31, 2018

I wanted, I thought, only a little, two teaspoons of silence— one for sugar, one for stirring the wetness. No. I wanted a Cairo of silence, a Kyoto. In every hanging garden mosses and waters. The directions of silence: north, west, south, past, future. It comes through any window one inch open, like rain driven sideways. Grief shifts, as a grazing horse does, one leg to the other. But a horse sleeping sleeps with all legs [...]

POETRY: The Country Clergy by R. S. Thomas

May 18, 2018

I see them working in old rectories By the sun’s light, by candlelight, Venerable men, their black cloth A little dusty, a little green With holy mildew. And yet their skulls, Ripening over so many prayers, Toppled into the same grave With oafs and yokels. They left no books, Memorial to their lonely thought In grey parishes; rather they wrote On men’s hearts and in the minds Of young children sublime words Too soon forgotten. God in his time Or out of time will correct [...]

POETRY: In Church by R. S. Thomas

April 13, 2018

Often I try To analyse the quality Of its silences. Is this where God hides From my searching? I have stopped to listen, After the few people have gone, To the air recomposing itself For vigil. It has waited like this Since the stones grouped themselves about it. These are the hard ribs Of a body that our prayers have failed To animate. Shadows advance From their corners to take possession Of places the light held For an hour. The bats resume Their business. The uneasiness of the pews Ceases. There is no other sound In the darkness but the sound of a man Breathing, testing his faith On emptiness, nailing his questions One by one to an untenanted [...]

POETRY: In A Country Church by R. S. Thomas

April 6, 2018

To one kneeling down no word came, Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips Of the grave saints, rigid in glass; Or the dry whisper of unseen wings, Bats not angels, in the high roof. Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long, And saw love in a dark crown Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree Golden with fruit of a man’s [...]

POETRY: Immersion by Denise Levertov

November 29, 2017

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder, because of God’s silence. But how naïve, to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves, English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours, the French of Haiti… Yes, that was one way omnipotence chose to address us—Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever the patriarchs chose in their turn to call what they heard. Moses demanded the word, spoken and written. But perfect freedom assured other ways of speech. God is surely patiently trying to immerse us in a different language, events of grace, horrifying scrolls of history and the unearned retrieval of blessings lost for ever, the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent. God’s abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice [...]

POETRY: The Silence by Wendell Berry

July 1, 2017

Though the air is full of singing my head is loud with the labor of words. Though the season is rich with fruit, my tongue hungers for the sweet of speech. Though the beech is golden I cannot stand beside it mute, but must say “It is golden,” while the leaves stir and fall with a sound that is not a name. It is in the silence that my hope is, and my aim. A song whose lines I cannot make or sing sounds men’s silence like a root. Let me say and not mourn: the world lives in the death of speech and sings [...]