From the Rector
February 2, 2014
Aside from Sunday, February 2 being the date of the Super Bowl and the annual parish meeting, it is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast has a storied tradition in the church, based on Chapter 2 of St. Luke’s Gospel. The Law of Moses required that all women who had given birth be “purified” so as not to be unclean for the worship of God. Jesus was also presented in the temple to fulfill the requirement that each first born son be consecrated to God. Although we no longer are obligated to the law and do not consider women who give birth unclean, there is a ritual in our prayer book (page 305) entitled The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth, commonly called the Churching of Women. It is a rite of giving thanks to God for a safe delivery and a healthy baby. All life is a gift from the Lord and should be held in high esteem. The dedication of all our children to God is a practice worth continuing. I have seldom been asked to do this ritual but I would certainly be happy to do so for anyone who wishes. The feast of the Purification or Presentation is the first of several feast days this year that will happen on a Sunday and interrupt the regular cycle of readings. I think that it is important to celebrate these feast days so that the traditions of our faith will continue to be honored.
Now, to the annual meeting. After the 11:00 am service on the 2nd, we will have the parish meeting that is required by our by-laws. At this meeting, we will pass a budget for the coming year, elect two vestry members for three year terms, and have a detailed update on the progress of our current building plans. The vestry members whose terms are expiring are Mike Ready who also currently serves as our Treasurer, and Grady Collins, who was appointed by the vestry to complete an unexpired term. Both Mike and Grady have expressed an interest in continuing on the vestry and so they will be presented as a slate recommended by the vestry to serve for an additional three years. As always, should anyone wish to nominate either themselves or someone else, we will take nominations from the floor. I encourage you to attend the meeting. I want you to have a voice in your parish and this is the most public forum in which to do that.
The vestry is always interested in what you are thinking about what we are doing currently or what we should be doing. You are always welcome to approach any member of the vestry with your thoughts or concerns. The vestry is
comprised of nine members, Mark Rambin, Senior Warden, Keith Harrell, Junior Warden, Jim Crandell, Secretary, Mike Ready, Treasurer, Carole Martin, Doug Cooper, Don St. Martin, Grady Collins and me, your Rector.
Sincere congratulations to John and Christina Hatley on the birth of their daughter, Genevieve Lorraine. We are looking forward to having her baptism in the very near future. Finally, several of us had a great time at the annual Volunteer
Appreciation dinner at Tres Amigos. This is always a fun affair and once again, I am extremely grateful to all of you who make our parish what it is.
God, Are You There?
I feel alone. I pray, but God is silent. At these times, I wonder if God is even there.
You’re lonely. You’re worried. You’re frustrated. You’re desperate. You don’t know where to turn, so you call out to God. You pray your best prayers. And . . . crickets. Nothing. As far as you can tell, God is silent. He’s indifferent.
That is a perfectly logical conclusion. After all, if you told a friend all your troubles and they sat silent as a stone—no advice, no gesture of empathy, no words of encouragement—wouldn't you wonder if they’d gone deaf, or worse, just didn't care? What, then, are we to make of the silence of God?
When someone gives us “the silent treatment,” we run through a mental checklist: Have I offended him? Failed to keep a promise? Behaved badly? We imagine that if we can attribute the silent party’s unresponsiveness to some egregious action of our own, perhaps we can make amends and return to speaking terms. The burden, we believe, is on us.
But “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.”1 Perhaps the first error we make in understanding God’s silence is failing to understand his nature. We forget that God is not a man, and we attribute human motives and emotions to him in an attempt to explain his actions. But our ways, he says plainly, are not his ways.2
And while other human beings might predicate their responses to us on our behavior—good or bad—God does not. His behavior is an out flowing of his character, not our own. And his very nature is love.3
Silence and the Saints
“It’s not very loving,” you might say, “for someone who loves you to be silent.” But silence from God has been experienced by many devoted God-followers to whom you might assume God would never stop speaking. Even Mother Teresa wrote privately that she failed to sense God’s presence in her life for more than fifty years—an astounding confession from a woman whose love for God produced so many good works.
“Jesus has a very special love for you,” she wrote to one of her mentors, [but] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”4 Mother Teresa could not explain God’s silence, but she did not question his love—perhaps because she knew that God’s ways were not her ways.
Scottish theologian Oswald Chambers argued that “God’s silences are His answers.”5 Silence from God, therefore, may be an overture of intimacy, not a retreat from it: “Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, praise Him, He is bringing you into the great run of His purposes.”6
From this view, God’s silence is not punishment or abandonment but an intimate gift of trust.
