“O still small voice of calm! O still small voice of calm!”
Thanks to John Greenleaf Whittier writer of the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind for these words that I begin with this month, words that are inspired no doubt by the passage from the First Book of Kings that were read in church recently.
In this passage, the prophet Elijah on the run from Queen Jezebel is looking for help from God at a most hectic time in his life. As those who know the passage will recall, this great man discovers, possibly to his surprise, that God is not to be found in the wind strong enough to split mountains, the earthquake that no doubt could and was doing the same, nor indeed the fire that was consuming all around, but instead God was found and heard in the “sheer silence” that followed all of these huge and loud and bold events. As the hymn writer Whittier put it then, God spoke “through the earthquake, wind and fire” to offer a still small voice of calm at a time when Elijah was feeling so very different to this; when he was quite simply fraught and worn out by the pace of life.
I am sure that I cannot be the only one that often feels like Elijah in this passage. I cannot believe that I am the only one who often feels that my life is going at a pace that I seemingly cannot control. A life that feels like I am being blown from place to place by a wind of things to do, standing in an earthquake of noise and bustle and fighting fires that always seem to be raging out of control. No for me this is the human condition, certainly for most if not all of us in our modern fast moving and instantaneous world. And a human condition that seems to hit me particularly hard in the month of September, when the time of holidays is over and things that have been parked for a while are back up and running.
But into this hectic existence I am pleased to say God can most definitely step, and in a way that is refreshingly out of step with the oft loud and fast-moving world in which we are forced to exist. In other words, exactly as for Elijah, with a still small voice of calm.
Sometimes though we have to seek out these chances to let God speak in the silence, and it is for this reason that we offer several of these opportunities to do so in our church life, several avenues for prayer. The Julian Prayer Group that meets on the last Wednesday of each month at 2pm in St James’ Church has for many years been one such opportunity. The Meditation Drop In, much earlier in its existence in our church life, but that is also running on the same last Wednesday of the month but at 7pm in the evening in the Church Hall is another. And the offering of prayer space in the hall alongside the Friday coffee morning once a month and also possibly on an occasional Saturday morning are further things that we would like to offer to those in our community that are particular chances to stop and take time to slow and be aware of God and what is on our own hearts, rather than being bustled and chivvied along by the next thing that our work, or phones, or emails tell us we really need to get on and do, in their loud and demanding way.
So, if life is moving at a pace for you, now, or indeed at any time of the year, and whether with us at St James’s or elsewhere in your own way, why not try and find some time to listen to that still small voice of calm yourself? Not least as, just as for Elijah you may well find that that voice, the voice of God, has more to say to you, more to buoy you up and help you to grow, than any and all of that noise and bustle that we have to listen to in the rest of our lives.