The sound of sheer silence

Today’s sermon is about half as long to allow time for lighting candles as we remember the saints in our lives.

When was the last time you experienced sheer silence.  I mean the real deal. No noise. No screens. No human voices or children tugging on your sleeve. No hum of the engine or the tires on the road.  No crickets. Have you experienced sheer silence?  Maybe you haven’t.

We’ve included time for silence throughout today’s worship service.  And just to reinforce what I said at the beginning of worship, this doesn’t put pressure on parents with young kids. I know there’s going to be wiggling and noise you cringe at.  I’m not trying to recreate the silence that we read about today in scripture.  I am trying to make time for it though, and to have us sit with “nothing to do” during that silence.  So even if it’ s wiggly or not silent where you are, it’s ok.

Elijah, the prophet experiences the sound of sheer silence. And in that silence is God.

Now, to recap: Elijah has been working for God.  Serving God.  His life is threatened so he bolts.  He goes well over 100 miles and then a few more to escape Queen Jezebel’s threat of death. And then he has a crisis of faith. He has an identity crisis. Elijah’s ears are ringing with the deafening sound of “What’s it all for?” He doesn’t know who he is or what he’s doing. He feels alone, abandoned. So this man, who has fled many miles to save his own skin, now sits under a solitary broom tree and prays to die.  Seems he’s decided that living is worse than death.

So, an angel shows up, two times. Wakes him up, and tells him to eat and drink.  This angel prepares him for what is to come: 40 more days of wilderness.  And when wilderness is mentioned in the Bible, that means a place where God is not.

So now Elijah is in the cave. And this is when the chaos really breaks open. Splitting rocks and shaking earth. Violent, relentless wind. Fire. Elijah’s world is breaking apart, splitting in two. And God is not there.

Instead, God comes to Elijah in the sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah’s life is split in two. When the chaos has had its way with him. When the chaos gives way to stillness. When his mind has stopped shrieking. When there’s nothing left. That’s where God is.  And God gives Elijah purpose. After all this. It is in the sheer silence that God gives Elijah’s life purpose once again. You’ve got kings to anoint, Elijah. You’ve got work to do. You are not alone.

So, as we light candles today and lift up all those saints in our lives – those who have died and those alive now – I ask you.  Who have the angels, the saints been in your life that have come to you as you lay under the solitary broom tree praying to die?  Who have the saints been that have said, “Wake up. You need to eat and drink.  It’s gonna get worse for a while. So you need to prepare yourself.”  Who have the saints been who have showed up with hot dish to help you get through the coming chaos?

And then, when all the chaos of addiction and grief and anger and loss and uncertainty and faithlessness and betrayal have died down. When those storms have ceased and the sheer silence opens up and threatens to swallow you whole – what has God said to you?  What purpose has God given you?  You are not alone. God is here. God is with you.