Sheer silence....hmmmm, wonder what that sounds like? Being in a place where you hear nothing is hard in today's world. Where can you go where you do not hear a sound at all? When I was recently traveling to the Holy Land, I wanted to see if I could block out a lot of noise if it would help me sleep while flying on the airplane. It is a flight of about 12 hours so sleeping really helps to pass the time. Besides that, sleeping helps with the jet lag too. I have a lot of trouble sleeping on planes, though. I rarely sleep an hour on an international flight. So, I bought some of the new Bose Noise Canceling Headphones to see if they would cancel out enough noise that it would help me sleep. Sure enough, they do cancel out the major noises, such as the roar of the airplane engines. They don't, I learned, cancel out normal conversation of persons nearby, however. It muffles their conversations somewhat but you could still hear what they were talking about. The quality of the sound when used to listen to music was fantastic but it still did not help me to sleep. I got very little sleep on the flights both ways but I survived and did not get too many negative effects of jet lag this time.
The next Sunday I am preaching about Elijah going out into the wilderness all alone. It can be pretty scary being out in the wilderness all alone and Elijah wanted to know that God was with him and would protect him against the evil of Jezebel and her heinous henchmen. She had threatened his life so he took off for the hills to get away. Elijah needed to know that God would be with him and would keep him safe from danger. A whirlwind happened and Elijah thought that maybe God was speaking to him through the wind but he did not sense God's voice there. An earthquake happened and Elijah thought that God was speaking through the earthquake but that did not seem to happen. A fire happened and again God's voice did not seem to be there. But then.....Elijah heard God's voice in the sound of "sheer silence".
Can you hear God's voice if you get very, very quiet? Can you hear God speaking to your inner being in the quiet hours when no one else is talking? Finding sheer silence is really difficult but hearing God's voice seems almost impossible at times. God speaks to all of us in different ways. Perhaps God has spoken to you in one of the noisiest places on earth---maybe Times Square in New York City or in a traffic jam in Houston. Maybe God has spoken to you while listening to music or watching a movie or hearing the thunder roar during a storm. God may have spoken to you through the words of another person or through the innocence of a child. There are as many ways that God can speak as there are humans on the planet. Each person is different from the other and each hears the voice of God in a unique way.
We have a motto in the United Church of Christ....."God is Still Speaking" which means that God still speaks in our world. We simply just need to listen for what God would say to us. Maybe God does speak to you in earthquake, wind, or fire but to some it is in the quiet moments of life when God shouts the loudest and directs what life should be like for the listener.