"Make noise," J. Herbert Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently told a gathering of leaders of presbyteries, synods, and the General Assembly in St. Louis. His words resonated with many of us at different levels.
"Make noise" recalled to me the cries of people coming before the Lord - the blood of Abel crying from the ground after Cain murdered his brother, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt (and slaves anywhere), the psalmist's laments, people captive to empires controlling them, people of faith hiding for fear of their lives, Peter and others in prison, Jesus upon the cross. God is listening: "I have heard the cries of my people." Make noise. Then the consolation: "The Lord heard my cry."
"Make noise" recalled the prophetic tradition in which our Stated Clerk was standing. Elijah called upon the power of God to be shown before false prophets. Isaiah warned those whose lives had grown rich and comfortable leaving widows and orphans suffering. Jeremiah singularly spoke against the king's advisors ignoring the destruction to come upon the people. Make noise. The Spirit will see to that: "Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy" so each generation hears the word of the Lord.
"Make noise" recalled the "protesting" acts that frame our Protestant heritage. Not content to leave the Bible in a singular language, Wycliffe and Tyndale, work to translate it into the common language of people, Tyndale martyred for doing so. Jan Hus, before Luther, Calvin, Zwingli among others made much noise about reforming the church, also was martyred. And what of the women and other cultures oft forgotten-even Ethiopia? Make noise. The former Eurocentric reform is itself being reformed as Protestant Christianity's largest adherents today come from the global south and Southeast Asia. "They came from every nation and tribe and people and language...and with a great voice shouted: Salvation belongs to our God."
Remember the cries of people who need you to make noise. Remember the leaders of nations that need you to make noise about God's justice and mercy. Remember your congregations and this presbytery when making noise will help us center where God has called us in embodying God's love, proclaiming God's Word, and promoting God's justice.
"I came to bring them life, and far more life than before," Jesus said. Therein lies the gospel hope. For there will be times when another "noise" will arise in us that will be one of deep joy that no one can take away from us because we have seen with our eyes and heard with ears and believed in our hearts what the Lord has done for us and all creation. Make that noise also.