Saturday, June 19, 2010

Too Many Voices

In the Gospel reading for Sunday, June 20 we hear Jesus ask a man who had demons for his name. The man replied, "Legion." There were as many as 5,000 soldiers in a Roman legion, and the man's response suggests that there was a cacophony of voices in his head. Too many voices - like too many cooks - san lead to confusion, even disaster.

We live in a time of many competing voices - in politics, in ads, in the Episcopal Church. It seems that everyone has the Truth about something that is very important. Like the man with the Legion of voices competing for his attention, we may want to turn off all the voices, to find, as Elijah did in the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for June 20, the place where we can hear the still small voice, the sound of sheer silence, the place where God can speak to us.

That desire is real and important. We need to find places and times of silence, but we also need to listen to at least some of the voices all around us. God has a funny way of speaking to us through others, even through - or perhaps especially through - those with whom we disagree, those whose voices we would like to silence, or at least ignore. Listening to those voices may well lead to revelation. Rowan Williams, before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, said that revelation for God's people is not simply about new information, but about new information that transforms us. Revelation is Good News.

A few years ago I was talking with two friends about how we listen for God's voice in our congregations. As we talked I shared a story about a discussion of human sexuality that had taken place in our congregation soon after the confirmation of the election of Bishop Gene Robinson. I described how angry one of the older conservation members had appeared as other members disagreed with him. One of my friends then said something that was a revelation, something that changed me. She suggested that this man - and perhaps others - was grieving for the loss of a church in which his opinions would be greeted not only with respect but with agreement. I began to see that sympathy for this man's loss did not require agreeing with him about human sexuality. I hoped that, recognizing his loss, I might be able to have a better relationship with him. Sadly, through my fault as much if not more than his, that didn't happen. But my friend's insight changed me a little and has made me a bit more sensitive to the grief of others as the  Episcopal Church changes. I can support those changes without dismissing those who disagree, those who mourn for the loss of the way things were in the Episcopal Church.

That conversation with my friends was a time and a place where for a moment I could hear the sound of sheer silence, the still small voice of God.

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