It’s been one of those days; a day when nothing goes to plan. Yet now, peace, all is still. The wind has dropped, the birds have fallen silent and as clouds gather far above me, evening draws in. Just above my head, bats swoop, no doubt drawn by the insects I felt, rather than saw, as I walked the Rectory Garden a few moments earlier. In the distance, traffic of various kinds rumbles, but that is far beyond the garden.
In the beginning, when God first created, he planted a garden. There he put humankind; together with all that is needed for the thriving, not just of humanity, but all creation. It was a garden full, not just of food for the body, but also food for the mind and spirit – for life consists in all three. We were, of course, expelled – or perhaps expelled ourselves; but the history of human endeavour; from a humble urban balcony – to the greatest of parks, shows the strength of our yearning. Gardens are in our psyche; gardens are good for us, that is where we first encountered God.
Now, though, as I look up past the circling bats, to the darkening clouds; as I ponder the prospect of a coming storm; here in the garden, all I can hear is a sound of silence.
What are you doing here Elijah? The prophet Elijah was on the run. Following a prolonged drought, God had shown his power through Elijah. Now, Queen Jezebel is out to have him killed. Escaping to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, he experiences the full fury of nature; the oft cited ‘earthquake, wind and fire ‘(1 Kings 19). However, God is not in any of this fury; only when the fury had passed, when he encountered the sound of sheer silence, did Elijah encounter God. What are you doing here Elijah? This was the invitation to pour out all his worries; to tell it as it looked to him. Then the Lord replied, it’s better than you fear. Go, I have a job for you.
Mountains are in short supply in Suffolk; gardens are a better bet. Whichever we choose, in this age of sound and fury, moments of divine silence are invaluable. As evening falls, and the noise of the day passes, listen for the sound of silence; then listen for the still, small voice of God beyond.
Rev’d Philip Payne
Notice sheet for 21st August can be found here