Call to Worship
One: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him
All: Do not fret when people succeed in their ways
One: Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness
All: Let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head
ALL: My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be found in the love of the Lord and of all my neighbours.
Lord, we are in your presence. Let us walk with you knowing we belong entirely to you. We ask that You keep us in the glory, in the joy, and in the stillness of your peace. Let us deflect all gossip, criticism and ill will towards others, whether they be of our own country, creed, gender, or race or any other. In the silence of the womb we were carried and nurtured by our loving mothers. In the silence of Your presence we were conceived in Your image. Help us to reflect Your image, always and with all people.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who taught us how to pray with these words:
Our Father, Who art in heaven….
Prayer of Confession (In Unison)
God of healing, God of wholeness, we bring our brokenness, our sinfulness, our fears and despair, and lay them at your feet.
God of healing, God of wholeness, we hold out hearts and hands,
minds and souls to feel your touch and know the peace that only you can bring.
God of healing, God of wholeness, this precious moment in your silent presence and power, grant us faith and confidence that, here, broken lives are made whole again.
Assurance of Pardon
We are drawn to your feet in worship,Your creation facing its creator, hearts laid bare by your light humbly asking for your mercy. We come to you as a people in need of assurance and forgiveness. We come to you as a people in need of healing and wholeness. We come dependent upon your love. Draw us close. Enfold us in your arms. Fill us with your silent Spirit that we might reflect your light inside this dark world, and spread openly your Word to draw others to your feet. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, our brother, Amen.
Psalm 23, King James Version (please read together)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Prayer for Illumination
In this world of darkness and strife, in this world of conflict and war, in this world of the slaughter of innocents, we appeal to you, O Lord, to spread Your silence across the land, to quiet the guns, to feed the hungry, to show this material world your spiritual calm and welcome us all into your silent glory.
Scripture Readings: (Joe)
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
People listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
L: This is the word of the Lord P: Thanks be to God.
Message: Be Still and Know That I am God
Have you ever taken your TV remote and scrolled through 30 or 40 channels looking for an interesting program, and not found it? “There’s nothing on,” you might say. And maybe you leave the TV on anyway because it’s better to have something, anything, going so you don’t have to be enveloped in perceived nothingness.
But in the end, you finally turn it off, maybe just before bed, and suddenly you stop and listen. You listen to the sound of sudden silence. And maybe you go, “Ahhh. That’s better.” And if you were to sit for a while in the stillness of the night, there in the vacuum of non-sound you might hear - or sense - something you’re not used to. You might hear, or sense, a voice that is no voice at all, but a communication of another kind. There, in that other dimension that only your soul can understand, there is God. And he - or she - is speaking to you.
When I scoured the internet looking for reference to Silence, I came across these notes from a spiritual website. I have taken a summary of these notes and put them into my own everyday language because I found them so interesting.
‘There is an obvious and deep irony in any attempt to talk about silence. It’s like trying to depict the invisible. It is inherently impossible. Silence can only be described by the absence of everything else, not by the presence of anything physical. Silence can only speak for itself: not through words, but through experience. There is a little story in the collection of traditions that have come down to us from the desert fathers of the early Christian church. It is said that one day Theophilus, an archbishop, came to Scetis, a desert wasteland but spiritual paradise, where great numbers of monks carried on their unseen spiritual exercises. Archbishop Theophilus made his way to the cell of Abba Pambo, a man recognized for his humility and wisdom. The brethren who accompanied Theophilus said to Abba Pambo, “Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified.” Abba Pambo replied: “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.” Silence, it seems, had greater impact to Abba Pambo than any words.
In these few minutes, I will try to speak of silence and stillness in the language of Scripture and the desert tradition, and to elaborate very simply with some personal experiences.
In the beginning there was absolute silence. Through His Word, God spoke into this silence, to create the heavens and the earth. Then, on the cosmic sabbath known as “the seventh day,” God rested. His Word, however, has continued its creative activity throughout human history. As God declares through the prophet Isaiah,
“My Word that goes forth from my mouth will not return to me empty…” (Isa 55:11). In other words,
To say that God creates from nothing is to say that He speaks out of, or from, His silence, to bring all things into existence by the power of His creative Word. Silence, in the most positive sense, is the the sacred space, into which God speaks His Word, both to create the world and to guide it along the right paths.
Silence is where Moses went to receive the 10 Commandments. Silence is where Jesus went for 40 days and nights to receive the confirmation of his mission from his Abba, his father. Silence is where the prophets received their visions. Silence is where David communicated with God via his beautiful psalms, before the physical senses of this world dragged him down, corrupted him, and turned him into a killer. When he left the world of silence behind, he turned his back to God.
Further in Old Testament tradition, silence becomes the medium for divine revelation. In a terrifying vision recounted in the first Book of Kings, God appeared on a mountain to the prophet Elijah. As the Lord passed by, there came a mighty wind, so strong it split the mountain and shattered the rocks in pieces. But, the narrative tells us, “the Lord was not in the wind.” After the wind there came an earthquake, then a fire; but the Lord was in neither. Then, the passage concludes, “after the fire a still, small voice” (1 Ki 19:12). The New Revised Standard Version states this more forcefully: “after the fire, the sound of sheer silence.” It is in this sound of sheer silence where God spoke to Elijah. God was not in the physical displays of force. God was present only afterwards, in the “sound of sheer silence.”
