When We Were Yet Speechless

Saturday night, the night before Easter, about forty-five of us gathered in the dusk in the narthex outside the sanctuary doors. We settled ourselves and began to gather our hearts for worship—a new service—a kind of modified Easter Vigil for us to try. The sanctuary doors opened to reveal a path of light—tiny votive candles perched on the side of each pew—making a pathway of light through the dim and dark sanctuary.

We moved up onto the chancel, which had been changed into an intimate worship space. The table was in the center, with chairs ranged around in circles. Banks of yet unopened lilies clustered in the background. The towering cross, startling with its scarlet and gold glass tiles, stood over us. And more candles burned on the white table. In the center of the table, a clear crystal bowl held water studded with blue glass stones. A pitcher formed by the hands of a member stood nearby, ready to be poured out in prayer and intercession.

This was a night for us to bring the light back to the world and to remember our baptism. The confirmation class was there with their family and friends. Members of the congregation, who were curious and supportive of this new worship, sat by too. Each family shared the story of their child’s baptism. One father cried as he remembered the first time he saw his daughter. One mother read a letter written to her daughter on the day she was baptized—she sang a song. One mother brought photos and talked about the hope that her son’s birth restored to a family that was grieving. One father wrote to his son and read us these words:

To Sean:
Confirmation has to do with a deepening of Christian faith, a strengthening of our understanding into the mystery of Christ and an opportunity to reflect on how his words and deeds uniquely speak to us, inviting us, impressing us to magnify all that is good and holy in life. Confirmation joins us once again to our baptism in which parents and congregation said “yes” to our being part of the community of redemption. And now that trust and commitment, which was made for us when we were yet speechless, comes home and says now is the time to say “yes” to the pledge that was offered in your name, now is the time to say “yes” in a newer and larger and brighter way to him who invites us to share his victory over death. Today is a day of yeses—yes to the ideals we become aware of emerging within us—ideals that call our present self into our future self. Yes to what was begun years ago one baptism day. Yes to a carpenter whose love for each one of us cannot be stilled. A yes to the demands of love that calls each of us in our varied way to be helpers and healers in the kingdom of God. (Ed Hughes)

When we were yet speechless. I often still find myself in this condition when confronted with the world. My tongue is tied by a lack of words to describe the pain that I feel over senseless death in war and the effects of globalization. I can’t find the words to express the depth of my love for someone at their most vulnerable. My stubborn heart stops me from saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” My need to feel included, loved, understood is so great that I cannot form the word “No.” I am so tired sometimes that words won’t even form in my mind and I find that the Spirit is “praying” me.

Speechlessness goes hand in hand with believing, I think. As we all came forward to dip our hand in the water on the table to reaffirm our baptism, something speechless passed among us as we felt the refreshing water and exchanged blessings.

I pray for my speech to be strong and clear when need be. But I also pray to remain somewhat speechless as I face the fathomless depth of my baptism.


In a Word

Chancel: the front platform area of the sanctuary where the baptismal font, communion table, and pulpit are located.

Anne Weirich (annew@westminstergr.com) is associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article is reprinted by permission of The Presbyterian Outlook, Vol. 187, No. 22. www.pres-outlook.org.

Reformed Worship 94 © December 2009, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.