Preach the Pauses


One of the things they teach you in seminary is the importance of crafting sermons. A lot of instruction goes into creating biblically sound, articulate, and application heavy messages. Of course, there are certain things about sermons that can’t be taught, but can only be learned.

Rob Bell once said he learned a great deal about preaching from this preacher in Texas who was known for the pauses he used in his sermons. The man uttered beautiful sentences and was eloquent and insightful, but the really poignant parts of his messages came not from his words, but from his silence.

Sometimes the quiet preaches louder than the noise.

What is true in sermons, is also true in life. Words matter immensely to us. But there are parts of us and parts of this universe that cannot be explained by the greatest writers and orators of our day.

There are moments that cannot be described, only experienced. And there are things about God that cannot be learned in instructional settings, but only in the deep quiet recesses of our own souls.

The psalmist once said “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls…”

The deep calling to deep is a description of the heaviness and sheer magnitude of that which is greater than us. One of the hebrew words for glory is the word kavod, which means ‘weight’ or ‘heaviness.’ It’s like there are parts of God that are too weighty and immense for us. We can’t lift or process it. We just enjoy our view as it hovers around us.

When Elijah was searching for the Lord in that famous passage on the mountainside, he waited patiently for him to appear. God then sent a string of miraculous natural phenomena.

First it was a roaring wind that tore the mountain apart; then came a rumbling earthquake that tossed rocks back and forth; and finally, a blazing fire that burned and scorched the mountainside.

But Elijah didn’t find God in those. It was after the uproar of the wind, after the shaking of the earthquake, and after the blazing fire. It was a small, subtle and nearly forgettable whisper that rocked Elijah’s world.

Sometimes the quiet preaches louder than the noise.

Have you noticed the power of the pauses in your life? It’s the small moments where the weight of it all is there and we don’t have to speak or explain, but simply bask in the silence.

It’s those beautifully ordinary moments that happen everyday–washing the dishes, taking out the trash, sharing a bite to eat with a friend–that we learn are packed with the bliss of heaven.

It’s the moment right after hearing bad news where our souls tremor; it’s the awesome anticipation that flutters our hearts before good news.

What if we learned to preach the pauses of life?

Because there are these sacred and holy and otherworldly experiences surrounding us everyday.

What if we learn to quiet our minds and hearts, and choose to listen?

Martin Luther King Junior used to stand up behind his pulpit and pause before he said a single word. His eyes would scan the crowd and he would take a deep, quiet breath. It was like the gravity of the moment said it all.

The next time we’re tempted to insert words and explanations and conjectures, what if we chose to preach the pauses instead?

Who knows? Perhaps we’d be saying so much more by saying less.

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