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A Noisy World

We live in a noisy world. Sometimes the noise threatens to overwhelm us. The news cycle is constant. And the news cycle seems never to quit. A fire erupts in Maui, and within hours the entire island is destroyed. Rival political parties accuse each other of the destruction of constitutional democracy that we had always thought of as an indestructible fabric that would provide an everlasting guarantee that our way of life would continue as it always had. Suddenly we understand the scripture from last Sunday in ways that we never had before: the darkness, the wind, the waves that had come up suddenly as the wildfire on Maui, and now threatened the disciples in their boat. Or the story from I Kings, in which the prophet Elijah had, in his zeal on behalf of God, seen God’s unquestionable victory over the prophets of Baal only to have the King Ahab and Queen Jezebel turn on him with a deadly fury: so he had run, trying to escape the fire-storm, and finally found refuge in a cave, fallen asleep exhausted: only to be awaken by the voice of God, saying “Elijah: what are you doing here?” And then to leave his refuge to wait for God, who came to him, though first Elijah had to endure the noise of destruction from “earthquake, wind and fire.”

I remember the hospital in the days before my mother died: her heart attack had been sudden, unexpected; a neighbor helped my sister bring her to the emergency room on a wintry day, and suddenly the lives of a family erupted into the chaos of doctors making visits, of nurses making rounds – all of which was predictable, although to us, the family, waiting for things to return to normal, nothing was certain. Nights, though, brought calm: the calm of a hospital at night; the regularity of staff making their rounds, the “beep” of monitors. But there was the time when what was inevitable came, the monitor was turned: and the silence was, well, eerie. The stillness before someone you’ve waited for finally arrives, and prayers are said. Absolute calm.

Poet Mary Oliver writes:

Sweet Jesus, talking

his melancholy madness,

stood up in the boat

and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.

So everybody was saved

that night…

That, of course, is not the end of the story. The consistent word of the Bible is, not that there is an answer in the silence: there is an answerer, who speaks out of the silence. The word that Peter receives is “Come;” the word that Elijah hears is “Go.” To both of them, there is given more to do. But we go out to do the work that is given us, knowing that even in the utter stillness that follows the storm, there is One who is with: we do what we are bidden, and we are promised that we are not alone.

The Rev. Allen Heggen


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