Sunday, 16 June 2013

Listening to the silence

1 Kings 19:1-15
Elijah Flees from Jezebel
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer- sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die:“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
Elijah Meets God at Horeb
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 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?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

I don't know about you - but most weeks , I can't remember what I've been doing from one day to the next. Time just rushes by - from one meeting to the next, from one visit to another. I like to think that in each encounter there's calmness, a concerted effort to be just where I need to be at any given moment - it's the bits in between where, sometimes, it seems a bit frenetic.
What's important, for me, is that whatever else is going on, however much is piling up, what matters is the person or the people I am with at any particular time.
Being present exactly where God calls us to be is an important discipline for all of us.
Making the most of every God given encounter is important.
And, although its tempting to be ahead of ourselves, or to be rushing on to the next thing, the God we serve calls us to be present right where we are.
Whatever our day entails.
At work.
At play.
At home.
Each moment can only be lived once.
And so it is important.
Opportunities often only present themselves fleetingly.
So they must be grasped with both hands.
- Exercising faith in the God who gives us what we need as we need it.

Elijah, running from the wrath of Queen Jezebel runs out of steam and has to stop and rest.
In the wilderness to which Elijah has retreated in fear, God provides food for the journey.
Just enough.
Each time he wakes from his sleep of fear and exhaustion, angels prepare him food.
At just the right time.
That's been a theme of Elijah's service.
At each stage of his life, God provided whatever he needed so that Elijah could continue to serve God in every circumstance.
At the very time when Elijah feels overwhelmed.
When he feels utterly helpless.
In that moment, God provides just what he needs.
God places in his path, someone or something to minister to him.
I wonder if that's a pattern we see playing out in our lives?
Or are we too busy to notice?
Lets take a moment to think this morning of the ways God speaks to us in the midst of our everyday...
It might be in majestic signs of creation -
Amazing cloud formations, a family of deer at the roadside, a buzzard on a lamp post, a heron by the river, a stunning sunset - all glimpses of God, fleeting, easily missed but glimpses that, when caught, speak into our everyday of the majestic God of creation.
Or what about the angels God places in our path to make the darkness seem brighter - the friend who texts or calls out of the blue, the colleague who pays us a complement, the neighbour who invites us for coffee, the friend who takes the children for an hour and gives us some unexpected breathing space. Humans who, in that moment are angels of God.

Today, whatever our role in life, we can all become overwhelmed at times.
We can all feel the pressure, whatever we choose to do, whatever responsibilities we carry.
In those moments of helplessness, God comes to us, bearing sustenance for the journey.
Sometimes, just enough to take us onto the next stage of the journey.
So it was with Elijah.
Once the angels had fed Elijah, God sent him on another journey - a forty day trek to Mount Horeb.
And there, God met Elijah, not in a great wind, not in an earthquake, not in fire...
But in the sound of silence.
And, in the silence, God's voice came to Elijah.
In the noise and business of our lives today, we face the danger of missing the voice of God in the silence.
If we fail to notice God in creation.
If we don't see the folks around us as angels sent to minister.
How will we ever hear God speaking in a still small voice through the silence?

Often, when ministers get together, its like a competition to see who's the busiest.
Recently, a colleague shared how he had a fear of " dropping the ball".
Of missing something, or failing to turn up somewhere he was supposed to be, simply because he had too much on the go.
That isn't particularly a fear that I have - though I have had nightmares about getting the time wrong for a funeral or a wedding - I check those again and again!
My fear is more that it gets to Sunday worship, which could be considered the end of my working week, or the beginning of a new working week and I quite simply have nothing to say.
Because I've worked flat out- been with people, conducted services, attended meetings, managed staff, dealt with so many concerns, large and small, all important, all deserving of time and energy and care and passion, my fear is that, come Sunday, there is nothing left.
That, in worship, it all comes crashing down.
I know colleagues who are very intentional in setting aside time to prepare for Sunday worship, some who have days that cannot be used for anything other than sermon writing.
Whereas my preparation is sandwiched into quiet - or busy moments.
Snatched from thoughts and inspirations that come unbidden, that pop up here and there as the week moves on.
Fashioned out of the glimpses of God in the week.
Always a work in progress.
And, hopefully, always enough.
The word that God wants proclaimed, sufficient for the day.
It may not be in a beautifully worded sermon.
It may not be in a carefully crafted prayer.
Gods voice comes unbidden, maybe even unwelcome, and certainly when least expected.
As Elijah discovered, not in the great wind, or in the earthquake or in the fire - but in silence.
And silence is something we so rarely experience today, surrounded as we are by noise.
We expect drama - the drama of earthquake, wind and fire, yet God chooses to speak through silence.

May this passage speak to us this day - as God intends.
May we hear the voice of God, however hungry, tired or dejected we feel.
And may it be enough to enable us to carry on with the journey and to hear that still small voice in silence.
Lets listen for God in the silence.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Tanya said...

One of my favourite passages and a message I needed to hear tonight. Thank you, dear friend, for always having the right word to bring to a situation. you might be fitting your prep into the gaps (or lack of them) in the week but you still always manage to find the most wonderful words and message.

Dot said...

Wonderful gift to hear this live today from the voice of one of these Angels. TBTG. Dx

liz said...

You guys are really kind. Thanks. x

Anonymous said...

This is just beautiful.