Through the ages, mystics and holy men withdrew into silence in order to hear God. Even Muhammed dwelt in a cave somewhere in the mountains to receive his messages from God. So, it becomes a universal truth, to hear the Word of God, go to Silence and listen in that Silence to hear what He has to say. Oh, you may pray to Him, communicate to Him in any language and in any location. You may speak to Him in church with your fellow worshippers, at home while doing your chores, in the depth of the forest, or in your car on the way to work. But if you want to hear his response, you must go to Silence and listen in Silence.
Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea by saying: “Peace! Be still!” And, St Mark continues, “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mk 4:39). Whether on the open sea or in the human heart, peace requires stillness. In the midst of our own storms and turmoil, Jesus speaks these same words, “Peace, be still!” For those who have ears to hear, who can listen to this commandment which is also an invitation, the wind of noise, confusion and tumult ceases, and there comes a great calm.
“Be still and know that I am God.” This means that in stillness, you will have the power to recognize where God resides. Speak to Him wherever you are, but listen to Him in silence blocking out all the distractions of the world’s senses.
A certain St Diodochos, a 5th century bishop, explained the purpose and fruit of silence in these words. “Spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness and complete detachment….“A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses, a monastic mystic, and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” In other words, the silence of your cell will teach you everything. Perhaps the greatest challenge in Christian life is to transform the heart and mind, our inner being, into a place of silence and solitude, an interior monastic cell in which the Spirit of Truth dwells, to teach us everything we need for our journey towards God.
Mother Theresa dedicated her entire life to the poor of Calcutta, the so-called Untouchables. But she herself lived her entire life wrestling with many doubts about God and His presence in the world.
In one of her books she says these things about silence:
“We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.
Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.
Some of you may know that once a year I attend a weekend retreat in a place called Manresa, a Jesuit retreat centre in Pickering, Ontario. The retreat begins on Friday evening and concludes on Sunday noon. It consists of a theme that changes each time you attend, it includes 4 gatherings in a conference room to hear the retreat director’s guidance, time for formal prayer, and personal time for meditation or reading in your room or to silently walk the 38 acres of woods and streams. Oh, and by the way, this is all done in silence by the participants. All 3 days in silence. Let me tell you, when you get back to the so-called real world, it is a rude awakening. Where you had 3 days of God invading your every being, you are suddenly flooded by the sights and sound of technology and the bustle of business.
The act of creation by God moves us out of His silence, His rich eternity, into the physical world with all its tapestry of our 5 senses. But when our sojourn is done - some sooner, others later - we return enfolded into the arms of God once again. So, why has God done this? I believe, and I have mentioned this in the past, that He really has no choice. He is an all-loving, all-giving, continually creating God. What He has done by creating us in the physical universe, is to give us a gift, one that He himself does not exercise or possess. He has given us the gift of free will. Our purpose is to acknowledge His gift, and use it according to our values of unselfish love and our values of creative energy that we received from God, as best we can.
In conclusion, let me leave you with a small poem that formed in my mind during one of my silent walks on the grounds of Manresa. I call it ‘Trails’.
Trails June 3, 2013
Behind the seven arms of the menorah tree
the sun breaks up into rays of hope
for a new day. And I am called
by my spirit wind to reflect on all
that God has shown by acts of love,
where ferns grow in the shade,
where tumbling brook carries seeds of life
to a mossy shore, where the cardinal leaves
his evening call, where my journey bends,
where the white lilacs fall
And to the world outside I bring
a soul refreshed by prayer in psalm
and offer praise to you, my God,
for life, for love, for sight to recognize
your gentle unrelenting call
wherever on this earth I bide
in work, in sport, in weekend caterwaul,
where all my paths turn into one,
where my journeys bend,
where the white lilacs fall
Silence can reward you with creation, at least it does that for me. And I am totally convinced that the creation is not really mine, but flows through me from my God who remains silent only on the human plane, but speaks volumes honing my instincts, my 6th sense, my faith.
In the final silence experienced by everyone throughout time who has gone before us, we merge in the silent exultation of God, in a place that has no need of our physical senses, and that rewards us with an experience so rich that it is unending and beyond all imagination.
Let us now bow our heads and take 30 seconds of silence to listen to the voice of God within us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Offering And now, in our offerings, let us return to God a small portion of his blessings to us.
Lord, we offer you these our gifts freely and without reservation. Please accept them as a sign of our bond to others of your children, our brothers and sisters. Amen
Prayer of Thanksgiving We thank you, Lord, for all we have received at Your hands. Our family, our neighbours, our material wealth, our good friends. We indeed are 1000 times blest. May we always recognize our debt to you by also recognizing how little others have throughout this world. Amen.
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you His peace in your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and in your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears… Until you come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning. Amen.