The first thing that struck me when I awoke was the silence. It had been a windy few days and we had turned in the night before to the accompaniment of a howling gale. Now there was nothing; no wind, no birdsong, no traffic. Soon the house would be alive to welcome sounds; the kettle for our morning tea, the refreshing splash of the shower, the hum of the fridge. That was still to come, for the moment I lay still and listened to silence.
Silence is a rare feature of life. Sound forms the backdrop to our lives. Birdsong speaks not just of the birds, but the abundance (or otherwise) of plant and animal life they feed on. When birds fall unnaturally silent you know they have sensed danger near. Happy children’s voices from the school, speaks the hope of the next generation growing among us. Machinery tells of human endeavour. Sound can be welcoming, encouraging, soothing or threatening. Sound tells of activity. In our busy lives, sometimes we long for silence. When it comes, can we hear it? Are we so used to sound, that life without it is empty?
Be still and know that I am God. Elijah is in fear for his life. Following a spectacular display of the power of God at work, Israel’s Queen Jezebel had threatened to kill him. Now, after 6 weeks on the run, he is in hiding on Mount Horeb where he will encounter God. (1 Kings 19: 1-13). First Elijah experiences the great elemental forces of nature; earth, wind and fire; each with its accompanying sound and fury. Only when the sound subsides can Elijah hear a sound of sheer silence. Only then comes the voice of God.
It’s been a difficult year. Whatever our personal circumstances, we have experienced a year of sound and fury. Now our world is slowly reopening, and with it, familiar sounds return. But before we immerse ourselves too deeply in comforting familiar sounds; let us listen for the sound of silence; and give God’s voice a chance.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 9 May 2021 can be found here