All My Days: Silence
Sermon June 12 – 13, 2016
START – 1 MINUTE of SILENCE
Silence can be ….. uncomfortable.
Silence can be Beautiful
Silence can be Piercing
Silence can be Peaceful
Silence can be Scary
Silence can be Magnificent
Silence can be Lonely
Silence can be Hard to Find
Silence can be Heartbreaking
Silence can be both stimulating and thunderous as we seek to spend time with our Lord & Savior. As we seek to spend time with God.
I’m no expert on the practice of silence & solitude. As a matter of fact, when Rebecca gave the list of dates and subjects that she needed coverage for, she made a point of saying, “Cindy, maybe this one is not for you since you’ve admitted how much you love to talk.” But this was the date I had available so you’re stuck with me today.
If you search, you’ll find countless scripture passages in the Bible, referencing the importance of silence & solitude. One of my favorites is from Psalm 46, “Be Still & Know that I am God”.
Be Still………. Be Silent………… Spend some time alone ……..
It seems these 3 things would be pretty easy to do, but unfortunately we let the cacophony of life get in the way most of the time.
Picture these images in your mind:
- A jogger – wearing headphones, pounding the pavement to the beat of the music.
- Holding the phone to your ear – while hold music plays on the other end.
- Going up or down in an elevator – while elevator “muzak” plays in the background.
- Saturday morning – Sun is shining – Windows are open to let the gentle breeze flow thru the rooms of your home – the TV is on with nobody even in the room watching it – or the radio is blaring while you work on weekly house cleaning, laundry, dishes.
- A long drive in your car – or even a short drive in your car – again, with the radio playing.
- The church pews on Sunday morning before the service begins – with the sound of chatter and laughter ringing all around you.
It is rare to find silence anywhere anymore.
The kind of silence we are going to visit today is considered a Spiritual Discipline – A voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that spiritual goals might be sought.
Solitude is also a Spiritual Discipline – Voluntarily and Temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes.
Jesus often sought out silence & solitude by going off by himself to pray. Have you ever felt over-loaded with the demands of your job, your family, your ministry, your volunteer projects, your life? No doubt, Jesus had far more responsibility and pressure than you or I or any human being has ever had and yet he remained relaxed, patient, joyful, and generous with people – including many very difficult or very needy people. How did Jesus do this? Yes, He was the Holy Son of God. That is a fact, but it is not an adequate answer. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully man.
Luke 2:52 states, “Jesus GREW in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.” And Hebrews 5:8 tells us that He learned obedience from what he suffered. Our sinless Savior GREW in grace and LEARNED to obey God! And we can too.
Jesus placed silence & solitude high on his priority list:
It’s how He Began his ministry
It’s how He made important decisions
It’s how He dealt with troubling emotions like grief
It’s how He dealt with the constant demands of His ministry and cared for His Soul
It’s how He taught His disciples
It’s how He prepared for important ministry events
It’s how He prepared for His own death on the cross
Spending time in Silence & solitude is how Jesus went deeper in his love-relationship with God. So, how can we learn from this?
Listening for God is perhaps one of the hardest forms of prayer for us. We often think that prayer is always our talking to God. We forget to take the time to be still and listen for God’s quiet voice.
The concept of waiting on God is a spiritual habit. It is the single greatest antidote to anxiety and tension. It’s a spiritual discipline that you must learn to do or you will be under stress your entire life.
According to Rick Warren, this is what it means to wait on God: you sit down and shut up! Find a place to be quiet and sit still in silence. Don’t read anything. Don’t pray. Just take some deep breaths, sit before God and say, “God, I’m just going to wait on you.” It’s amazing what a calming ability this has on your heart and mind. Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength… They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” I also like Lamentations 3:28-29 from the Message. It says: “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear.”
I tried Rick Warren’s suggestion of sitting down and shutting up, being quiet and still recently. A few weeks ago, I had the Children’s Sermon and needed to place some white helium balloons behind the altar prior to Sunday’s service. So, I came to church that Saturday afternoon, and after completing my task, I realized this would be a good opportunity to see if I could sit for 10 minutes in silence since the church was completely empty and there was absolutely nothing going on.
I chose the very back pew because quite honestly, I was kind of scared to sit all the way up front so close to the altar…. And God. Was I afraid of God?
Silence can portray a sense of mystery and vulnerability. It can make us feel that we are not in control. Silence seems to lack boundaries. It feels empty. We don’t know if we can trust what can happen if we let go of the noise, the chatter, the hum that is part of our everyday life.
As a result, we often stop ourselves short of being lured into the spacious silence known as Spiritual Silence. It is not just the absence of talk or noise. Silence has substance. It is the presence of something.
I encourage you to take a leap of faith and trust the silence, beginning with the psalmists, “Be still and know that I am God.” Being still before God is the enduring stance of prayer. Being still inside is the purest form of listening; listening for God thru the silence.
I really didn’t know what to expect with my little 10-minute challenge. I sat down, expecting complete silence, but that’s not exactly how it went. Let me start by telling you, this church building makes noises. I could hear water gurgling behind me and also from way up behind the altar it seemed. I was just up behind the altar and I knew there were no waterfalls or bubbling brooks up there. Obviously this had something to do with the boiler system I’m guessing. But then I also heard what sounded like a monster moaning or groaning. Again, I’m level headed enough to know that was also obviously something to do with the furnace or some other contraption in the basement, bellowing up thru the quiet.
When I was finally able to get the scary noises out of my mind, I began to relax. I tried closing my eyes, but first I was afraid I might fall asleep. Then after having them shut for maybe 20 seconds, I was afraid of the furnace monster coming to get me, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure if when I opened them at the end, I might actually see His Holy Presence in front of me. This was not going as planned! So I finally decided to keep my eyes open and I told God I was ready to listen. I posed the question, what do you want me to do God? And in the back of my mind, I could clearly hear, “Just keep going. You’re doing a good job. Don’t give up. Just keep going”.
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I have to admit this may have had something to do with the water gurgling in the background, but ever since that moment, I have Dori, the fish from Finding Nemo in my head singing, “Just Keep Swimming, Just keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming”. But it struck me! And I can’t get it out of my head either. I have taken on many different roles in the church. From organizing my girls and their friends into the J’Asbury Singers, to teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, leading Bible studies, sitting on many different committees, and standing before you like I am today, leading worship. I sometimes feel like I’m bouncing around the church not quite able to find my niche, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of these tasks I took on over the years – except maybe directing the “Worst Christmas Pageant Ever”… That was the name of the play. “The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever.” It turned out okay, but my sister and I actually sat down and cried after the last practice, still not sure how on earth this thing would turn out. It was a hit. And after that, Jean Rohloff was very generous with her memorial gift of money to the church to put towards a new sound system and cordless microphones so the kids wouldn’t have to share two mics on stage anymore. God had a plan.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. I know God’s message to me that day, while sitting in the back pew, worrying over the giant furnace monster was this. There isn’t a specific area that I fit in here. I fit anywhere He places me (except the kitchen – I hate the kitchen jobs!). Keep your eyes and ears and heart open, Cindy, to whatever may come along next. God’s in control. Always.