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Metal Cross

Text for the Month

 

Moses told the people, "Don't be afraid. Stand still, and watch the Lord rescue you today".


Exodus 14:13 NLT

This is not the place to re-tell the story of how, following the commandment of God, Moses led the Israelites out of a life of slavery in Egypt into the unknown. The text was surely chosen for free-standing contemplation. We all are living towards the unknown, but we give ourselves no time, none at all, to even think about it. We are all slaves of our modern, hectic and noisy life, filled with uncountable distractions.

Tension and stress won't let us go. That is why I homed in on two words in the text for this month: Stand still. To do this needs concentration. This action can take different forms. I mentioned already in an earlier text interpretation, that I experienced during my student days, how a well-structured, regular evening prayer (compline) in a community, could be very beneficial. But one has not often such an opportunity.

On the other hand, prayer meetings, not in stillness, but with spoken ad hoc formulated prayers, can be experienced as detrimental, as forced, because there is a mental pressure on the partakers to 'perform', that becomes then babble. Stillness may be confused with inability, judged, and not be recognised as a silent submission to the divinity of God. Spare me to give negative examples. But now I wonder, what would happen, if someone would say with the prophet Isaiah: In quietness and trust is your srength (Isaiah 30:15).
 
How different, even strange seeming is it, to step out of our daily routine into just one day of total stillness. Now many years ago, the Secretaries in the YMCA Metropolitan Region came together, away from the business of such a gathering, for a day of stillness in a Carmelite Convent. Such an event should not be strange, it should not be alien, but it was, for all of us. The Bible is full of the call to silence, to stand still. But how to be silent before God? Sitting in silence for a little while is enough to begin with.

Let yourself know that it is time for silence. Let your body and mind be still and relax. Feel stillness in you, feel stress and anxiety ebb out of you. I used to have a tape for meditation after a stressful day, based on the words from Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. This repeated call was interspersed with calming music. A number of CD versions of this tape are available today.

Monatsspruch June 24-praying-beggar.jpg

The step from contemplation to meditation and prayer is fluid. Before Jesus cited 'The Lord's Prayer', he said: When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (Matthew 6:6). I have a German saying in my study that I pass on here in translation: "What is valid is quiet, what is loud is trinkets and noise. Whispering is God's way. Therefore soul, be in silent poise".

In 1967 I received the gift of an exceptional book from one of our members: "God of a hundred Names", with prayers of many people and creeds, to which the co-author Victor Gollancz writes in the preface: "Primarily, we offer our collection as a small treasure of spiritual refreshment". Here I found a German prayer from the 16th century, known as the 'Frankfurt Prayer'' that reads in translation: Lord, the scripture says: "There is a time to be silent and a time to speak". Saviour, teach me silence out of humility, silence out of wisdom, silence out of love, silence out of perfection, the silence of faith. Lord, teach me the silence of my own heart, so that I can hear the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit within me and feel the depths of God.

Finally I include my image of 'The praying beggar', that I based on a cover drawing by the German artist Paula Jordan (1896-1986) for a little book of sculptures by the gifted teenager Erdmann-Michael Hinz, who died at the age of 17 (1933-1950).

Bernd Hildebrandt

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