We have resumed Ascension’s Bible Study and we tend to ‘scratch the itch’ in terms of the topics we study whether that be biblical, confessional, doctrinal, ethical, historical, or practical – what do people want to study, know about, talk about? I was asked to prepare something on the liturgy – its history and function and we began that last Wednesday. In the discussion, one of the points raised was about silence – that there isn’t much of it in the way a Divine Service is usually conducted. In our world of music, podcasts, radio, TV, noise all around (I’m now thinking the jets and tankers and Ospreys that I can hear) we are surrounded by sound and silence isn’t common. Silence can make us feel awkward. Silence can lead us to ‘hear ourselves’.
In the liturgy there is constant sound whether that be words spoken or music and words and it is designed in a dialogue between God and his people where I, as pastor, can be represent either (a clue is to note where I am facing – the altar or the people). This dia-logue is not like a tape recording on repeat but is a new conversation each time between people who know each other. (Think at home how you say both the same or very similar things each day but also oth-er things that are unique to the day.) So God calls us out of our life – our regular daily activities to himself because we need his help and blessings for another week back in the world, in the life we live – which is unique even if we are living it in a big family or a big country or a big organisation.
The liturgy structures how God encounters us with familiar words and the words pertinent to the day – called the Propers – the Bible readings mainly but the things special to that day include the songs and the prayers – and it is in the silence that we can say our personal ‘propers’ which are our words about us and those we know that we can say to God. Why have this dialogue? Because God speaks and when God speaks things happen!
There are three places for silence in the Divine Service for our personal talk with God.
Before the general confession of sins we can talk to God about the sins we have done (the bad we’ve done and the good we haven’t done) and then hearing the Absolution when God forgives those sins we may have ‘follow up’ to then do with other people.
Before the hearing of God’s Word we can pray for our needs – sometimes they are called supplications – and then your personal prayers are collected in the Collect – and we hear God then speak through the readings and there are answers for us to hear.
During the Prayer of the Church, when the people of God intercede for the world – and espe-cially for those who won’t come to God themselves in prayer – so in the silence we can inter-cede for others – family, friends, enemies, those in need, those who would never pray to God, and others – and we can bring them to our Heavenly Father for his help confident that he will help!
Meeting God in worship is not dull same ol, same ol, boring or just a permanent repeat but rather an interaction where we today come who we are today with our situation today and God speaks to us today, helps us today, and blesses us today. In the silence we have time to be open and honest with God – often more so with ourselves since God already knows us – and it is not the silence that counts but the words we say in the silence to the God who does speak and answer and help – today.
PS. Please feel free to join Ascension’s Bible Study online on Wednesday’s at 7:00pm! 🙂