Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Chant Listen for the Spirit The Good Book
Words of Welcome & Announcements
Call to Worship Today as we worship, hold the silence tenderly as listen for the still small voice of God.
Placing the Wreath
As we gather to worship, let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
Opening Prayer Spirit of gentleness, we gather today remembering the past and looking towards the future with hope. During the stormy times, may we remember the stillness and your gentle yet strong voice. Amen.
Theme Conversation Elijah
Readings The Sound of Silence
1 Kings 19:1-13
Musical Response Day after Day MV 123
Sermon The Still, Small Voice
We’ve jumped from Solomon’s Temple right into Elijah. After King Solomon’s death, there were a number of other Kings and Prophets, but by the time we get to Elijah, he’s the only prophet of God left. It is a time of famine for the Hebrew people. There’s not much food left to go around and many people, including Elijah, are depressed. Elijah goes down by the river, and while he is sleeping, ravens bring him food. This is fine for a while, but eventually the river dries up and the ravens stop bringing food. So Elijah moves along and finds a widow and her son. They have enough food left for one small loaf of bread. The Woman is preparing to make it the next day for her son and then they will die. Elijah manages to convince her to make it for him instead. The widow is skeptical, but figures death coming sooner would likely be better. They go to sleep and when they wake up, the jars are full again. Elijah stays with them for a short time, but leaves after saving the child’s life. Elijah believes that the people are experiencing this horrible famine because so many of them have been worshipping the God Baal. So Elijah builds an alter, digs a trench around it, fills the trench with seeds, the alter with a sacrifice and covers the whole thing with water. Fire rushes in and burns everything up. At this point, Elijah is public enemy number one, and runs to a cave and hides until he is called to feel the presence of God outside of the cave. After stepping out, Elijah experiences devastating wind, earthquake, and fire. Once the fire passed, all was silent. It was in the silence that Elijah heard the still, small voice of God.
We don’t know much about Elijah from the passage. A little earlier on we learned that Elijah was a Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead. We know he worshipped Yahweh – his name means “The one who worships Yahweh”. From 1 Kings, we know Elijah was a fierce opponent of Baal, and often felt unloved and often asks God to take his life. We know the Elijah was a party to some unexplainable things: the ravens GIVING food, the meal and the oil refilling themselves, raising the boy from death, the craziness of the alter, and the major storm. Eventually Elijah isn’t the only prophet of Yahweh anymore, and he completes two more amazing things: he parts the waters and rides a chariot of fire up into the sky leaving behind his sacred mantle for his follower Elisha. As Christians we hear Elijah referred to a few more times, most notably during Jesus’ transfiguration, where Elijah and Moses appear together.
The Sound of Silence has always been intriguing to me. I firmly believe that we communicate in many ways. Some of us communicate more often without out words than with words. I remember arguing with my sister once and accusing her of not listening to my silence. I can put a lot of emotion into a two-second gap of silence, and I often leave silence intentionally in conversation if I’m trying to understand the feelings of someone else. Silence is something I often look forward to, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
When I lived on Quinpool Rd, I often went to Taize Prayer Services at St. John’s United Church. If you’ve never been to a Taize worship before, it’s really an experience. Taize originated in a monastery in Taize, France. All prayers and scripture are sung, mostly by the congregation, although sometimes there is a cantor or soloist and the congregation responds. Often there are only one or two pieces plus the scripture in English. St. John’s went all out to create the atmosphere as well using candles in all the windows and directing everyone to sit together. Instead of a sermon, there’s silence. At St. John’s 15 mins of silence to be exact. You go in and are handed a song book, and a list of the ones that will be sung. At the top of the sheet was the reminder to keep as silent as you can as you enter and leave worship. Really the only thing that was missing were the monks robes! I loved it. I often went and one night one of my sisters and a friend asked to go with me. Of course I said yes. I was nervous though. I figured my sister would be ok, but our bubbly, chatty friend worried me. I didn’t think she’d make it. When we got out on the street after worship had finished, I asked how they found it. I was surprised by their reactions. My sister absolutely hated it and our friend loved it! For both of them it was the silence. I find the same thing true for yoga. Some folks would prefer to leave before savassanah, the silent closing posture and others wear t-shirts that say “I’m only here for Shavassana”
My hunch is that while some people find God’s presence in silence and others can only hear an absence of God. The hard part seems to be finding a balance or compassion for the other, so that in worship or in meetings there’s enough silence for those who needs it, but not too much for those who would prefer anything to silence.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes people give up when there is silence? For example, when there’s no clear answer to a problem, people give up? They expect an immediate answer, but when nothing seems apparent, they give up and say there’s no solution. Maybe the silence is really saying, this isn’t going to be easy or not quite yet. Or maybe the introverted person in the room was waiting for a moment of stillness to speak.
It was pretty hard to reflect on this particular scripture without including The Sound of Silence. Paul Simon didn’t hear the voice of God in the silence though. All he could hear were people not listening to each other and talking just to talk or one up each other. Conversations with no real meaning, so he is left to talk to the darkness. Who are these people that talk without saying anything and pretend to listen? Who speak what they think everyone else is saying, without backing it up with research? Who can’t see the messages so clearly laid out by those who live in public housing and travel by public transit? Who can’t see the people sitting in lineups outside the walk-in clinics for hours just to get an appointment with a doctor that has never spent more than 15mins with them? Who are these people who have never used a foodbank or been on EI, yet make the rules that guard them? Who are these people that can’t see the bruises on faces, can’t read the words #metoo on every woman’s facebook feed, and can’t see the faces of missing and murdered indigenous women? Who are these people who can’t hear the cries of a hungry and scared Muslim child being snuck across the border, but insist that all refugees should “go back to where they come from” even when that place doesn’t even exist anymore? Who are these people? I’m sure you know a few of them. Challenge them. It is our privilege and responsibility to do so.
Downstairs our Sunday School is learning to listen to stillness, to quiet their minds, to self-sooth as needed. It’s a great step on the journey of learning how to deal with life’s disappointments. Once we’re able to deal with our disappointments in appropriate ways, they don’t seem quite so bad. Once we stop feeling like the disappointments always happen to us, it’s a little easier to feel gratitude for what we have. It’s a little easier to advocate for someone else. It’s a little easier to see how everyone benefits when we compromise.
The Sunday School is offering an invitation to anyone who wants to join them in the FRC after worship, to make Prayer Settling Jars. Join us in this simple, meditative and prayer-filled practice. Share it with someone else in your life who needs a little bit of silence to listen for real conversation or for the still, small voice of God.
Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath MV 150
Minute for Mission
Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Prayer Music Body, Mind and Spirit MV 153
Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing Glory to God in the Highest MV 124