Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.
Can you hear that? . . . Nothing.
Like being surprised by carless silence on a busy city street, there are moments of blissful quiet. I like to imagine that for some people they are more than moments – days, weeks, months in which there is nothing urgent to be done except to get on with flourishing. Is that what Jesus meant when he spoke of life in all its fullness (John 10.10)?
So often we live in the other kind of full life, the kind in which we rush from task to task, being surprised by the emerging crisis, with moments of stressful worry. That was also the life of the earliest churches, who were persecuted and suspected churches. That worry filled life was also that of the Israelites as they endured slavery and then went into the wilderness to seek a place of safety. God knows full well this life we often lead.
In the poem “The Bright Field”, R.S. Thomas imagines realising that in a moment of stillness he has seen the field of hidden treasure worth selling a kingdom for (Matthew 13.44-45) but has let the moment pass him by. The poet determines that life is not about hurrying, running to stand still, or anxiously chasing the future (I paraphrase for copyright reasons, so please seek out the original). It is about these moments that catch us and take our breath away:
[turning] aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you. (The Bright Field, R.S. Thomas)
For the duration of a breath in, and breath out, hold a silence. With the breath that follows, thank God for such moments, however transitory. When you are ready, go on your way.
The Rev Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is minister to the URCs in Darwen and Tockholes.