Sermon: Advent 2 RCL C – “The Quiet”

Little Johnny got on the elevator in the Empire State Building in New York City with his father. They started going to the top. Little Johnny watched the signs flashing as they went by the floors: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70.

They kept going, and Johnny started getting nervous. He took his dad’s hand and said, “Dad, does God know we’re coming?”

New York City: O. Henry says, “It’ll be a great place if they ever finish it.” Christopher Morley referred to it as “the nations Thyroid gland” and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who did not care for the Big Apple, called it a “Sucked orange.” There are so many songs about it that it’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll go with Lou Reed: “New York City’s the place where they said, ‘Hey, babe, Take a walk on the wild side.’” The one description that resonated with me was given my Kurt Vonnegut. He called New York City, “Skyscraper National Park.”

As some of you are aware, this past week, I was a complete tourist in that particular national park. Rockefeller Christmas Tree to the Empire State Building and I know that I saw only a fraction of one percent that is offered. It is a mass of people, lights sounds, vehicles, buildings and assaulting smells. It is impossible to take in even one block without being awed.

My hotel was a block off time square and my room was on the 39th floor. From there I could see it all and what I discovered, even that high up, is that you could still hear the birds and other animals that roamed below in that Skyscraper National Park. Oh, yes. There was one bird that cried out all night {siren} and one particular animal that absolutely never stopped calling night or day {honk}. I could see the streets below and the river of cars never stopped flowing and the people… it may be a cliché, but it truly is a place that never sleeps. Will I go again? Absolutely. Would I live there? Absolutely not. Not a place that suits my nature. Why?

In our Saint’s Book Club, we’ve been reading The Hawk and the Dove. I took it with me and read the entire thing on the way home (it helped having a three hour delay in one of the airports). Truly a brilliant little book. I won’t spoil it, but it is about a mother telling her daughter stories about a monastery that existed some 700 years prior. At the end of one particular hectic and noisy day with her several children, the mother and her oldest are sitting by the fire having tea and mother says, “Peace. Oh, this is nice. It’s nice when you feel peaceful inside, and you can curl up by the fire in a peaceful house. Too much racket in the house and it frays you at the edges a bit….” I couldn’t live in New York City because I think it would be a bit like living in a house with too much racket and my nerves would be more than a bit frayed. I’m sure that it is something you eventually become accustomed to—or something that drives you crazy—but as it is, the Queen can at times get a bit too noisy for me. However, after speaking about a noisy house, mother goes on to say, “but if you lose the peace on the inside of you, you could be in the quietest place on earth and your nerves would still jangle.” And that’s just it, you could live in a vacuum, absent of all noise, and there would still be this great racket going on in your soul. Like New York City, the soul can become this overwhelming cacophony where there is no rest or peace. What are we to do?

There are those who will attempt to provide us with all sorts of escapes, all of which are costly in one way or another. I can run through a litany of them here, but you all know your “drug” of choice. That one thing you hope will give you some respite from the noise, but in the end, you know you’ll still end up with some variety of a hangover. Surprisingly, the answer doesn’t lie in adding something to our lives. The answer to the noise lies in setting it all aside.

In the words of Isaiah that were quoted in our Gospel, we are told that John was, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” That immediately tells us that in order for our souls to clearly hear that calling voice, we must take the time to set aside the things of this world, we need to get out of the noise of the city and not only that, we need to get out of the noise of our own heads and enter into a place of quiet.

Brennan Manning, in The Ragamuffin Gospel said, “We must go out into a desert [a wilderness] of some kind,” and he says, “your backyard will do.” When the world is so loud on the exterior or in the interior, we must seek out those wilderness places of quiet. It is there that we can once again see the straight path that is laid before us. And it is there that the rough mountains of our lives are made low and the deep valleys are filled. As Manning would go onto say, when we enter the wilderness, that place where we can hear the voice of God calling to us, then we “come into a personal experience of the awesome love of God.” What is so beneficial is that this awesome love of God is not something that abandons us when leave the quiet, but instead goes with us as we re-enter the noise, and instead of feeling frayed, we maintain that peace that can come only from above. Like a fish that has to be returned to the water, we too have to return time and time again until we are fully perfected in Christ, but we can know that God’s love is inexhaustible and always available to us.

During this season of Advent, we celebrate the coming of our Lord and look with joyous anticipation towards his second coming, but do not forget that the Kingdom of God is now and that you have access to it if you will seek Him in the wilderness, in the quiet, where He can be found.

Let us pray:
Father of Heaven and earth,
hear our prayer and show us the way to peace.
Guide each effort of our lives
so that our faults and our sins
may not keep us from the peace You promised.
May the new life of grace You give us
through the Eucharist and prayer
make our love for You grow
and keep us in the joy of Your Kingdom.

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