Struck Silent by Love – Br. Lain Wilson

Isaiah 44:1-8
Psalm 92:1-2, 11-14
John 20:1-9

The summer after I graduated from college, I received a phone call. The caller introduced himself as Agent So-and-so, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I was struck silent for a moment or two. Not least because I was having a mild panic attack: “What did you do, Lain?!”

After I recovered, I learned that a college friend had listed me as a reference on his application to the FBI. I don’t recall what I said during the phone call, but I do remember two emotions. Profound gratitude—for being thought worthy of this, for being trusted. And a profound sense of responsibility—my testimony, in however a small way, had power.

Testify, witness, confess—these words recur throughout our readings this morning, as does the underlying sense of revealing some truth about God. “You are my witnesses!” God tells God’s people through the prophet Isaiah, after the promise to restore God’s blessings: I will pour my spirit upon your descendants” (Is 44:8, 3). “It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,” the psalmist sings, “to sing praises to your Name . . . to tell of your loving-kindness” (Ps 92:1-2). And two millennia later, these words by Robert Herrick, whose poem we sang before the service: “All these, and better Thou dost send Me, to this end, That I should render, for my part, A thankfull heart.”

Each of these texts can stand for countless others in the power of our words to testify, to bear witness, to shout out with thanks and praise the truth of God’s goodness and mercy. We can, with the power of our words, give God an absolutely glowing reference.

But our responsibility goes deeper than that. And the beloved disciple shows us how. Running to the tomb with Peter, and seeing the linen wrappings, he went into the tomb, “and he saw and believed” (Jn 20:8). He saw and believed.

Many, many words will come later, in the writings attributed to the beloved disciple. But here, in the early morning of that first Easter Day, the beloved disciple bears witness to the truth without words, without praise or thanks or even understanding. He bears witness to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by simply believing, by an act of faith. It is the witness, the testimony, of a human life utterly transformed by God’s loving, saving action in Jesus Christ. Belief is his response to God.

We too are transformed—or rather, are transforming, becoming. This is an ongoing, incomplete process in this life. And a first step—a first step in our own cooperation, our working with God’s transforming us—a first step in a lifetime of first steps—is to stand silent. To stand silent in awe, witnesses to a love that cannot help but strike us silent. Words will follow—but here and now, we can do no better than the beloved disciple did: to stand silent, and believe.

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