Silence in Liturgy

Nearly every week in our corporate worship gatherings at Redemption Church we intentionally place a time of silence into our liturgy. Yes, a moment of to be completely silent, with no agenda before Almighty God. Why on earth would we do this? Isn't church already the most awkward hour of our lives? We read from a book a few thousand years old, sit on wooden pews, gaze up at stained glass, in reverence of our God, who we cannot physically see! What does sitting in silence actually accomplish? What's the purpose? How is it pragmatic?

The answer is very simple. 

Practicing silence in Seattle flips our busy routine on it's head. Here in our ever-growing, fast-paced, ever-changing city, most people never stop for a full 60 seconds to just be still. As Seattleites, we wake up looking at our phones. We talk all day in conversations, are on our phones as we head to another meeting, another lunch, another meal, and then make it home, turn on Netflix, and stare out our phones until it's time for bed. Then it starts over.

It is as though we are unwilling and unable to sit completely still with our souls before Almighty God. The implications affect not only our understanding of who God is but we also end up not really knowing ourselves. You and I are very complex and complicated beings. The only way we can really know ourselves; what makes us tick, what makes us happy or sad, or what gives us meaning, purpose, and direction is the discipline of sitting still long enough and to pay attention to the voice of the Holy Spirit, calling us deeper still as he forms childlike faith in us as the children of God.

We are silent in our liturgy not because we don't know what to do with 60 seconds of time. We are silent because we think we know what to do with 60 seconds of time. It is in the silence that things, people, events, and desires, all come to mind that otherwise remain buried in the busyness of life. As they come to our minds, we give them to our God. 

In short, silence is a gift.

Silence at Home

When was the last time you tried sitting in total silence on your own? That is, without a Bible, a phone, a pen and journal, but simply just you and your awareness of the God who is present? I've noticed that in those moments of taking slow deep breaths and becoming aware of my Abba who loves me, likes me, and is quite fond of me, that my priorities shift, confession flows freely, and that self hatred, doubt, and skepticism float off. The result is worship of God, acceptance of self, and heartfelt tenderness towards others are born. God accomplishes and teaches more in 60 seconds of silence than what anyone could gain in 60 hours of theological research. 

God accomplishes and teaches more in 60 seconds of silence than what anyone could gain in 60 hours of theological research. 

Perhaps you could try just 5 minutes today? For some, 5 minutes will fly by. But for many of us, those 5 minutes require training the mind to stay present, the heart to stay engaged, and the body to stay completely still. 

Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
    He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
    breaks all the weapons across his knee.
“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.”

– Psalm 46:8-10, The Message​

​Read more from Alex Early here.