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June 8, 2017

by Dr. Lani Wilson

Good day, prayer faithful. Rain in June? Like sunshine in January: Straightforward, rare, a little bizarre and mysterious but not surprising anymore. Isn’t it like the times we live in? God is in the details. The word that I’ve had for two weeks is quiet. It has been kind of bulging through my eyeballs, and I have been trying to ignore it. But sometimes, if we’re fortunate, God won’t let us go. Quiet. Forgive my disobedience: God is.

We use the words silence, silent, and quiet interchangeability. Yet, is there a difference? The Bible (specifically, the New Testament) does the same, at least as translated into English. There are several ways we can look at how the word has different inferences. One of the more notable uses is in relation to the role of women in the church.

I don’t let women take over and tell the men what to do. They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else.
I Tim. 2:11-12 (TMB)

It is difficult to fathom that millions of people still hold to this as a literal directive, as if Paul was not reflecting the culture in which he lived. Yet, if we hold that culture was strong enough over thousands of years to promote this one-sided interpretation of relationships, why did the authors of the Gospels who chronicled the life and work of Jesus the Master insert His words that subjugated women? Nowhere in the gospels as recorded does Jesus state that male dominance is the desired hierarchical structure for His followers. The gospels tell us that Jesus sends out the disciples and they are identified by name. What we do not know is which names of the disciples were not recorded. This is for another time to consider, but it is tantalizing.

In I Timothy the word quiet equates with compliance with an established order. To note, The Message Bible tops off the verse by adding “along with everyone else,” as if to mitigate against women leadership and not to offend.

Another well-known passage that uses the word quiet differently is in Luke.

Right at the crest, where Mount Olives [sic] begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed: Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places! Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!" But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise."
Luke 19:37-40 (TMB)

We might say that this use of the word reflected restraint. That is, if humankind did not wildly celebrate the works of God in the flesh, then the most inanimate in nature would do it for us. The Pharisees were admonishing Jesus to control the common people who would not stop shouting the good news that God had descended and taken up life among them. Jesus was affirming that all nature knew He had arrived. If maintaining the social and natural order as practiced at that time was a prime objective of His, He certainly would not have used stone as the contra-subject. In other words, inanimate stones or rocks to celebrate Him was the perfect hyperbolic example of why no human should ever restrain themselves in glorifying God.

A third contextual use of the word quiet is in the familiar passage as described in Mark when abject fear of death seized the disciples and as far as we know, perhaps only the male disciples who were there.

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.
Mark 4:39 (TMB)

The New International Version (NIV) translation says it this way.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

This is Jesus in command mode; He is exercising His absolute authority over Creation. There is no doubt, no room to wonder Who is in control, Who has control, and Who will control. Jesus is exercising His divine dominance over the most uncontrollable and powerful force on the planet, waves...the seas, the oceans. If you are in or on the water, there is no protection or escape when planetary bodies of water are stirred by winds or quakes. There is no power on earth, even today, that can stop it.

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Sea of Galilee at sunrise with a little storm, Photo by Ferrell Jenkins
 
What is the explanation for such sudden storms on the sea? Notice the account given by Luke.
 
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
(Luke 8:22-25 ESV)

Luke explains in verse 23 that “a windstorm came down on the lake.” Such storms are produced by winds from the west and northwest that come down into the basin where the Sea of Galilee is located. These storms often occur in the late afternoon when the cooler air comes down on the hot air in the basin [If you click on the following URL, you can watch a short clip of the Sea of Galilee after a brief storm rising right after sunrise: https://youtu.be/zHa_H5-5cC4].

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Sea of Galilee at noon, Ron Beach Hotel, Photo by Ferrell Jenkins
“A little storm on the Sea of Galilee”
December 12, 2009, Ferrell’s Travel Blog

Three New Testament (NT) contextual uses of the word quiet are compliance, restraint, and command. In the first passage, Paul was teaching new Christians about the social order, both hierarchical and relationally, of church organization in the First Century - in his time, in his culture. It is no surprise that “along with everyone else” would be added at the end of the verse in The Message Bible translation. Paul is trying to establish order in baby churches of Jesus the Christ: Members ought to agree in order to grow the church. In the second passage, Jesus is provocatively admonishing the Pharisees, His eventual executioners, that it is the inherent nature of Creation to praise their Creator; that quieting those whose lives have been directly touched by God through witness or experience is impossible. The inanimate of the earth will rise in chorus if people are restrained from praise. In the third passage Jesus confirms that He commands all Creation. A one-word order from Him immmediately stills millions of tons of water. He is in control and can exercise it whenever and wherever He chooses, as He chooses: He is The Boss. What are we to make of this word?

During His ministry, mock trial, conviction, torture, and execution, Jesus was quiet in all three contextual uses as we have described.

  1. He complied with all of their requests and did not try to escape from or deny his captors their opportunity to kill Him. Jesus was obedient both to God and man.
    Compliance.
  2. He restrained Himself and His followers from destroying all those Who were persecuting Him and He restrained those disciples who wanted Him to escape or fight back and released them to praise Him when He was resurrected.
    Restraint.
  3. Jesus was in command all of the people Who followed Him and could have incited open rebellion. He also commanded, if we are to believe the Gospels, all of the natural forces in the universe, but most importantly, He was in command of Himself. In His humanness and in spite of His physical and psychological suffering, He chose not to command those around Him. His command was so absolute that He suffered it all to death.
    Command.