When All Is Quiet
So when God seems silent, what should we do? To begin with, we could use the silence as an occasion to remember the ways he has spoken in the past. When you are separated from a loved one and cannot converse, it’s common to remember conversations or moments of intimacy from your previous times together.
Instead of wondering “where God went,” consider using the perceived “lull” in communication to remember those times. Remind yourself of the moments when you keenly felt his presence, the times you believe you heard his instruction, encouragement, or affirmation. Let those memories fill the void and strengthen your faith.
As you remember, thank God for those times. Praise him, too, for his attributes, his character, his mighty acts of the past, and the ways he has been faithful to you. Let gratitude—not fear or doubt—begin to fill the emptiness you may be feeling. His character is not dependent upon your perception of him—something else for which to be thankful!
Understand that your faith is being exercised when God seems absent. During the silent times, you must trust something beyond your own feelings and emotions. “Anyone who comes to [God],” said the writer of Hebrews, “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”7
Belief in times of silence is hard. When God is silent, we’re tempted to stop believing that he exists or that he cares. “What makes [unbelief] in many was more appealing [than belief] is that whereas to believe in something requires some measure of understanding and effort, not to believe doesn't require much of anything at all.”8 Take the hard road. Let your faith be strengthened as you believe without seeing or hearing.
It is also important to continue to obey God—especially during those times when his presence is not felt. Don’t fall into the trap of saying, “If you’re not going to talk to me, I’m not going to try to listen to you!” So much of God’s will and instruction is given to us not individually, but corporately. Within the pages of His Word, he has said much about how he wants his people to live.
He speaks through the Bible, through other people, through his created world, and through the “still, small voice” of his Spirit. Often what we imagine as silence from God is far from it. Obey what he has already said, and you will be poised to hear even more from him.
Remember. Praise. Obey. Repeat.
“I've done all these things,” you might say. “Doesn't God owe me proof of his presence now? Doesn't he have something just for me?” No. And yes.
No, he does not owe us proof that he is. (He gives us this in many ways, but it is not owed.) What we are due on the basis of our performance is, thankfully, not what he gives those of us who put our trust in Christ.
He offers grace to the person who confesses their shortcomings and asks for mercy. He gives himself to those who ask. Yes, he does have something just for you. If his voice is not clear, if his plan is not plain—keep doing the things you know. Keep remembering his goodness and love. Keep praising him. Keep obeying as much of his will as you know.
And as you focus on these things, keep the ear of your heart tuned God-ward. You will hear his voice again. Until then, receive the silence. It teaches, too.
1. The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Numbers 23:19.
2. Ibid., Isaiah 55:8.
3. Ibid., 1 John 4:8.
4. David Van Biema, “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith” Time, August 23, 2007.
5. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Deluxe Christian Classics)(Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2000), 207.
7. The Holy Bible, Hebrews 11:6.
8. Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, (San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 1992), 218.
- Submitted by Amy Crandell
Sunday School News
The younger Sunday School class has begun Unit Two of the One Room Sunday School winter curriculum, titled The Life of Jesus. The Bible verse for this unit is Luke 2:52: "Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people." The lessons in this unit are The Wise Men, Jesus at the Temple, Jesus' Baptism, and Jesus in the Synagogue.
The children especially enjoy activities like puzzles and games that help them tease out the meanings of these very important lessons. We have also been experimenting with short videos for each lesson, which really help the kids visualize the stories and place them in a physical context. Doug continues to work on the Teach Deep curriculum with the older class.
Thanks to all the St. Francis parents who bring their children to Sunday School. Your children are bright, friendly, curious and such a joy to teach!
- Missy Bernard
Anglicans for Life
Saint Francis' chapter of Anglicans for Life met on January 19th, just three days before the forty first anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. There will be marches in Austin as well as Washington, DC. to show support for life from conception until natural death. The Forty Days for Life campaign will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 5th. You will be able to sign up at St. Francis. Anglicans for Life's next meeting will be on Sunday, February 16, after the 11:00 service. Everyone is invited to join us, we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
- Phoebe Hughes
Any parishioner who has news of any kind to share is welcome to send it in writing to Tricia McLean at 640 Lakeside Dr., Wimberley, TX 78676 or to her e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). If received by the 20th, it will appear in next month’s newsletter.