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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Be Still Then and Know - 11/24/2019

(Pregnant pause)

We struggle with silence, don’t we?

I remember the first time I led worship here after I was ordained. I wanted to test you, I confess. I wanted to see how the congregation would react if I remained silent in the midst of our prayers of confession and forgiveness for a little longer than what is typically comfortable for folks. So, I made the invitation to confess our sins to God, turned around to face the cross with you and I paused.

I tried to count to 13. One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi … On Sunday morning I got to about seven-Mississippi and I hit Duke Snyder’s limit, apparently. He started the prayer without me, even though, you’ll note, that first clause of the prayer of confession is not in bold.

Today, as I led our order of confession and forgiveness I counted to 15-Mississippi. It might not be comfortable for some of us to do this. It takes some practice to get comfortable in the silence – that has been my experience anyway. We get a little squirrelly in the silence sometimes.

First it’s the thoughts that start zipping through our heads: Did someone forget their part? Does the pastor not see that next line of the prayer is not in bold? Am I supposed to say something now?

And then maybe, we start to feel it in our bodies: I don’t know if I like this, they seem to tell us. I don’t know how I’m supposed to act. Shouldn’t we get moving along? Shouldn’t we be maintaining the pace?

We come in here from our busy lives, out of our own forms of chaos, then the bells ring, we have announcements, “Stand as you are able…” and pray.

We are a squirrelly bunch indeed. 

And I found myself wondering about this level of discomfort we can have with silence. Where does that come from? I mean, I don’t think it’s because Duke or any of us want to move through our worship together as if we were checking off items at the grocery story. Sins forgiven, check. Maintaining attention throughout entire sermon, almost. Fed and blessed at the table, got it.

I don’t think our bodies start getting fidgety in the silence because they are repelling the idea or the opportunity to rest easy in the presence and care of God.

So I wonder. I wonder if it is because of what we are meant to get to in that particular silence … the full weight of our sinful selves, all the ways we have turned away from God. All the ways we have harmed others, known and unknown. All the hurt we feel sometimes at the hands of this chaotic and broken world. In the eternity of that 15-Mississippi silence, we realize the gravity of our situation in which we can do nothing by ourselves.  All we can do, we remember, is surrender it to God … Merciful God, we come before you, beloved but broken …

That’s a powerful little silence. It’s the kind of experience that is rarely offered to us in the chaos of the noisy world, in the squirrelly nature of our own lives. And, perhaps it’s the kind of experience we gloss over too readily in our worship.

There are other moments of silence in our worship together that contain this hidden power. There is a brief silence between the call to our Prayers of Intercession and the prayer petitions themselves. The Prayers of Intercession are one of the most ancient elements of our Christian worship together. Through these prayers we leave all our navel-gazing ways behind and lift up prayers for the world around us … the kosmos, the nations and our leaders, the sick and hurting and despised, the sinner/saints among us and the saints who have died. And so when we offer these prayers we are joined into a 2000-year Christian legacy of speaking prayers of Christian love for God’s creation.

Other moments of silence are not necessarily written out, but consistently happen … like the quiet moments that often take place between the time our offertory hymn ends and the bread and wine are placed and poured for the Lord’s Supper.

It may feel a little strange, maybe even vulnerable, but it is a powerful thing to lean into these opportunities for silence, silences that give us a chance to really let what is about to happen or what has just happened really sink in and resonate within our souls.


We may recognize the essence of what is contained in those powerful silences in the vision our Psalmist sings for us today. The earth and the nations rumble and quake, seas roar, kingdoms rage and war with one another and it is noisy and confusing. There is no rest.

And at the center of it all, very calmly, absolute and permanently, is God and the realm of God where a river runs freely and provides abundantly for all the inhabitants of God’s realm. Where the foundations of the realm will not be shaken and it is the face of God we see at the break of day, not the face of whatever our enemy may be … an abuser, a disease, sin, indifference.

This is God at the center of all our chaos and raging, God who says to us finally, “Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” … not this abuser, not this disease, not this sin, not this indifference.


That presence of God in the midst of our chaos is drawn out in a peculiar and very particular way for us people of the Jesus-following ilk on the Feast of Christ the King.

Jesus, his attitude, what happens to him, the chaos that builds and swirls around him, his reaction to it, his sacrifice of his humanity has become the vision of the Psalmist’s song for us.

This is our King, we profess on this day of Christ the King.

He is silent for the most part, and he has been mostly silent since Pilate asked him, “Are you king of the Jews?” (Jesus) answered, “You say so.” (Luke 23:3)

That is why I wanted to edit out that added verse today and in this reflection on finding God in the silence. Because I think Jesus is mostly silent in the chaos of the betrayal and arrest, the mocking and beating, the religious and political councils and leaders, the mobbing and confused public … I think Jesus is mostly silent through all of this intentionally.

He has become for us the realm of God – very calmly, absolute and permanently. Our mighty King, silent and tortured on a cross meant to humiliate and erase people. He has transformed that cross into a river of abundant forgiveness and salvation for all. The foundations of this realm will not be shaken and the face we see at the break of every day is that of our Savior, not our enemy.

And in the midst of our sometimes awful chaos and raging, when we listen for God in the silence, we can hear … our true King call to us …

“Be still, then, and know, that I am God. (Ps 46:10a) “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (23:43) … “God speaks and the earth melts away.” (Ps 46:6b)


Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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