22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Welcoming the Silence

02 July, 2017 Pentecost 4 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
~Mother Teresa

 

 

Introduction
Finally we have had a small breakthrough in the 2016 Census, with 30% of people saying they don’t believe in God. At last a bit of honesty in our nation’s psyche. Of course we all know that it is a very inaccurate measurement. It was Marcus Borg the American theologian who said, “When somebody says to me, 'I don’t believe in God,' my first response is, 'Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.' Almost always, it’s the God of supernatural theism.” The problem is, when many people say "I don’t believe in God", and as Borg suggests, I ask the question “What is the God you believe in?", the response is, “Well, I don’t believe in that God either.” There is a powerful legacy in our culture that God remains a distant being in the sky looking down on all of us to see who is good and bad, naughty and nice. I don’t believe in the god of our cultural imaginings.

Of course it doesn’t take much reading of the Bible to see that as religion evolved, it moved through stages and each stage defined the word 'god' in a different way. Somewhere along the line we got stuck with an image of god that seemed childish and even cartoonish. Now I suspect that the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican had something to do with that. This magnificent work of art by Michelangelo, with the bearded old man in the sky, seems to have stunted our religious experience of God and while it was a remarkable presentation of the divine in the 16th century, theologians before and after never took the image as definitive of God. The 12th century mystic and theologian Meister Eckhart wrote

The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge...You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion… There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence.

God is in the Silence
Perhaps if there is one major obstacle in our material and secular world, it is that many believe that God is unavailable when they want God to be there. That is not a new problem; the psalmist in the 4th century BC experienced the same dilemma. From Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

In the modern era it is easier to just ignore the question of God. Though I think for most people there is a nagging suspicion that there is something beyond me and my understanding and something even beyond the physical world that is ever-present and yet beyond our five senses. But the idea of an old man in the sky just doesn’t cut it.

Perhaps the place where we often fail to seek the presence of God as suggested by Meister Eckhart and the psalmist is in the realm of silence. This is where the narrative from the first book of Kings is important - the story read earlier in the service.

Elijah heard a voice saying “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. ~1 Kings 19:11-13

The idea that God is in the sound of sheer silence is so counter-intuitive in our culture. It is easier for us to imagine the presence of God in the sound of words, or even in the beauty of nature and the world and of course the Spirit of God is in those places and experiences. But there is something deeper in the notion that God is in the silence and some might say, “God is the silence.”

The 20th century Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote:

Have you not noticed that love is silence? It may be while holding the hand of another, or looking lovingly at a child, or taking in the beauty of an evening. Love has no past or future, and so it is with this extraordinary state of silence.

God is the silence
It is easier for us to imagine that God is love, or that God is compassion, but the idea that God is silence transcends even our greatest virtues and desires. Thomas Merton, the most famous monk of the 20th century, spoke of “listening to the silence.” I have spoken before about being in Central Australia on the border of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory about 200km west of Birdsville when I was 18 years old. I heard the sound of silence. It was awe-inspiring. Was God that silence? Was God in the silence? I was so overwhelmed that it was an experience beyond words. And perhaps that is part of the answer to our seeking God in the 21st century.

For many, we are looking in the wrong places to seek God. It reminds me of the story that Antony de Mello tells in his book, The Prayer of the Frog:

A famous Sufi mystic, Rabi, was searching for something on the street outside her small hut. The sun was setting and darkness was descending, as a few people gathered around her. “What have you lost? What are you searching for? Perhaps we can help,” they said.

“I have lost my needle.” “Well, the sun is setting now and it will be very difficult to find the needle. Where has it fallen?" "Well actually, it has not fallen on the road. It has fallen inside my house.” “If the needle has fallen inside the house, then why are you searching for it on the road?” “Inside my house it is dark and there is more light out here,” Rabi replied.

 

Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
Having grown up in a word-filled noisy world, our default is to seek the presence of the divine and the sacred in the cacophony of sound in which we are immersed. So the idea that silence, stillness and solitude is where God resides is unfamiliar and foreign.

The best place to look for something you have lost is where it has fallen. Now I realise this can be very abstract but at its simplest it is about finding and making space in our lives for silence, stillness and solitude. It has to do with quieting the chatter in our heads. Turning down the volume of the world around us. And perhaps turning off the radio and the TV and just listening. First, we will hear the sounds around us (seldom are we in a place of complete silence), then as time passes and the inner earthquake subsides, we may stand at the mouth of our cave and hear the sound of sheer silence.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
~Mother Teresa

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