This seems like an oxymoron. How do silence and preaching go together?
If it is true that the word of Scripture should lead us into the silence of God, then we must be careful to use that word not simply as an interesting or motivating word, but as a word that creates the boundaries within which we can listen to the loving, caring, gentle presence of God. – The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen (page 44)
I am rarely more afraid of silence then when I am when preaching. I research and study to do my best to ensure that there is plenty of content to keep people interested. I certainly want to give people something to think about or meditate on, but my current preference is that they do this after they leave the service. This isn’t realistic.
What Nouwen is proposing is that as a change of pace we preachers create an opportunity for the Word and the Spirit to connect with people’s hearts in silence. He’s proposing that as a preacher I stop adding my words which often are drawing attention to me. That may not be my intent, but it is naturally what happens. Instead, I should consider repeating the words of God and then create a silent space in which people can let that soak into their hearts.
To do this I would have to be confident that the Holy Spirit is present in our gathering. Then I would have to give up the perceived control that my speaking makes me think I have over the audience. Ultimately, I would have to trust that God’s Word can and will work to accomplish things my words will never accomplish.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
In our crazy, noisy, wordy world what might happen if the sermon on Sunday morning was a time to slow down and let the Spirit work in our hearts? I’m not talking about shorter sermons, but instead about a pace in the speaking that promotes meditation and getting comfortable with silence. Have you ever experienced this? If every preacher’s intent was to connect the listener with God, then is it possible that people tuning out the preacher and tuning into the Spirit should be the rule rather than the exception?