The Sound of Silence
The church site is much quieter these days. Sometimes there is no traffic to be heard at all. Not many planes in the sky. The birds don’t stop singing during daylight, of course, but somehow their voices blend into the silence.
Not everyone relishes silence, but it is worth cultivating the habit of being quiet for a period. “Be still and know that I am God” we read in Psalm 46. Maybe this time of lock-down is ideal for trying to do this.
You will recall the 60’s song “The sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. The interpretation of this song is contested, but I like the idea that the darkness, like silence, is a friend, and “the words of the prophets are... whispered in the sound of silence”.
In the Old Testament story of Elijah, King Ahab and his nasty wife, Jezebel, attempt to stamp out worship of God. They exile and kill a large number of the Lord’s prophets. And Elijah finds himself alone and under enormous pressure.
Elijah is told by God to wait on Mt Horeb for the presence of the Lord to pass by. But God does not appear in ways he had showed up in the past. Instead he comes in a new way. God is not in the wind (as in the book of Job), an earthquake (as when he gave the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai), or fire (as in the burning bush with Moses).
Then he hears it. “A still small voice” or “a gentle whisper,” or “a sound of sheer silence”, depending on the translation.
The silence and solitude amidst the chaos are for Elijah full of the presence of God. From that place he hears God in a new and powerful way. In the same way, silence and solitude offer ways for many of us to meet God. Rather than fearing that God has left us, the space is precisely the opposite. The story of Elijah teaches us that it is in the silence of words that we enter into the presence of the Word.