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Silence. There is not much of it these days, so we do not deal with it much better than that young man. The TV chatters on with one silly talk show after another. People haul their boom boxes to the beach so that they do not have to live in the silence between the rolling of surf and the crying of gulls. A cellular phone company currently has an ad campaign running that proclaims from billboards, "Silence is Weird," as if we need to talk, talk, talk all the time. When we leave this sanctuary tonight, the bulletin instructs that we depart in silence - it will feel strange; it always does. Thirty-five years ago Paul Simon, in his classic cry over the modern inability to communicate, wrote
Ten thousand people, maybe more,
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share...
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.
"Fool," said I, "you do not know.
If silence is viewed as a cancer, no wonder people avoid it.
But then we hear again those few words from the Psalmist: "Be
still...silent...and know that I am God." They are found in the
midst of an ancient hymn celebrating triumph over trouble and the
rock-solid conviction that, no matter what, God is with us and
God is in control. In the hurly-burly of life, we might not
notice that, but in silence, we hear and learn it again.
As he spoke, Nixon came close to professing his own commitment..."When I was eight or nine years old, I asked my grandmother, a very saintly woman, a little Quaker lady, who had nine children -- I asked her why it was that Quakers believed in silent prayer."Be still, and know that I am God." Silence. In the words of the poet:
I bundle all my troubles up and go to God in prayer,
I tell Him I am heartsick and lost and lonely too,
That I am deeply burdened and don't know what to do.
But I know He stilled the tempest and calmed the angry sea,
And I humbly ask if in His love He'll do the same for me.
Then I just keep quiet and think on thoughts of peace,
And as I abide in stillness my restless murmurings cease.(7)
Be still...silent...and know...
1. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "Background Noise," Christianity Today, July 17, 1995, p. 42
2. Paul Simon, "The Sound of Silence," 1964, BMI
4. Ecclesiastes 3:7
7. Helen Steiner Rice quoted in Bible Illustrator for Windows