NOTE: This post is a copy of my first “official” attempt at preparing sermon. Shared at Old South Union Church on Sunday July 5, 2015. Old South Union is my childhood church. What joy it brings to have them walk beside me on this journey — Surrounded by LOVE!!
All Our Days: A Summer of Prayer
“In a moment of silence…” (1 Samuel 3: 1-10)
Anne Marie Holloway (Member in Discernment)
July 5, 2015
Old South Union Church
“Gracious God, may these words spoken be a blessing, may they serve to honor and glorify your name. Amen.”
As we continue with the preaching series this summer, “All Our Days: A Summer of Prayer” we focus this morning on the aspect of silence as a prayer practice. In reflecting upon silence I cannot help but remember the words of the blessed Teresa of Calcutta – also best known as Mother Teresa — when she said; “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- (all) grow(s) in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence? We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Sometimes, I wonder if it is even possible today, to find time to sit in silence, and to turn it all off for a moment and listen. Imagine if silence was embraced as a gift from God? What would it be like if we welcomed silence as a blessed opportunity to take pause and reconnect with the One who created us?
The St. Joseph Retreat Center, located in Cohasset is a local ecumenical spiritual retreat center that is known for offering an atmosphere of reverent silence. For most of us, the opportunity to experience a retreat away from it all and practice a weekend full of contemplative prayer and reverent silence is just not an option. If you are anything like myself, you might even find the idea of spending more than a few minutes in silence uncomfortable and maybe even virtually impossible. However, if you were able to visit this retreat center, you might find a wealth of spiritual renewal workshops and daily prayer retreats.
It was during my visit to the St. Joseph Retreat Center, that I first learned the definition of the word “reverent”. To be reverent is to show deep and solemn respect. I also learned the reason why the retreat center takes the devotion to the practice of silence so very seriously.
As I glanced out the window of this retreat center I noticed, in the silence offered, that I could hear the hushed sound of the waves crashing on the sea wall. During dinner, as I nodded my head in a silent greeting to the other folks at my table, I noticed how brightly their eyes shined as they silently return the greeting. And, while I was sleeping in my modest accommodations, I was awakened for no reason in the middle of the night to find it so quiet that I could hear the steady beating of my own heart in my ears. In the silence, I realized that something was changing inside of me and it was both comforting and awkward – secure and unnerving – beautiful and frightening.
I ask that you consider, or imagine even, the scene…the silence found in preparing for a night’s sleep. Like that which, Samuel might have experienced as he lay down to sleep for the night.. In our scripture reading this morning, we learn that as Samuel laid down to rest, he heard a voice calling to him. We are told in the scripture reading, that Samuel does not yet know God – and this explains why when Samuel hears a voice call out to him in the silence of the evening that he believes it is that of the high priest, Eli. God calls to Samuel, not once, not twice, not three – but four times. God was persistent in the silence of that night. I wonder, had it not been quiet, would Samuel have been able to hear God calling his name during the hustle and bustle of his chore filled day?
In the verses and chapters that follow, God speaks to Samuel of some difficult things – maybe even some things that Samuel did not understand or was even frightened to hear. The scripture goes on to tell us that God says to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of whoever hears about it tingle.” In a moment of silence, Samuel’s life is forever changed. Samuel now knows God, Samuel now hears God and Samuel answers God’s call to him. I imagine it must have been both comforting and awkward, secure and unnerving, beautiful and frightening –all at the same time!
We practice prayer. We have learned the importance of prayer in our lives. We are told to pray without ceasing and to let go. We fall, we fail, we disappoint, and we forget to listen — but God continues to seek us out. God is calling out to us in the silent moments of our lives, longing for us to carve out a space in our restless hearts in which to sit in reverence of His love. God is longing for us to listen long enough to hear Him. God wants us to know Him.
German Reformer, Martin Luther wrote in his letter titled, A Simple Way to Pray; “If your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways, than with more words or fewer – listen in silence. For the Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of His sermon if far better than a thousand of our prayers.”
Embracing silence in our prayer practices allows for us to be more fully aware of the presence of God. Maybe, in silencing the chaos of our minds we will be able to see more clearly, feel more fully, and listen more attentively to a God that just wants to be close to us.
Perhaps like Samuel, we will learn to not fear what God has to say and will respond to His call with courage and hope. For scripture tells us in Psalm 139, that God already knows everything about us. The psalmist tells us that God knows our thoughts before we think them, our words before we speak them.
The Bible does not speak very much about silence in relationship to prayer – but the writers do repeatedly mention the importance of listening. Scripture tells us in the book of Matthew, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear…” (Matthew 11:15), in the book of Romans, “So faith comes from hearing…” (Romans 10:17), in the book of James, “…be quick to hear, slow to speak…”(James 1:19), and again in the book of Job, “Pay attention Job, and listen to me; be silent and I will speak.” (Job 33:31). Time and time again we are asked by God to stop and listen. God is persistent in the calling of our names, even though we continue to fill the open spaces (those overlooked precious moments of silence in our lives) with noise and distraction.
In answering God, as Samuel did with, “Here I am, Your servant is listening!”, we carve out an opportunity to make space for God’s guidance in our lives. In taking but a brief pause, and practicing prayer as silence we can reflect upon and listen for how is God calling to us.
Upon leaving today, we hope you will stop and take another prayer bead. In the center of these colorful beads is an open space. Throughout your days this summer, we invite you to practice silence in the moments that you take in prayer. May this bead remind you to welcome the transformation that comes through the practice of reverent silence, knowing that it is what is should be; both comforting and awkward – secure and unnerving – beautiful and frightening. We pray that you will expect the unexpected and be filled with the joy and peace that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit working in your lives.
 Quoted from Mother Teresa, website reference: http://www.worldofquotes.com/author/Mother+Teresa/1/index.html
 Martin Luther, A Simple Way To Pray. http://www.se.lcms.org/uploads/simple_way_pray_luther.pdf. 11.
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