(Posted June 18, 2016)
What does “the sound of silence” mean to you? When you’ve felt like you were all alone and wandering in the wilderness, is there a time when you’ve clearly felt God’s presence nearby? What form did this presence take? After this week’s carnage, many of us wondered where God is. After this week, we wonder what this moment in time is asking of us.
As I sit here watching some of the Senate Democratic filibuster in its 12th hour on the issue of gun control, I’ve heard the senators tell stories of heroism that are associated with Orlando and other moments of extreme violence at the end of high powered firearms. But the recurring theme of their message I hear is, “You don’t have to be a hero. All you have to do is not to be a bystander.”
Isn’t that truly what God is asking of us in all the moments of our lives? When we are confronted by evil, what does our faith demand of us? In this week’s Hebrew Bible reading, it is Elijah who has fled the city because he did take a stand and angered Israel’s evil King and his vicious wife Jezebel. They are seeking to kill him, and he is wandering, afraid, in the wilderness and asking where God is. We can relate to that bewildering powerlessness that Elijah felt. But Elijah had an angel come to him, unlike us at this moment. The angel told him to be alert and that God was approaching, instructing him to "go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." And the text explains that “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.”
The sound of silence. Sometimes this is translated as the “still, small voice.” But either way, we are instructed that God is not in the drama of this world, but in the pregnant space that follows it. This is not merely the moment of silence we keep surrendering so often as our awkward way of marking another tragedy. It is the defining moment when we must come face to face with one another and with God how WE will choose not to be a bystander, but a game changer.
Right now I am working with members of the Interfaith community of greater Danbury to pull together a vigil, for next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at First Church. We plan that it will not be a vigil of the void of silence, but of voices raised up in prayer and lament in support of all who lost so much, especially the LGBTQ community so decimated by the actions of deranged but armed hatred. Once we confirm the details, we’ll send a message to you, and hope that you will be able to join us. Until then, Blessings. – Pastor Pat Kriss