I am surrounded each day by old and new friends. They are from all over the world, but mostly North America. Many are Christian, but a few speak from the point of view of other faiths and some have no religious faith at all. They are the books in my study.
I have a few text books from college. There are books I bought on a meager income while trying to build my own library. A few books were given to me when I was ordained nearly 27 years ago – this morning I am looking at a woefully outdated concordance that was at the time a precious and useful gift. Most of my books, however, I simply acquired over the years: commentaries, devotional guides, church administration manuals, theology texts, collections of sermons, poems, essays, etc.
Yesterday I was browsing over the shelves looking for a book I read a couple of years ago. I recalled that this author might have something to say towards the subject I was planning to preach about this Sunday. I eventually found the book – my filing system is not bad but it is undecipherable to most anyone else – but not before being reminded of so many other books I have read in the recent past.
For some reason it felt like those books were taunting me with ideas that I should have acted upon or issues that I still do not quite understand or pathways I should have taken. For the briefest of moments my quiet study at church seemed loud with the voices of scholars and practitioners and mystics reminding me that the more I know (which is not very much) the more I do not know. “You should…you ought…you didn’t…,” etc.
It was at that point I left my desk, got in my car and drove to a nursing home to visit a few of our members. I needed to catch up on my homebound visits and the voices in my study were getting too loud. Some of the ones I visited that afternoon did not recognize me when I entered their room and no doubt once I left quickly forgot that I was ever there. Of course to be remembered or to make a lasting impression was not really the point. It was just to have a moment to show love and be loved. Sometimes I was doing the talking because the resident was too weak to speak, but mostly I was doing the listening.
We are part of God’s community surrounded by voices within and beyond. Some of them are critical and some of them are encouraging. Some of them come from our own vivid imagination. And some of them are painfully real with the tones of joy, loss, hunger and hope.
May your voice speak a word of love that translates into action.
May your voice encourage others along the way.
May your voice speak truth enveloped in God’s mercy.
May your voice set others free.
May your voice join with a happy chorus of other voices living in community, now and forever.
Thank you for listening to me Sunday after Sunday. I pray that I do the same!
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:2-4)