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Sounds of Silence

June 25, 2019

Scripture 1 King 19:1-18

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11b-13 NRSV

If you have spent time with some of the stories in the Bible, there is a good chance that at least a portion of these verses above are familiar. The language and images convey God’s power through great displays of natural phenomenon: the wind, the earthquake, and the fire noted in this scripture lesson. But, despite our expectation, and Elijah’s as well, the scripture tells us that God was not present in these manifestations. Instead, the sound of silence produced the anticipated result: God spoke to Elijah.

This is useful, because God’s message to us is typically plain and unadorned. Often, it is difficult to listen with such a great deal of the noise in our lives: An awful lot gets in the way of our hearing and our understanding of any message. But, God remains with us through the gift of God’s Spirit. Although that particular phrase was not used by the writer of 1 Kings, through Christ and the Gospel we begin to understand God in just this way. In these verses, God’s works were something akin to apocalyptic fireworks in order to get Elijah’s attention. But, it was in the silence that followed those powerful events that God chose to communicate so intimately with the prophet.

Today, it is truly difficult to turn down the volume of noise around us. And yet, many people are able to do this very thing. Through Christ, we can engage in prayer, meditate on scripture, find a friend who supports us and lifts us up, and generally take our minds to a new and different place. Some in the media want credit for bringing us closer to nature or other aspects of our existence. But, in silence and in thoughtful prayer we can open ourselves to God and God’s will and God’s good work and God’s call on our lives.

This is an important lesson, told to us through the humble servant of God, the prophet called Elijah.

Stan Reid


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