This week I went on retreat with college to Foxhill. It was my first silent retreat and I was looking forward to spending some time with the Lord in the beautiful scenic surroundings.
We were fortunate with the weather with the sun beaming down and even though it was chilly, walking around the grounds was breathtaking.
When it came to dinner, we all sat together in silence and started to eat. I never realised that trying to eat in silence for the first time would be so interesting. Things ticked on by until certain events that really weren’t funny started to be hilarious. Daft things like cutting into food and it going flying now seemed to be the funniest thing ever, filling up someone’s water and splashing it everywhere was comedic gold. The harder we tried to remain serious the funnier became.
Trying to stop a laugh is actually really difficult. Once I started to snigger the rest of the laugh started to break through, a giggle turned into a chuckle and that grew again into full out laughter.
Typing it out sounds ridiculous that I an adult could not eat a meal in silence without laughing, but there was something beautifully joy-filled about this.
We were so enjoying being soaked in the silence and in the presence of our Lord that His boundary breaking, transformative joy was pouring through us.
I personally was bursting with joy over the retreat and the harder I tried to suppress it the more it seeped out.
This story of my giggly silent retreat came to mind as I heard the liturgy of the Palms this morning. Jesus says in response to the Pharisees asking Him to silence His disciples “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus is correct! How difficult it is to try and suppress the wonder of Him and the joy and glory that He provides and brings.
But how confusing it is that we as Christians sometimes find it difficult to articulate our faith!
Jesus says that we cannot be silent because even the stones will cry out, and that is what happens. We end up seeing His glory being witnessed and proclaimed in different ways. If one place is silent then another with cry out.
If a place where Jesus’s love and glory is seen that is not expected, are we meant to stay silent? We have to remember that Jesus breaks through everything and that means our human experiences and expectations, the Pharisees struggled with this and wished silence could cover what they were witnessing. Let us hope that we try and not do the same.
Palm Sunday has always been special for me. On this day in 2014 I waved a paper palm leaf made by my children as people around me sang. I wasn’t singing myself but slowly, during that moment I felt an overwhelming feeling that God loved me and that He had a plan for my life and it started right then. My mouth was opened and the stones inside of me began to cry out – proclaiming the glory of the King of my heart.
On my last day of my retreat I spent time watching the silken pearlised petals of a Magnolia tree slowly fall to the ground. The beauty of the tree stood proudly, but soon the tree would be bare and the petals would be gone.
This image reminded me of the journey that we begin today towards the cross, slowly the palms that were so beautifully waved are put down and left to rot into the ground, as Jesus was hung left to die on the cross.
But we know that death did not win and so like the Magnolia tree, leaves begin to grow again and wave and proclaim, that every tongue will confess, every knee should bed and all the stones will cry out that Jesus is Lord.