The tenth verse of Psalm 46 calls to stillness, and it links quietness, rest, and stillness to the exaltation of God. Often, the praise of God is linked to exuberant action and singing out. This Psalm reminds that stillness, silence, and listening, are just as much a part of the worship of God as is crying out in praise. Our culture values what is active, productive, and industrious. There is a pressing drive to always be doing something. People text, browse, call, work, and move at incredible speed. The pace of even the lives of our children can reach a frenetic pace. This leads to lives that move so fast, one can always feel tired, spent, and fatigued. It is unhealthy and unsustainable.
God calls His holy people to set aside time for rest, to set holy Sabbath. The connection between rest, refreshment, and holiness is not incidental. It is intentional. The Sabbath was more than a day dedicated to rest. It was dedicated to God. There is a difference between Sabbath and days off. There is an intentional nature to setting Sabbath aside. We need it. Our hearts, our families, our lives, need it.
We need to worship together. It has never been, and never will be an optional part of a spiritual life. If we do not gather for worship, we are diminished. If other things have us moving so quickly, so busily, that we choose not to worship with one another, faith that is meant to reach out to God and others, becomes pseudo-faith that is self-centered. Faith becomes just another consumer product where we can pick or choose what we want and when we want it.
God calls us to seek what He wants for our lives and for the life of the world. God’s call is always to deeper commitment. This means changing how life is lived and how time is spent. One must listen in order to seek the will of another. Listening in prayer is essential to turning our lives, our time, and our commitment toward God and His purposes.
This is not only a matter of when we worship but how we worship. In our worship there are times we sing some of the music in the liturgy, and times we listen. Both are central to a healthy life of worship. Much of the way that we plan our liturgies is to provide the opportunity to do both. It is essential to our spiritual life that we learn to listen as well as to speak.
Some pieces of music that our choir sings are often heard in concerts and performances. This is much like viewing a statue in a museum rather than in its original context. We don’t get the whole picture. We don’t see it as it is meant to be seen. It is not often that these compositions are used in worship, most hear them in concerts. It is an unfortunate turn of events, that many works of sacred music are now regarded as concert pieces, rather than works sung to the glory of God in worship. We are one such parish where we can seek to reverse this trend. When we pray the words the choir sings, we embrace the stillness to which God calls us.
If it is uncomfortable to listen while others sing, it is worth taking time to reflect on what is uncomfortable. Often stillness is uncomfortable, and the business with which we are surrounded distract us from the parts of our lives where stillness and peace are most needed. I have often found, that when I step back, rest, pray, and listen, the priorities, fears, and concerns that most troubled me, are met with the peace of understanding that I am not God, and that God is. Seemingly limitless concern and activity, attempted by human beings, which by nature are limited, gives way to the understanding of God who is limitless, and through whom all things are possible.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
As the sign in our narthex reads, “Come in. Rest and pray.”
Faithfully in Christ Jesus,
Fr. Jon +