Sounds of Silence

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Our NJ network of pastors is gathered for 3 days here in Lancaster, PA for a conference with the theme- “Listen Up.” Our speakers are working to help us to become better listeners, teaching about communication skills, poking holes in our assumptions and human foibles with jokes (very good ones, I might add).  I intend no criticism when I say that we have not given much time to a kind of listening which is critical to life.  We were urged to listen to the voice of the Lord, to revere Jesus … but oh, the constant noise. I craved just 15 minutes of silence to allow the weight of the Glory of God to settle down over us.

Noise is a cultural phenomenon.  We are addicted to it, filling in every moment with sound. And the idea of contemplation of the Almighty without amplified songs is growing extinct and, with its passing, we are losing the art of listening. We crank up the volume, increase the stimulation, while we shovel sound into our ears.  Even as we are urged to listen we are being deafened by the noise and losing our individual ability to hear the still, small voice of God. Then, too, there is something that is all too common, as least among my tribe of worshippers.  The moment we feel our hearts stirred by the awesome Presence we feel need to let out a shout or utter a praise or sing another worship song, even louder. I think we may have become incapable of quiet wonder where God is allowed to dig deep into our souls. It is as if we are conditioned to think, “somebody quick say something, sing something, do something!”

There is a time to shout the songs of our victory in Christ Jesus. There is a time to roar our declaration of faith in the face of our Enemy. And there is a time to simply “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)  My prayer is that we learn to worship and listen in silence as much as in our songs; that we find His Presence as wonderful in the quiet of our personal prayers as we do among the congregation.

Richard Foster, whose understanding of Christianity has shaped my own, observes “Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied.”   – Celebration of Discipline  Do you know the whisper of the Spirit’s voice – sometimes convicting, sometimes speaking of His love, always leading?

Peter’s impulses and tendency to speak when he ought to have remained silent speaks to me.  How I identify with him!  One day, in a moment of amazing wonder, he didn’t know enough about awe to keep his mouth shut and his ears open!  He earned a stunning rebuke from Jesus that remains a lesson for us. “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”  (Matthew 17:1-7, NIV)

God interrupted Peter’s intentions to say, “Listen up!”  Friend might He be asking the same of you today? May He be saying, “Please close your mouth and open your ears, so you can hear my Word?”

The word from the Word this morning reminds us about holy awe! “God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone-a holy silence. Listen!” (Habakkuk 2:20, The Message)  A reminder as you process that phrase – His holy temple is not a cathedral in Rome or your church’s building.   We are His holy Temples, the Spirit living in us. When we sense the Spirit moving in us – be it in corporate worship, standing on a mountain, or in the company of a suffering saint – an appropriate response is to grow still;  to allow awe to overwhelm us.

Today, make some space in all the ‘noise’ of your life to listen.
Invite the Spirit to fill you up with holy awe.  “Our God is an awesome God.”

__________________________________

I am Thine, O Lord,
I have heard Thy voice,
and it told Thy love to me.
But I long to rise
in the arms of faith,
and be closer drawn to Thee.

 Oh the pure delight
of single hour that before
Thy Throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer,
and with Thee, My God,
I commune as friend with Friend.

 Draw me nearer,
nearer, Blessed Lord,
to the cross where Thou hast died,
Dear me nearer,
nearer, Blessed Lord,
to Thy precious bleeding side.

Fanny Crosby-  Public Domain

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