After reading a blog post on this week’s scripture— I was prompted to listen to Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth Play the song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5JCrSXkJY&list=RDgp5JCrSXkJY
This song was written by Stephen Stills in 1967 and helped launch the band to stardom
it was written after he witnessed an overly excessive show of police force in LA in response to a gathering of young people lamenting the close of a popular dance club.
The singing and lyrics brought tears to my eyes
I was jettisoned back to the time of rioting in the streets of Watts when I was 8…
and to the present…multiple deaths of young black men
battle lines being drawn… nobody’s right if everybody is wrong
I was struck by how much things stay the same…
We’re still dealing with racism
we are divided and struggle to find common ground…
Then I came home to news of another violent attack in NYC… innocent people riding or walking on a bike path mowed down and killed
It is all too much…
do you ever just feel overwhelmed by life?
Sometimes what we really need is silence.
Sometimes you need to force yourself to pause and leave space for God.
From his perspective, Elijah was fighting a losing battle.
King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel were leading the people back to the old local religion rather than being faithful to the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob.
Before this week’s reading Elijah had a “miracle-battle” with a few hundred prophets of Baal and after winning the challenge killed them all. Nice
Needless to say this did not win the favor of the Queen who promised to kill Elijah in return.
So Elijah fled into the wilderness
Ever notice how common it was for important things to happen “in the wilderness” in Scripture?
Elijah’s life had reached a defining moment.
Elijah was despairing. All around him was noise and chaos.
He was showing all the signs of being depressed.
Despite his low feeling (he even says he just wants to die)
God provided food for the journey of 40 days and 40 nights (a long time) before Elijah arrived at the holy Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai.
mountains were another favored location in Scripture.
So to recap
Elijah is led into the wilderness… to get away
and cared for by God… provided food, that an angel prepares for a long time as he is led to a holy mountain
On this holy mountain Elijah has a theophany, a time where God’s presence is revealed.
In Exodus story, the people are led into the wilderness… for 40 years…. a long time and Moses goes up a Mountain to encounter God and get the 10 commandments
In the Exodus story God is revealed in a pillar of fire, in the crashing of thunder, in signs and wonders.
In the “miracle-battle” Elijah has with the Jezebel’s prophets—God was revealed in fire falling from heaven
So God being revealed in an earthquake or fire or thunder makes sense.
But Elijah does not find God in any of these things.
Instead God is found in what the KJV translates as the “still small voice”, the NRSV translates as the “sound of sheer silence”, and a newer translation (the Common English Bible — CEB) puts it this way “After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.”
It is at that point that Elijah makes himself ready to hear from God.
I think Elijah needed to be reminded to pause.
hopefully our lives are not as dramatic as Elijah’s but we all need to be reminded to pause.
Elijah’s story up to this point is packed full of action— it would make for an amazing action adventure script.
The sound of silence (another suggested song) begins to relieve his panic and depression.
Some might find that if God was not found in the fire or the earthquake or the mighty wind then the still silence is an odd place to look.
Some would start to assume the God is absent (and there is a long tradition of people with deep spirituality having long periods where God seems absent).
But for whatever reason that is where, in this instance, Elijah finds God.
So the question is…Are we ready to look for God in places and ways we do not expect?
Is there a part of us that wants the strong wind or the earthquake or the fiery pillar?
As we are looking for the signs and wonders do we actually miss the still small voice?
We live in a world where silence is often seen as the enemy.
I have had organists tell me that they feel there should not be silence in the worship service…. that they will be blamed if there is silence…
There is almost always a soundtrack to our lives.
When a group of people sit in silence, it is usually not long before it feels uncomfortable.
But it is possible to teach ourselves to be comfortable with silence, we can learn to pause and leave the space where something else can happen.
If I go for a walk or work out… I often want to listen to music or a podcast or book on tape… now and then I struggle to force myself to just turn it all off sometimes… this scripture is a strong reminder for me personally
Taking the time to create ‘stillness’ in our life allows for a closer connection with God.
It is in the stillness that we can hear God speak our name more readily.
It is by pushing out the noise of the ‘other stuff of life’ that we hear God and feel God reclaiming us, anointing us and affirming us.
Elijah did it, he reluctantly embraced the silence… (and then was given a bunch of work to do). Can we go reclaim the silence? Amen