the void

i’m doing a workshop over two days at the Wisdom’s Feast event in a couple of week’s time. The lectionary readings include 1 kings 19 – the story of Elijah fleeing, as a political refugee… he ends up, somewhat shattered and despairing, in a cave.

In the NRSV, the next part of the story is told like this: “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”

if you really came after
the wind
and fire

the earth would be resounding with your voice.

the silence is – as they say –

we fill the void with chattering voices
hurried cliches
we make confident pronouncements
of where you are
and who you will be
to cover your absence.

maybe it takes too much faith
to simply stand at the door of the cave
to face a world that’s
shattered, bereft, broken.

to say we have no words.

to let you stand speechless with us.


  1. Jo

    This is interesting, especially as at this time in my life, this was the verse given to me. In the middle of a crisis, this was God’s word for me. Thank you for unpicking it a bit more.

  2. Jeff

    The waiting for silence to see if God may be there is not tried in too many ‘successful’ churches. There seems to be a great fear of silence and an addiction to noise.

  3. Cheryl

    i was just wondering how to create a space to wait for silence in worship space. i don’t think that just having lack of noise is it – that makes a kind of apathetic space, rather than a silent space… any ideas?

  4. Jeff

    Well Marcus Borg talks about our ‘thin’ places (I think), the places where we are able to sense God more easily. I guess for some it is rousing singing, hands raised and noise. I enjoy songs of meaning sung by others, the opportunity to sit in relative quietness, the stories of others, the absence of what to ‘do’ next, the opening for others to contribute, poetry, company – but I think in all that there is a place to be simply silent. One definition of love from a child was ‘ it is what you hear on Christmas Day if you stop unwrapping presents and listen’. Maybe it is more about listening to the still and the small than the silence?
    Don’t just do something stand there??

  5. Redfish

    I have a soundscape (used at the Assembly opening at the Princess Theatre a few years ago) which is based on the idea of “all the things you hear in the silence”. It’s pretty noisy, but very cool! We offset it with a super-wide image of flames in an open fire, looping.

    Actually, the whole affair based around the “still small voice” passage. That was a fun gig. I love theatres.


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