Silence is Golden

silenceTalking during a movie is rude.

I didn’t pay $10 to hear your story, or your snarky commentary, or your question because you can’t follow the plot. (This rant has now concluded.) That’s why I love watching movies at Alamo Drafthouse. They are zealous in their persecution of movie talkers. They have rules about talking. Rules that they actually back up:

“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards talking and texting during the movie. If you talk or text, you will receive one warning. If it happens again, you will be kicked out without a refund.” (www.drafthouse.com/about)

Silence during a movie is right. What about silence elsewhere? Why is silence sometimes uncomfortable? Why do we feel awkward when a silent lapse occurs during a conversation? Why do we feel the need to fill our daily lives and routines with noise? At the grocery store – earbuds inserted. At the gym – earbuds inserted. At work – earbuds inserted. What is the importance of silence?

We discussed this very subject in a recent Learning Group using the book Worship Matters (Augsburg Fortress 2012): “Consider this page. Without the white space on this page, the black letters and the words they form would not be comprehensible. Similarly, consider music. The rests allow the musical notes to be heard. We believe this to be a foundational reality with God as well. God speaks a word out of silence, and the world is created. Silence is a powerful and important response in moments of awe. Here we are invited to imagine silence as a response to God that is even more profound than our words or songs of prayer and praise.” (p. 62)

I’m reminded of the worship practices of our brothers and sisters in the Quaker/Friends Church. Their worship begins in silence, making room for the Holy Spirit to enter and move. They approach worship with neither a determination to speak nor a determination to remain silent. Patience, rest, and preparation are central in their worship gatherings. I’m also reminded of the way in which Elijah encountered God in 1 Kings 19:

He 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. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Why is it that when we encounter silence during worship, we automatically assume that someone has missed their cue? We get panicky and our palms begin to sweat. If no one is speaking, or singing, or praying during worship, something has obviously gone wrong! Perhaps there is Someone speaking during the silences of worship. If only we had ears to hear it.

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