Considering the fact that I spend a good deal of my time planning and writing sermons, it was humbling to read author Frederick Buechner’s comment that he first came to faith “because of some silences I have heard in church.”

Actually, Buechner experienced his awakening of faith while attending a service at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, whose pastor at the time was one of the great preachers of the 20th century, Dr. George Buttrick. But he did not remember Buttrick’s sermon; what stayed with him was just one line from a prayer that morning, when Buttrick spoke of the moment when the Lord is “crowned amid laughter and tears.” One line in a prayer, and a few moments of holy silence. That’s what it took to ignite Buechner’s heart and set him out on a lifetime of writing about this thing called faith.

Actually, I can identify with Buechner’s experience. I find that silence – especially holy silence – is in short supply in these times of noise and fury. When I come home after a long day, I instinctively reach for the TV remote or turn on the music. If I am alone in the house, I seem to think that noise denotes company, and that the droning of the latest television inanity will chase away my lonely thoughts.

Then, once in a while, when I intentionally keep the house quiet and open a good book, accompanied only by the distant ticking of the hallway clock, I begin to rediscover the truth Buechner speaks of. I experience something of that “holy silence,” which is the best company of all, and the greatest comfort.

Years ago, John Ruskin wrote a few lines about music, which is, of course, made up of not only notes to be played, but rests to be counted: “There’s not music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it. In our whole life’s melody the music is broken off here and there by ‘rests,’ and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the ‘rests.’ They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we sadly say to ourselves, ‘There is no music in a rest,’ let us not forget that there is the making of music in it.”

So tonight I’m going to leave the TV and the stereo off. I’m going to let the clock tick in the hallway, and enjoy an evening of holy silence. You too?

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