Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April 3 Sermon: Enjoy the Silence

Sermon Texts:
Psalm 46
1 Kings 19: 8-13

Sermon Notes:
Enjoy the Silence

1 Kings 17 Mt. Horeb

I went to college at a place that was right across the street from a very busy stretch of railroad tracks.  We all got used to the wailing horns and thunderous noise.  I was recently watching an old video of a play that I was in while in college, and it was so funny, that theater was on the side of campus that was closest to the tracks, and trains would just rumble through pretty much every hour.  While the play was being performed, in the recording, I began to hear that whistle, and then it just seemed to get louder, and louder, and louder!.  The funny thing was, we didn’t even react on stage.  It was just part of the background to us.  But watching it years later after becoming accustomed to the intense quiet of Morris, OK, it was amazing that we did it.

My junior year of college, I lived in this apartment that was literally 30 yards away from this bend in the railroad tracks.  Those trains would literally come  through 16 times a day, and through the night too!  One train would always come blasting through at 2am.  It would rattle the walls, and if you were having a conversation when the train was coming through, we just had to sit there and wait for it to pass.  There was no talking over it.  This was before the days of TIVO, so I couldn’t simply pause the TV when the train came through.  I had it plugged into my stereo, and I’d have to turn the thing all the way up just to hear.  But as I  mentioned before, we got used to it.  After only a week or two, I’d just sleep right through the 2am train, though it rattled the walls and caused a deafening roar. 

I’m reminded of that train for some reason when I hear this passage from Kings.  Perhaps God speaks so blatantly that we have just become accustomed to it.  Perhaps this is why Jesus says we must become like little children.  Taking nothing for granted. 

Or, perhaps our lives are so flooded with sound that we are deafened to the “still small voice” of God.  I’m on facebook too—so I’m not judging it as an outsider—but think about it.  You go to a main page and scroll through what is the equivilant of people yammering to anyone in general! 

We say we do it so we can “keep up with our friends,” but do I really need to know that they aren’t that impressed with a particular episode of Scrubs?

Experience of Going into a cave, which muffles the sound. Everything sounds close. And when you come back out, Everything sounds open and clear. 

Sometimes the experience of enveloping ourselves in silence has an effect of opening our ears to God’s voice. 

It seems like much attention is paid in our expression of faith on what we say and believe.  Is important, but as my dad heard an old Cherokee woman say one time, “You can’t be the mouth of God until you’ve been the ears of God.” 

As integral to our religious heritage as “I believe,” is the instruction “Hear, O Israel.” 

But, many of us have trouble listening to God.  Instead, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes in the wonderful short book Tthe Silence of God, “Many of us prefer to speak.  Our corporate prayers are punctuated with phrases such as “Hear us, Lord” or “Lord, hear our prayers,”  as if the burden to listen were on God and not us.  WE name our concerns, giving God suggestions on what to do about them.  What reversal of power might occur if we turned the process around, naming our concerns and asking God to tell us what to do about them?  ‘Speak Lord, for your servants are listening.’” 

When I was studying at Oxford, I regularly worshipped with the Society of Friends.  You might have heard of them before, they’re also known as the Quakers.  If you go to a Friends worship service, be ready for silence.  You see, that’s all it is.  People sit in the silence and listen for the movement of the Spirit.  If they feel moved to speak, the speak the Spirit guided word.  Believe it or not, in the several visits I made to the Quaker meeting house, I never said a word.  It wasn’t that I never felt prompted to say something—it’s just that I felt more a sense of respect and caution for the spoken word.  Even though the whole purpose of the Quaker movement was to free the Word from the pulpit, I sensed a much greater importance on the spoken word, and so I refrained from speaking as a sign of respect.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Sometimes I think we do all the talking because we are afraid God won’t.”  It’s kind of like being on a date, and the person is obviously nervous and so talks and talks and talks.  She continues, “Or, conversely, that God will.  Either way, staying preoccupied wth our own words seemsa safer bet than opening ourselves up either to God’s silence or God’s speech, both of which have the power to undo us.  In our own age, I believe God’s slence is the more threatening, perhaps because it is the more frequently experienced of the two.  Very few people come to me because they want to discuss something God said to them last night.  The large majority come because they cannot get him go say anything at all.  They have asked as sincerely as they know how for answers, for guidance, for peace, but they are still missing those things.  They have heard me talk about God on Sundays and they hope they can make us of my connections. 

No comments:

Post a Comment