Plymouth United Church of Christ

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“I’ll Wait ‘Til You’re Off the Phone”
Sermon, Year C, Proper 7, June 23, 2013
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-15a and Luke 8:26-39

The LORD was not in the wind, so Elijah did not move.
The LORD was not in the earthquake, so Elijah remained in the cave.
The LORD was not in the fire, so Elijah continued to wait.

And then there was the sound of sheer silence. So Elijah put on his mantle and went to the cave entrance, because the LORD was in the silence.

Elijah was on the run because he feared for his life. He was under persecution by Ahab the King and some others. He ends up in the cave on Mount Horeb.

Early in that lesson mentioned that “The word of the LORD came to Elijah.” Notice “the word” of the LORD. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“I’ve been zealous for the LORD. The Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, killed your prophets, and they seek my life as well.”

And then, later on, when he has walked out into the silence, the LORD says to him – not the word of the LORD, but the LORD. The LORD speaks. Eventually says to him, “Go. Return on your way.”

It is an extraordinary story.

God was in the silence, and then God spoke. Elijah walked out into the silence, and then God spoke to Elijah. God was in the silence.

And it makes sense. You can’t speak over a wind, Can’t speak over an earthquake, or over the roar of a fire. You have to wait for a quiet moment to have that conversation.

Have you ever been in a restaurant that’s so noisy that you can’t really talk to the people sitting around the table with you? It is incredibly frustrating. You can hear, kind of, you can tell that they are saying something but you can’t always hear what they’re saying. So you have a conversation that goes like, “What? You bought a Snickers bar off a cherry truck? Now Betty White traps snowshoe rabbits?”

It is difficult to hear. The message gets all garbled. And when it is difficult to hear, that means it is difficult to understand. Like listening to a radio station that has a lot of static. Maybe it is something you really want to hear so you listen through the static. It takes a lot of energy to hear what is being said in that noise. And often there is enough noise that it’s just not worth the effort. Can’t hear anything.

Just as I think that all cashiers and waitresses, and all service people, should all be given permission to say to people who are on their cell phones, “I will wait until your phone call is finished. I will not disturb you by ringing up your purchase or talking to you. Finish your phone call, and then I will serve you.” I think God kind of says that to us. Something similar to that. God is maybe saying, “I have something important to say, but I will wait until you are quiet. I will wait until you leave space for me to speak. To not have to shout over the noise.”

God was in the silence. God was in nothing-happening. God was in everything-is-at-peace. God was in everything-is-quiet.


Stop looking for God where God is not. Be still. Be quiet. And notice that God has been right in front of you. God has been there all along.

There could be a lesson here for some of those who insist on seeing God in the earthquakes, or tornadoes, or fires. That want to see God’s judgment in those events. Who say, “God was in those earthquakes and tornadoes or hurricanes, God was there punishing the people.” I don’t think that is a good way to look at how God is present. I don’t think God is present in these natural disasters, or in disease, or in tectonic plate shifting. Those are just natural things. God does not make those happen. God does not send them as punishments on people. But after the fury of the hurricane; after the rumbling of the earthquake; after the noise of the tornado, is silence. Silent awe in horror at the destruction. The silence after you’ve just heard that you have cancer, or that someone you love has cancer. Or is dying. Or that late night phone call to say that someone you love has just died. That moment of silence. That silence as a response because there are no words that can convey the emotion or feelings. That is where God is present.

Listen for God in the silence.

The silence after the fury is all over and the first responders show up as God’s heart and hands and feet. The silence after the fury when good people organize to help even from far away. And when leaders begin the process of healing and rebuilding and reassuring. That’s where God is. That’s the time to leave the cave and go and meet God. That’s where God is.

Even in daily life outside of the disasters, and outside of sickness or trauma or the other things that make us anxious, sad, or filled with despair. Just the regular daily life, God is in the silence. Silence as an absence of sound, but also silence as an absence of the noise of advertising, and flashing lights and beeping cell phones and computer saying that you have a new email or a new Facebook message or a new text. The noise that says that we must be busy every waking hour, to work work work, and produce and produce and produce. All this noise.

We don’t believe in literal demons any more as physical beings sent by the devil or created by the devil, that come and possess us. But I think the world is full of folks like this man that Jesus encounters. And we are likely at some level all this man. That maybe we don’t have literal demons coming from hell, but we have these voices in our head. These voices of LEGION, that give us false messages and false promises and teach us, and want us to live, in ways that are not God’s ways. The voices that say buy this, buy that, take your vacation here, and drink this brand of water (How did we get to the point that water is branded, anyway?), go here, do that, drive this car to be cool or drive this car to look serious or drive this car to fit whatever mold this is, do this activity, be the perfect mom, be the perfect dad, be the perfect child, be the perfect worker, answer the phone, answer the email. your phone just got a text – respond to it, there is a request on Linkedin that you have to respond to, like my post on Facebook, you need a bigger house, a better espresso machine, a more prestigious job, you need to take a vacation to more upscale places but if you take a vacation you’re lazy, ten ways to be a better leader better mom better lover better coach teacher parent brother CEO entrepreneur woman employee doctor pastor musician Christian gardener – and by the way, your grass is too long and now your neighbors think you are probably a heroin addict or maybe a non-conformist which is even worse – go go go, buy buy buy, perfect perfect perfect, pretend everything is okay, put on a happy face, act normal, think inside the box, deny your hopes and aspirations, noise noise NOISE, We are Legion! We are Legion!! and Jesus comes by and says, “Silence!”


You don’t have to listen to those voices.

Those voices are fit only for swine. Let them reside there. You don’t have to listen. All we need is the voice of the LORD, the voice that says, “You are my beloved. You are worthy. You are important just as I made you. Your identity is in me, and in me alone. Your identity should not come from listening to those voices.”

And that man that Jesus encountered was put into his right mind once all those voices were sent away. He was in his right mind. And the people around him were afraid. And I think partly they were afraid because he said “no” to some of the fiction that we create around us. Some of the false stories and the false narratives. He was in his right mind because he was in his God mind. That moment of silence. To listen only to God. And that can make people afraid. We have a long history of trying to silence those people who try to silence the unhealthy voices. It has been going on for thousands of years, and it still goes on.

And in many ways we like those demons that create the false narrative, that give us this nice protective cave we live in where we don’t have to face reality or the truth of God.

The right mind is the one that doesn’t listen to the demons. That doesn’t listen to the noise and the fiction. The right mind is the one that by turning off the noise, by tossing it to the swine, we finally listen to God’s quiet Spirit. The right mind is the one that leaves the artificial comfort of the cave to step into the silence and step into the truth of the LORD’s speaking and of God’s presence.... in the silence........................


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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