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God said, ‘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. 1st Kings 19 verses 11-12)


As an introvert perhaps it is not a surprise that this is one of my favoured quotes from Hebrew scripture. When clergy of the Diocese of New Westminster met on Retreat at Loon Lake recently there was a moment of sheer silence. It doesn’t happen very often. It was on the first day and there was no wind, no birds singing and for a few moments there was total silence as I stood by the lakeside. 

As some know, even though supposedly reticent, I also have quite a bit to say! So, silence is something that doesn’t occur in my life very often. During my working life I have always been fortunate to have a space (a room) to work in, especially if I am writing a sermon or emails. Much as music is important to me, I do prefer silence when I’m working, in fact I can’t really work without quiet. I wouldn’t have lasted very long in a shared space to work.

For me, the essence of this passage is how we discover God. Elijah is told to stand by because God was about to pass by. And although God is often associated with wind, earthquakes and even fires, God was in none of these, but in sheer silence.

Too often we seem to forget unless we are quiet, unless we listen, God will find it hard to get through to us. As we live busy lives, it is sometimes hard to make time and space to be silent, to sit still long enough for God to speak to us. The wind, earthquakes and fires in our lives are often of our own making, but also occur because of the circumstances in which we live and those who live with us. My youngest granddaughters remind me that as a parent you rarely get much break from busy, lively and energy-filled toddlers. Of course, those who live alone often experience the opposite, with too much silence. Most of us are prone to fill any silence we might have with music, the television or simply talking to others. 

I was so glad to find a few moments of sheer silence that morning at Loon Lake. The reminder for me to seek silence, to not run away from it, to not always be busy and active, rather than resting and being quiet. For unless we sit still, unless we disengage from the noise and distractions of our lives, (both good and not so good), how do we ever expect God to communicate with us.

Photo: Loon Lake, November 6, 2023

Stephen Rowe