The Healing Power of Silence Rev. Don Hackett, D.Min.

1 Kings 19:11-16 November 3, 2019

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children – Trick or Treat

  1. How many of you went out Trick or Treating this past week?
  1. Why do we celebrate Halloween? We love candy and dressing up?!

   The word itself literally means “hallowed evening,” and was previously known to early European celebrators as All Hallows’ Eve. All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) and All Saints’ Day (November 1) both paid homage to saints (“hallows” = saints). The name was eventually shortened to “Halloween,” which we know and love to this day.The pagan and Christian occasions hadn’t always been back to back, though. Up until the 7th century CE, All Hallow’s Eve fell actually on May 13. Perhaps in an attempt to offset the occasion with a religious celebration, Pope Boniface IV ultimately made the call to change the observance to its current November 1 date…The early pagan holiday of Samhain involved a lot of ritualistic ceremonies to connect to spirits, as the Celts were polytheistic. While there isn’t a lot of detail known about these celebrations, many believe the Celts celebrated in costume (granted, they were likely as simple as animal hides) as a disguise against ghosts, enjoyed special feasts, and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds (hence, the history of jack-o’-lanterns). Over time, as Christianity took over and the pagan undertones of the holiday were lessened, the basic traditions of the holiday remained a part of pop culture every year, they simply evolved and modernized. Article from https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a40250/heres-why-we-really-celebrate-halloween/

All Saints’ Day has a rather different focus in the Reformed tradition. While we may give thanks for the lives of particular luminaries of ages past, the emphasis is on the ongoing sanctification of the whole people of God. Rather than putting saints on pedestals as holy people set apart in glory, we give glory to God for the ordinary, holy lives of the believers in this and every age. This is an appropriate time to give thanks to members of the community of faith who have died in the past year. We also pray that we may be counted among the company of the faithful in God’s eternal realm. Article from https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/all-saints-day/

3. We celebrate Halloween and All Saints day to show that God is the Lord of all seasons and even Lord of the Living and the Dead and those alive again in Jesus Christ.  We are not afraid of death and we know God takes care of us in this life and the next life in Heaven.

Let us pray: We thank you God for holidays to dress up and pretend, for sweet things to eat, family and friends with whom we can have fun.  We thank you especially for Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all, including life and death. We do not need to be afraid, we are in your care. In Christ we pray, Amen.

The Healing Power of Silence Rev. Don Hackett, D.Min.

1 Kings 19:11-16 November 3, 2019

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Introduction

There is something very powerful about silence.  It makes us stop and look around.  If you are in a forest and all of a sudden all the birds stop chirping, something is up.  If you are downtown York driving and no one is out, no cars are on the road and everything is shut down, you begin to wonder what is going on.  When it suddenly gets very quiet down in the room were all the children were playing, you know something is up.  I was working at a church in Southern California early in my ministry.  One Sunday in the fall I was busy in my office when I realized worship was starting soon.  I rushed over to the Sanctuary only to find an empty church.  Silence has a way of getting our attention.  It turns out, I had forgotten to move my clocks back an hour and I was early. 

The spiritual practice of silence is to help us pay attention to God.  We are busy people.  We wake up and hit the road running here and there. Our days and nights are full of good, important, fun, and even necessary activities.  Our weeks and months seem to rush by.  Wasn’t just August not that long ago?! Here we are in the beginning of November with the Christmas decorations already hitting the stores. In the midst of all our commitments (and especially during the holidays) we can miss what God has for us each day.  Silence can be our friend.

Questions: 

  • When do you normally experience silence during the course of your day or week? What does it feel like to you?

Elijah and Silence

Silence is an invitation to live in the moment and to get God’s perspective.  This is what Elijah experienced.  After much time alone in the wilderness Elijah was called to confront the evil king and his false priests.  In the power of the Lord he was able to publicly demonstrate the supremacy of God by dosing a big pile of wood for a bonfire with water and praying to God to light it.  God sent a huge thunderbolt to consume the pile of wood and the water as well!  This lead to the slaughter of the false priests and the king hit the road.  The king, however, ran back to his murderous wife, Jezebel. She in turn went after Elijah.  Fearful of the sudden turn of events, Elijah hit the road for the wilderness. He got out town fast and travelled where few could find him.  He was exhausted. Elijah was spent. He was not up for this prophet work any more.  He went to complain to God and die.

Questions: 

  • Ever feel like giving up?  
  • When was a time have had enough and just did not want to keep going? 

When you and I are tired and reaching the end of our ropes, it is time for silence.  Take a walk where you can be alone.  Drive with the music off and let the silence surround you.  Go to a room, a barn, a library, or a church where you can sit and think in the quiet. Silence can be hard to find in a house where the television in on in every room.  The television sitcom and movie, Get Smart, featured a “Cone of Silence”.  Agent Maxwell Smart would insist on using it when his chief had top secret information to tell him.  Ironically, when the cone came down over them, the sound bounced around so much inside the cone, they could not understand each other!  The cone of silence our God wants you to enter is so you can hear God’s voice very clearly.  

Elijah travelled forty days south (almost 300 miles) all the way to Mount Horeb (or Sinai) to meet God. This is the same mountain where Moses met with God centuries before. He went into the cave and spent the night.  Little did Elijah realize, but he just entered God’s “cone of silence”.  God wakes him up and then Elijah complains that he is the only one left faithful to God.  Let’s read together what happens next.

The Text – 1 Kings 19:11-16

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. 

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. 

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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?”

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.”

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. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

 

The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

How God Speaks

This is an interesting passage.  What are some of the questions and observations that come to you when you consider this story?  

  • What does it mean “the Lord is going to pass by”?
  • God was already speaking to Elijah, why was the wind, earthquake, and fire needed?
  • What does it mean, “After the fire came a gentle whisper”?
  • Why did God ask, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
  • Did Elijah accurately report what was happening in Israel?
  • What is Elijah instructed to do?

Seeking the Lord

God is always eager to show more of God’s-self to you and me.  In the book of Deuteronomy 4:29 we are told: 

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him 

if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Elijah had made quite a journey to meet with God.  God wanted to help this worn out prophet get a new perspective. Huddled in the cave of silence, God had a reminder for Elijah.  As the terrifying wind, earthquake, and then fire blasted the front of the cave, Elijah woke up.  He was jolted into the reality that God had all the power, not Jezebel. God spoke through these forces of nature in a way words would fall short.  They reminded Elijah that God was in the room. God was the one upon whom he needed to focus his attention. 

“Seek the Lord your God and you will find him.”  Silence can usher you and I into the presence of God. Like Elijah we can become distracted and overwhelmed by all that is going on in our lives…unpaid bills, deadlines, commitments, damaged relationships, pressures to produce and perform.  As you and I make daily ways to get quiet before God, God speaks.  I know many of your sit quietly reading your Bibles early in the morning or at breaks during the day.  The challenge of our devotional guide is to spend 15 minutes in silence for the next 6 days. From now to our Community Dinner this coming Saturday, carve out 15 minutes each day be silent.  You can even set a timer on your phone. Find a spot in your house or go for a walk and let the silence, nature, your inner thoughts, and the Spirit of God speak to you.  Questions: When are the best times for you to engage in silence?  What will help you seek daily times of silence this week?

At the end of all the fireworks of nature, Elijah heard the gentle whisper.      He and God had a good talk.  Elijah dumped on God and God heard it. God then redirected Elijah.  It was time to get back to work…not on his own power and wisdom.  Elijah was spent and clueless.  God sent him back with God’s directions and power.  That makes all the difference!  Let’s enter the silence together. 

Prayer:  (15 seconds of silence) Amen.