Sermon for Pentecost 2C – The Reverend, Father Devin Rogers
(allow for a long period of silence)
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone
who keeps long periods of silence after a question is
(allow for a long period of silence)
This type of person makes me nervous.
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of being in a class,
or better yet, a Bible study where a question is posed
and no one responds. You can actually feel the tension
in the room grow, and if the teacher or facilitator is
really trying to break the class out of their comfort
zone, they may even just let the discomfort sit.
Even in our own faith tradition where silence is touted
as a spiritual discipline, we often find it necessary to
fill every second with sound. For example, after we
read scripture lessons, we don’t allow them to settle
before moving on to the next reading?
Yet, our spiritual health depends upon silence. We
actually need it as much as we need other forms of
audible prayer. Silence allows us to clear away all the
noise that distracts us and places us in a posture where
the only voice that can speak to us is the voice of God.
Seems easy enough. Lots of us have developed the
habit of coming home from a long day and sitting in
our favorite chair or couch, reading a book, and
enjoying the sounds of silence.
There’s more to it than that.
Oftentimes, we define silence as the absence of sound.
In our old Testament reading, God told Elijah he would
pass by to speak to him, but God was unrecognizable
in the loud natural phenomena – fire, earthquake, wind.
God’s voice was in the silence.
This makes sense when we consider before there was
creation-including sound, there was only God. The only
sound was the voice of God, who spoke and brought all
things into being.
There’s more to noise than sounds we can hear. But
there is also the inaudible inner “noise” that occurs
inside our heads.
If you’ve ever been distracted from a task or unable to
sleep due to thoughts running through your head, this is
an example of inner noise. Inner noise can consist of
playing scenes out in our heads, thinking through
scenarios, our emotions, chaos, or pretty much any
thought that passes through our head which we
recognize and cling to.
(This is going to get deep)
The best metaphor I’ve come across for this human
condition of inner noise is from our siblings in the
Buddhist faith traditions. Monkey mind. Monkey mind
is an untamed, noisey state of mind – unsettled,
restless, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive…
We might even think of monkey mind as our
unchecked, untamed ego which we might even
mistakenly define as our “self”. If you’ve spent any
time studying mindfulness, centering or meditation,
you will quickly discover the monkey mind, passing of
thoughts, stories we tell ourselves or emotions we
express is not all there is to us.
However, there is more to our persona than this surface
level thought and noise. Clearing the “monkey chatter”
out of the way makes room for us to simply “be” at a
deeper lever where we are closely united with God,
free of distraction. Thomas Merton Christian
contemplative, author and social activist describes this
as “finding one’s deepest center, awakening the
profound depths of our being in the presence of God,
who is the source of our being and life.”
In other words, when we get out of our heads and into
our hearts, we discover the Holy Spirit’s presence.
This adds a very personal and forming dimension to
the often quoted, seldom understood psalm.
“Be still and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10
This is crucial for our faith because knowing God leads
to being formed and cared for by God and allows
us to discern God’s will for us.
We might even use this as a means of relieving
suffering from all of the behaviors, habits, and
tendencies we have that lead us in unhealthy and
Silent prayer gives us a means to handle the chaos and
outright evil that exists in our world.
This was certainly the case with Elijah.
God granted Elijah a great victory in declaring the idol
Baal a false, pathetic God. However, this victory had
consequences. The execution of Baal’s religious leaders
infuriated the evil King Ahab and Jezebel.
When Jezebel threatens his life, he literally cannot take
it anymore. He’s tired, frustrated, and is experiencing
“prophetic burnout.” Instead of sticking around to see if
her threats are legitimate, he flees in fear.
As he’s fleeing, God recognizes that he is in poor
shape physically and spiritually. God provides him rest
(There’s another sermon in here about the connection
of body, mind and spirit. You can’t run yourself into
the ground, be overcome by fear, and expect to function
well. God knows this)
After Elijah gets a nap and a snack, God tells him to
wait for God to pass by. At this point, Elijah isn’t even
looking for a solution. He is simply told, “wait until
you’re in the presence of the Lord.” In other words,
wait until you’re centered.
He hears God in the silence, not in the noise. He then
listens to God without offering possible solutions. He
tells God the same story he told him when he was worn
out, afraid, and hungry.
“I’m worn out, things are just too much. I’d rather die
than go through all of this turmoil.”
This time, when he’s actually listening, and willing to
“let go of his monkey mind” and simply reside in
God’s presence, he is guided.
“Continue moving forward.”
It strikes me that this is not the typical way we
approach discernment in the church.
It’s quite the opposite. We are so uncomfortable with
residing in uncertainty and silence that we ignore our
bodies, oftentimes ignore the voices of one another and
don’t allow ourselves the time or space to clear away
all the noise and monkey mind so we can actually place
ourselves in a situation where we can hear God’s voice.
I am totally guilty of this.
I wonder how the church might respond to important
issues if we were to adopt a practice of mindful,
centering prayer instead of loudly thinking or
programming our way through discernment. What if
we first allowed ourselves to center, turn off the noise,
and just listened for silence.
I wonder how we might respond to the challenges in
our own lives differently. How might we address major
issues that harm our world?
There is no way of knowing. God is a surprising God,
an unexpected God, who leads us according to our gifts
and abilities. God has a purpose for us, but we have to
As is the case with all prayer, you cannot merely talk
about it. You have to actually experience it. A sermon
about this practice is not enough.
This morning, I invite you to “try on” this practice of
silent prayer for a few moments.
The beauty of silent prayer is that each person
approaches it differently.
We will hold silence for 2 minutes. View it as an
opportunity to rest, refresh, and simply be in God’s
You may keep your eyes open or closed.
If it is helpful you may count your breaths 1 -5. If you
lose count, that’s ok; simply begin back at one without
judgement and continue the practice.
If you notice your mind wandering off in thought,
simply acknowledge it, and focus back on your breath
without judgement, continuing the prayer.
Let us pray…
(3 minutes of silence)