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Calm in the center

Calm in the center

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Calm in the center

April 9, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0470}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

In the center of the peninsula of Florida is the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Located approximately 20 miles east of Sebring the park contains about 54,000 acres of the great prairie of our state. It is the “Big Sky” country, where vast vistas of saw palmetto are dotted with cabbage palms and hammocks of small live oaks.

Kissimmee Prairie. Photo by Bill Combs Jr., Photo #06-335.

This preserve, which is surrounded by the great cattle ranches of Florida, is home to birds, butterflies, bobcats and river otters. To come to this quiet and open space is to experience the calm in the center of Florida. No matter how many people, buildings and vehicles fill the East and West coasts and the corridor along Interstate 4, the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park will always be a place to which we can go to be silent.

Each of us must find that center of calm in our own souls. No matter how filled our lives become with activities, gadgets and even other people, we can preserve a place of silence at the center.

One of the most important leaders in the early church was Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch. A friend of the apostle John, Ignatius was martyred by being thrown to the beasts in the Coliseum in Rome in A.D. 107. On his way to Rome Ignatius wrote seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor. In those letters Ignatius encouraged other Christians to hold fast to the message of the apostles of Jesus Christ.

There are many things we have learned from Ignatius. For example, he was the first to describe the suffering and death of Christ as his “passion.” Charles Wesley quoted Ignatius, who said, “my love is crucified,” when he wrote the hymn, “My Lord, My Love, is Crucified.”

Of all we learned from Ignatius nothing is more important than the place of silence in our hearts. Ignatius described Jesus Christ as the Word that is spoken out of the silence of God. He said that whenever we hear Jesus’ words we can feel the silence from which they come. He considered the greatest Christian to be one who possessed an interior of silence where he or she communed with God. Ignatius thought a bishop was a witness to the church the most not when he was teaching, but when he was silent. As Hans Urs von Balthasar noted, for the first time in the era following the apostles, in the writings of Ignatius we learn that silence matters more than words because our silence is a way of being in the presence of God.

We can be grateful for the stewardship of our elected officials who have the wisdom to preserve areas of the country in their undeveloped state. As our nation becomes increasingly populated these areas are islands of quiet to which we can retreat from the noise of the work-a-day world. Yet, even when we cannot go literally to a place that is a center of calm we need to find that center in ourselves where the Spirit bears witness to our spirit in sighs too deep for words.

Lent is a season of self-examination, fasting and preparation for Easter. It concludes by inviting us to gaze upon the death of the Lord. Ignatius of Antioch said that the death of the Lord was wrought in the “silence of God.” In his death we hear the silence of the ineffable mystery of God whose love for us is greater than our sin and death. This Lent let us journey to that place of silence in ourselves so that we know God and his Son who died for us so that we may live.


This article relates to Lent/Easter.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.