Last evening our family enjoyed a wonderful 3rd of July together.
About 9:30 we started a fire in our backyard and sat together in lawn chairs. Peter set off a few small fountains (fireworks.) We watched our neighbors shooting fireworks high into the air. It was relaxing and a lot of fun.
And it was loud!
At times it felt like the ground was shaking beneath us. The booms were loud and clear. Our dog Molly snuggled up close as the sounds made her nervous. We covered our ears and marveled at the noise as well as the beauty of the colors shooting high in the air.
In this morning's sermon as well as our Stepping Stones Bible Study afterwards, we reflected on the moment of worship when Zechariah entered the sanctuary of the temple to burn incense before God. He met an angel who brought the news that he and Elizabeth would finally have a baby--John the Baptist--in their advanced years.
Zechariah couldn't believe it. And so his voice was taken and he was mute for nine months.
Nine months of silence! Perhaps it was difficult. Perhaps it was wonderful. Perhaps Elizabeth enjoyed the quiet. Perhaps she was desperate for Zechariah to say something...anything.
But that silence and its ending brought forth the incredible news of the naming of the son who was promised. "His name is John," Zechariah declared. He would be the forerunner of the Messiah who would proclaim the mercy of God.
As we step on these stones toward the future of our church, this story encourages us to recognize these steps:
1. Prayer is the beginning. Zechariah, Elizabeth and the whole community prayed. They prayed for their whole lives. Their prayer was honored and answered. We are called to pray as individuals and a community for discernment, guidance and direction.
2. Silence is good. The 9 months of silence resulted in beautiful words and trust in God's guidance. While we may be tempted to jump forward to specific answers and vision for Sunnyside, it is healthy for us to take time to wait on the Lord, and listen to the voice of the Spirit as well as one another.
3. Trust that God will accomplish God's purposes. Nothing would stop God from accomplishing mercy and grace through Jesus Christ. Likewise, God will accomplish God's purpose through our church.
On this 4th of July evening, the noise will probably be louder than last night. I hope it will be a reminder to all of us to pause and be silent before God, listening to the still small voice of the Spirit and the loud boom of God's call.