Jesus’ parting gift to his disciples is the gift of his peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
It’s a fact that music often soothes my soul, along with beauty and walking along the beach or high up on a mountain peak. In some of my darkest days, it’s Elgar’s cello compositions or Franck’s Panis Angelicus that I soak up like a sponge. They carry for me that peace Jesus speaks about, calling me back to find my centre in God.
Ours is a busy, hectic age, and amid all that activity, all the expectations that we put on ourselves as well as those placed upon us, it’s important that we seek out, and more intentionally carve out space to rest in the peace that Jesus offers us. That’s why I have offered ‘Slow Spirituality’ during my time at St John’s. We are in an age that is into fast food, fast internet, instant social media and much of this spins us out rather than centres our lives.
When I read the Gospels I notice that Jesus walks everywhere. Walking is slow compared to what we are used to, but it’s also good for us. We are made to walk rather than to sit in front of a computer all day. Walking together with others is often a time for engaging in conversation as well as enjoying the scenery. I admit that when the internet is going slow I get frustrated like everyone else and yet I also know that I need times and practices that help me to go slow. The development of fast food led in time to the slow food movement. Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. The aim of the movement is to counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. They want to encourage people to enjoy regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slower more natural pace of life.
In thinking about this movement and the wonderful meals I have enjoyed I could see parallels with the rich and varied spiritual traditions of the Christian faith. Slow Spirituality is about recovering those spiritual practices that sustain us in the long haul of life. Most of them are contemplative in character, encouraging us to slow down our lives and to listen more intentionally to the voice of God.
Often it can be helpful if this is something we do with others. When I lived and worked in the Abbey on Iona in Scotland, there was one service I looked forward to more than any of the others. It was evening prayer on Sunday night, and it consisted simply of fifteen minutes of silence. Most of us have managed a minute’s silence on Anzac Day but sitting in silence with others for a quarter of an hour can be quite restorative as we let the rush and bustle of our week flow out of us. And when most of the congregation left after 15 minutes half a dozen of us chose to stay in silence for the rest of the hour, soaking up the peace.
I know that some people struggle with silence, however I would encourage you to try it and persist. Don’t place too many expectations on your time of silence, relax and allow yourself to have some time out. Ask God to keep you company and let me know how you go. If you want help with entering the silence, I would be very happy to talk with you.