1 Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
4 Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.[b]
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Those who are never at fault in what they say are perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Sermon from 3/25 – Much of these thoughts are from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline
The idea of a “staycation” has become a part of our culture. The economic downturn made extensive travel less realistic but didn’t remove people’s need to take time away to refresh and rejuvenate. So, we adapted and created the “staycation”. There is something natural in us that craves rest. When we push ourselves to constantly go, go, go, we usually crash or end up making some unfortunate decisions that hurt us and our loved ones. What we need is balance our activities with some time to connect with God, our source of energy and fulfillment.
Tell me your first reaction when you think of the idea of “solitude”. Some of you will have a negative reaction when I say, take some time in solitude because many of us fear being alone and put a lot of energy into making sure there is something going on around us at all times. But being lonely and being surrounded by noise aren’t the only options. There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is inner emptiness and solitude is inner fulfillment.
In his book, Celebration of Disciplines, Richard Foster describes solitude this way: “Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness. It is quite possible to be a desert hermit and never experience solitude. But if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”
How many of you have taken or are familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator? What is your type? The first letter of the four-letter type name is either I or E and that stands for Introvert or Extrovert. In this context, it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you are shy or outgoing, but rather, it’s about how you recharge your emotional batteries. l am a total off-the-charts introvert. I need lots of Tiffy Time. In addition to that, I have a job that requires me to be on and energetic and interact with lots of people all day. At the end of the day I am completely out of words. Most days after work, I go to the gym and/or veg in front of the Netflix. It’s time alone that helps me get ready for the next day, but it isn’t necessarily solitude. It’s a complete disengagement whereas true solitude involves engagement with the holy.
When we are engaged in a practice of true solitude we are able to be in community more fully. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without soitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”
In a conversation about solitude, we have to address the topic of silence. True silence is not just the absence of speaking but in its fullest sense it involves active listening. Merely being quiet without listening to God is not silence. Control, not the lack of noise, is the key to real silence. In the passage we read in James, he went so far to say that the person who knows exactly when to speak is perfect. I’m sure there is not a single person here who hasn’t gotten in trouble with their mouth at one time or another. I have this problem. It’s tempting for us to think that we can “fix” this issue by making some extreme commitment, like “I’m going to be silent for a week!” Living in a place of silence and solitude is more about being in a spirit of listening for the right things to say. Thomas ‘ Kempis wrote that it is easier to be silent than to speak with moderation. If we are silent when we should speak we are not living in the practice of silence. If we speak when we should be silent, we again miss the mark.
James analogies of the rudder and the bridle suggest that the tongue guides as well as controls. If we tell a lie, we are led to telling more lies to cover up the first lie. Soon we are forced to behave in a certain way in order to give credence to the lie. The tongue is our most powerful tool of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. One of the great benefits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten each other outs. More than anything else, silence can bring us to believe that God can care for us.
Jesus took many mini-breaks during his time. He often went away to recharge and reconnect to God. John 15 tells the story of that connection when Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches. For branches naturally grow out of vines, are nourished by them and don’t work to establish an identity apart from them. In fact, apart from the vine, a branch can do nothing.
For those of us who need alone time, spend some time this week finding ways to make your alone time a time of listening to what God has to say to you. For those who are more energized by community, see what you can learn by listening, rather than talking. Build that internal sanctuary that can lead you to a place of constant solitude.