As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Tuesday 28th April 2020
In the meeting of our lives,
be the focus of all that we are.
In the singing of the hymns,
the prayers that we shall make,
the reading of your Word
and the preaching of the same.
Speak to us, encourage and forgive us.
In the meeting of our lives, Lord,
be the focus of all that we are.
This morning I was reading an article by a journalist in the Guardian Newspaper, Amelia Gentleman, about the so called ‘disconcerting silence’ in London. This is what she writes: ‘There is no noise of people laughing or shouting, no one bellowing into their mobile phones, no sounds of plates clattering at pavement cafes. Bins are not overflowing with coffee cups and discarded newspapers. Even the pigeons seem hungrier.’ Another person observes: “You can hear the wind rushing through the streets. It feels so eerie, like waking up in a post-apocalypse movie.” As somebody who enjoys the outdoors, I appreciate the quietness that accompanies the present period of lockdown. But for some folk the lack of noise and the bustle of human activity can be very unnerving. This silence is disconcerting.
As a very active person, sitting still and being silent does not come easy to me. I always like to be doing something. Even on holiday I like to be active. And when I am out walking or running there is always noise – especially the local skylarks! But there are times when silence comes as an unexpected but welcome intrusion. Walking out on the hills I have on two or three occasions heard the silence. An absence of noise – no wind, bird song or the sound of human activity – had led to an awareness of a soft, hushed background sound. It is hard to describe in words.
Silence is also part of the spiritual life. When life is at its darkest sometimes God is silent, in what is called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ But the most intimate spiritual experience is what the French Jesuit Priest Père de Caussade described as the sacrament of the present moment. It is when all around and within becomes dimmed and silent and we become fully attentive and aware of the presence of Christ alive in our heart.” Another writer, John Main, describes this as being open ‘…wholly, attentively and wakefully to this great gift we are given.
Elijah Flees to Horeb
19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The LORD Appears to Elijah
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
At Sinai, God spoke to Moses and the Israelites. Thunder and lightning and an ever-louder sound of a trumpet preceded and accompanied the Word of God (Exodus 19). Centuries later, the prophet Elijah returned to the same mountain of God. There he experienced storm and earthquake and fire as his ancestors did, and he was ready to listen to God speaking in the thunder. But the Lord was not in any of the familiar mighty phenomena. When all the noise was over, Elijah heard "a sound of sheer silence", and God spoke to him
Loud words certainly make themselves heard; they are impressive. But we also know that they hardly touch the hearts. They are resisted rather than welcomed. Elijah’s experience shows that God does not want to impress, but to be understood and accepted. God chose "a sound of sheer silence" in order to speak.
Silence makes us ready for a new meeting with God. In silence, God’s word can reach the hidden corners of our hearts. In silence, it proves to be "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit" (Hebrews 4:12). In silence, we stop hiding before God, and the light of Christ can reach and heal and transform even what we are ashamed of. (Taizi)
Have you ever heard the silence’?
Have you encountered and experienced the authentic inner presence of God within your heart? (Note of caution! God treats each of us as individuals – our encounters with Jesus are always unique and different.)
What difference should this make to our lives – knowing that we are loved and valued, forgiven and redeemed by none other than Jesus Christ?
God of laughter and promises,
Source of joy and source of hope: hear our prayers.
In the calm of this beautiful space, we are mindful of those who do not know the beauty of friendship and community, the calm of daily bread, the peace of life without violence of war.
So we lift up to you those people around the world who suffer this day – the poor, the hungry, those facing rampant disease. We lift up to you those places torn apart by war and conflict and by natural disaster. As if we need to lift them up to you – you are already there, compassionate and strong. Help us to follow your example, and to help as we can.
In the calm of this beautiful space, we are mindful of those in our community who are wracked with worry and anxiety – about their health of the health of those they love; about work and finances; about their kids’ well-being and their education and their social lives and their education. We lift up to you all who are anxious about so much, as if we need to lift them up to you – you are already with them, the still small voice in the midst of the storm, reminding them to breathe and to trust.
In the calm of this beautiful space, we give you thanks for this time, for this time set apart to worship. We lift up to you all our praise for the good in life and for the struggles that help us to grow; we lift up to you that which we cannot name aloud. We lift up to you our hearts, knowing that you have had them all along.
We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name
Pause to remember people who have lost their jobs and homes and shell-shocked by this new and unwanted experience and they may find the help they need.
Pause to remember people all serve at personal risk – retail staff, delivery drives, carers, medical staff, emergency services and members of the armed forces.
Pause to remember all who guide our common life – Elizabeth our Queen, Prime Minister and First Minister, knowing the heavy burden of responsibility they bear and the hard choices and difficult decisions they need to make. – pray from God’s grace and guidance, deep wisdom and great courage.
Pause to remember those who have lost their lives to Covid19 because of their service to others – pray their families may receive God’s deepest comfort and peace.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind