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Turn the Radio Off?

A cartoon shows two pastors standing at the doorway greeting their congregation after the worship service. A sign hangs over one of them. It reads: “Express Greeting Lane—10 Words or Less.”

From fast food to email and social media and drive-through-everything (remember when drive-through funeral homes hit the big time: drive up, push the button, listen to a message from the dearly-departed, and drive off, duty done), everything is in high gear these days. What’s left? Maybe Express Greeting Lanes in church … 10 words only, please. (And, yes, somebody is counting.)

High speed through high tech gets lots of stuff done (assuming it needs doing, of course), but some things demand time and attention and that most beleaguered of all resources, silence. I once had a parishioner who ordered his new cars without a radio, lest the noise get in the way of what takes a little quiet?

Apparently he was on to something, that the drama of life and the discovery of our place in it unfold gradually. We discover who we are over time and in the lifelong process of self-reflection. Our thoughts and feelings come to the surface of our consciousness only as we provide the environment for them to perk.

Finding our place in the world includes our most significant relationships, and developing those significant relationships requires the same environment in which we come to understand ourselves, that is to say, disciplined, focused, uninterrupted, with time and space to breathe.

For many, that includes exploring a relationship with God, and here too, the spiritual life unfolds over time, over a lifetime, of being in a certain place and walking along a given path. It is for good reason that we speak of the faith journey and affirm the Way of the Christ.

I like the way Rabbi Abraham Heschel describes the process as it has to do with worship, perhaps the single most important discipline of the spiritual life (how can a discipline like worship compete with the digital age without succumbing to its seductions?). He writes:

Worship is a way of living, a way of seeing the world in the light of God. To worship is to rise to a higher level of existence, to see the world from the point of view of God. In worship we discover that the ultimate way is not to have a symbol but to be a symbol, to stand for the divine. The ultimate way is to sanctify thoughts, to sanctify time, to consecrate words, to hallow deeds.

Borrowing from the old song, to get in touch with God, turn the radio off.