The same word, three different uses; three different contexts; the same outcome; the same man; the same God: He was and is sovereign. What can we learn from His example, His model, our worship? During these extraordinary times when:

  • therapists are telling patients to NOT read the news or watch television or follow what is happening at the national level;
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of Americans, including Democrats and Republicans, said in January that they were stressed about the future of our country. In urban areas, such as Seattle, reported stress levels were higher than in rural or suburban areas, with 62 percent of city dwellers saying the election and its outcome were a "significant" source of stress. The survey also found that the percentage of people feeling stressed about their personal safety was the highest since the question was first asked in 2008. And the percentage of people reporting at least one stress-related health symptom, such as headaches, anxiety or depression, rose from 71 to 80 percent over a five-month period.
“Mental Health Experts See Uptick in Patients with Postelection Anxiety,” Christine Clarridge, The Seattle Times, chicagotribune.com, March 29, 2017
 
  • people are being murdered with no provocation for defending young people for wearing certain religious clothes or speaking with an accent or speaking any language other than American English;
Two men were fatally stabbed and another wounded after being attacked by a man whom they confronted once he began yelling racist comments at two teenagers on a light-rail train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday. One of the teenagers was Muslim and wearing a hijab, while the other was black. Fifty-three-year-old Army veteran Ricky John Best, a father of four, died at the scene, while 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, a recent college graduate, died after being transported to a local hospital. A third man, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher is recovering from serious wounds he received during the attack. All three men are being hailed as heroes. The attacker, 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian, fled the scene but was later arrested and is currently being held without bail on counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, and other charges. Christian has previous convictions for felony robbery and felony kidnapping and seems to have been a white supremacist.
“Portland Mourns Two Heroes Killed While Defending Teen Girls From Racist Tirade,” Chas Danner, New York Magazine, May 28, 2017
  • young Black men are being murdered for just standing and being Black;
Just a few days before his graduation, Richard Collins III — a black student and an Army lieutenant at Bowie State University, in Maryland — was visiting the nearby University of Maryland at College Park, when he was stabbed at a bus stop near campus by Sean Urbanski, a white student who was a senior there. Though investigators have not yet determined whether the killing was a hate crime, the perpetrator was a member of a now-deleted Facebook group called Alt-Reich: Nation, which published white supremacist content. On Campus reached out to students of color at both schools to reflect on the killing and its aftermath. ‘This horrific death is part of a pattern of racial intimidation happening on many college campuses.’ Malika Hackley, Bowie State, ’17 The news hit us so hard. It was like a huge brick house landed on my chest. Richard Collins was killed because he was black. He was stabbed by a white student at the University of Maryland, who was a member of a Facebook group that spit out content that showed “extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith, and especially African-Americans,” according to David Mitchell, the University of Maryland police chief.
“A Murder at College Park,” The Opinion Pages the New York Times, May 30, 2017

These are not novel occurrences for African-Americans: We know, live, and breathe domestic terrorism times 400+ years times 388,000 Africans shipped to North America (“How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S.?” Henry Louis Gates, pbs.org/wnet/African-Americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history). It is the onslaught against everything civil society believes makes society civil perpetuated by primarily White Americans using the American political system that is breathtaking and disturbing. Nothing escapes the dismantling touch of post-November 8, 2016: It seems to be pure destruction. Our pulpits preach hope. Our pulpits preach compliance within the law. Our pulpits preach restraint against violence. Our pulpits preach command of ourselves and our rights backed by righteous judiciary. And yet...our blood boils. Where is Jesus!? Where are we?

Contrary to pedestrian beliefs about what and Who Jesus was and is, He was not a pacifist, He was not a weakling, and He was not White. He was an activist, a revolutionary of the highest order Who broke no civil law (Pontius Pilate said as much). He exhibited the purest form of love by not bringing down hell on everyone around Him as He drowned in His own blood, upright on the Cross. More than that, He established hope by telling His followers that His way was The Creator’s way; that God would rule the day, every day, and wreak whatever judgment and vengeance was God’s, not us. He taught that it is in doing for others, even when you sometimes feel like something in you is dying every day, that one fights back and truly lives. That because He lives, all and no one is ever lost because He never leaves you. Never. Ever. That is Who He is and What He tells us to do.

To be quiet is not to be silent. Just as light changes direction when it enters at an angle - or is refracted - we must enter into all these situations of 2017 America and refract the evil that lies to us and say to us that “God is not.” We, the people of God, under the banner of His Name, The Christ, The Nazarene, in the Name of Love, by the power of God are the arms and hands that will hold on as God changes the direction of evil. We will not be silent but we will be quiet in the power of Jesus Who is doing all that needs to be done for us. We stand as sentinels over those who cannot stand on their own.

  • Because Jesus lived, died, and lives again, we powerfully comply with His model of hopeful struggle.
  • Because Jesus lived, died, and lives again, we humbly restrain our fears and free our souls to praise Him as He moves through thickets of hatred.
  • Because Jesus lived, died, and lives again, we command ourselves to pull forward from and push back against those who would wound.

Christianus sum is not a descriptor but a definition. It means that we will powerfully, stealthily, and openly in the quiet way and Name of Jesus the Christ comply, restrain, and command all that He bequeathed and replenishes. Christly Quiet is not silence: It is outrageous beckoning to action with defiant courage and love under the protection of The Ultimate Good.


God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy He gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day, because He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

And then one day, I'll cross the river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to victory
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He reigns

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Because He Lives
Gloria and William Gaither 1971

“From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead” (excerpt, The Apostles’ Creed)

Because He lives.

Amen.