Santa Clara, CA
| Congregational Silence ~ Max Reich|
There are found in not a few places, groups of sincere disciples of the Lord Jesus who meet together without prearrangement or human leadership, but in silence, unless moved otherwise, in subjection to the headship of Christ, whom they recognize as "in the midst."
This might seem a foolish and unprofitable proceeding to many, so I desire briefly to point out the four-fold significance of congregational silence as it appears to me. There is first
[u]THE SILENCE OF REALITY[/u]
If a meeting is spiritually poor, dull and empty, it is certainly more honest to be silent before God than to cover up the inward nakedness by a multiplicity of creaturely exercises. The silence is an eloquent appeal to the Source from which our help comes to overflow into our empty cups. For we cannot give what we have not got. He says: "I create the fruit of the lips." And the Psalmist says: "Open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise." It is not honest to give expression to exalted sentiments which are contradicted by one's actual condition. To sing of mountain-top joys, when actually in the valley; of the banquet, when starving in a parched desert: of glorious liberty, when in reality in bondage to the lusts and cares of this passing world, is not from the Spirit of Truth. It is much more becoming and much more likely to bring a meeting into tenderness and into the resultant sense of the breathings forth of Divine consolations, to be silent in the confession of its need. For God hates shams and still gives grace to the lowly, while the proud and unbroken He knoweth afar off.
Then there is a second feature I would note--namely,
[u]THE SILENCE OF REVERENCE[/u]
We profess to approach to the throne of the thrice Holy One when we come together. Is it not much more respectful to settle down in the silence before Him and wait His sovereign good pleasure than to rush into His august Presence with our own words? Should the High and Holy One who inhabiteth Eternity be treated with less respect than the petty potentates of earth? Would we dare to address a king unless first spoken to? A reverential silence is in itself Worship. It is the prostration of the human in the presence of the Divine. It is the confession of His majesty and the adoration of His perfections. Awe and wonder lie at the very foundation of true worship. We are in the presence of the infinite, the unbounded, the unfathomable. We are face to face with the unspeakable, the transcendent, the eternal. How irreverent to voice whatever platitudes come into our minds! How unbecoming to start religious chatter. Nay, better far to be reverentially silent. For such silence is like the fragrant incense cloud which ascended from the golden altar in the holy place of the ancient sanctuary. It is like Mary's silent breaking of the alabaster flask upon her Lord so that the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.
But there is another silence to note and it is
[u]THE SILENCE OF RECOLLECTION[/u]
Now this word "recollection" has somehow dropped out of modern religious parlance. It has a medieval sound about it to our ears. And yet it is the symbol of a very real and precious experience. It expresses the very heart of what is called in the Holy Scriptures: "waiting upon the Lord." Some twenty times in the Book of Psalms and about the same number in Isaiah do we find this term. The changes are there rung on the importance and fruitfulness of "waiting." In the Hebrew the word really means "silence." But it means an active and not a dead silence. It is the soul's turning to its centre, the Divine Spirit from which it proceeds. God is regarded as immanent as well as transcendent. Man is essentially a spiritual being because of this Divine immanence. But somehow through sin and false ideas, through the witchery of the merely material, the soul has departed from its only true resting place. It is unhappy because no longer in its proper environment. Now recollection is a recalling one's wandering thoughts back into God. It is the soul turning inward to its Origin, whence the healing, the comfort and true guidance flow. For as the body lives because of the soul, so the soul because of the spirit which comes direct from the heart of God. This is God's candle in man. Because every man is a spiritual being inwardly, he lives and moves and has his being in God and is capable of regeneration. He can have heaven formed within him, but hell also if he closes his interior to heaven, and through sin and error opens to the darkness and selfishness of hell. But if the soul learns to wait upon God, it opens to Him as truly as the flower opens to the sunlight, and then the silence of recollection becomes naturally
[u]THE SILENCE OF RECEPTIVITY[/u]
The wisdom and love of God flow more fully into our interiors; the wisdom of God into our spiritual understandings, and the love into our affections. The first gives spiritual perception, and the second causes our wills to will the will of God alone.
Such a time of silence is certainly not a waste. The band of Galilean disciples in the upper room did not find it so. Their receptive silence was answered by opened heavens. The wind of God filled all the house where they were sitting. And as with them, so with those similarly exercised. The inpouring produces an outpouring, the inflow, an upflow, an outflow, an overflow. Praise and public testimony arise without programme or creaturely wire-pulling in such a favored assembly. And such expressions of the abundant life will have a Divine tincture in them. They will not gather to the human, which is but the medium, but to that heavenly spring from which they flow. God in all things will be glorified through Jesus Christ. "That which the Fountain sends forth returns again to the Fountain."
[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=category&cid=416]Max Reich [/url]
| 2008/2/6 9:22||Profile|
| Re: Congregational Silence ~ Max Reich|
Silent waiting upon God is a necessity;
| 2008/2/8 16:22||Profile|
| Re: Congregational Silence ~ Max Reich|
This Friend speaks my mind.
Thank you Crsschk.
| 2008/2/8 17:42|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Congregational Silence ~ Max Reich|
Now recollection is a recalling one's wandering thoughts back into God.
[i]There are two sides to the remembrance, or recollection. There is the human side. That is here in this chapter: "All the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no." It was not, as we have often said, that the Lord did not know what was in their heart, and had to put them into situations to discover it, but more correctly: 'That He might make thee know.' The later statement about the basis of man's subsistence - "that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only" - can well govern this earlier statement: 'To make thee know what was in thine heart.' That is an essential uncovering and disclosure if there is going to be all that the Lord intends, and it is certainly the most painful experience, or part of life, when, under the hand of God, by His dealings, by His ways, by His methods and by His means with us we come more and more desperately to recognise what kind of people we really are. There is such disillusionment about ourselves if we were ever at all proud or self-sufficient, if we had any opinion of ourselves, or thought that we were anything. But this devastating uncovering of our true selves as God sees and knows them, while it is perhaps the most terrible aspect of a life under His hand, is absolutely essential to the purpose of God. There is no doubt about that; and there is no doubt that that is one of the things that the Lord does with a life when He gets it into His hands. Sooner or later He lays that life bare to itself so that it has no confidence in the flesh whatever. 'To make thee know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or not.' And what was the verdict upon the forty years in the wilderness? It was 'No!' They were not capable of doing it in themselves, and they proved to themselves and to everybody else that it was not in them to do it. 'And thou shalt remember that!' [/i]
[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=20318&forum=34&3]Remembering and Forgetting[/url] ~ [i]T. Austin-Sparks[/i]
| 2008/2/8 23:11||Profile|
| Re: Silence|
Thank you for the thoughts! We were saved while attending a Friends or Quaker church and we had no idea what a quaker was or did, but it sounded pretty archaic. There was an untimed time called quaker worship where it was silence before the Lord to let us reflect and the Holy Spirit speak and in a loud world this was a very uncomfortable time... at first. My wife and I grew to love this time as with 4 small children this was precious silence. Many excellent testimonies and sharings came just before the silence was broken. Like many things good and lovely this time kept getting timed out to make room for the program until it was edged out altogether. I have often wandered what a whole service or "meeting" would be like as the old quakers did or as Max brings out. I bet that it would make our personal prayer closet time more valuable and may I say easier as we are "training" ourselves to be silent and listen for God's voice so that we may know His voice and follow Him. It can't be law or it will be edged out and counted as archaic and unprofitable , but as we would endeavor to do this together I bet we would be blessed. I have always loved the Elijah in the cave account as he waited. Several things louder came, and the Lord was was not in them, but it ended up being a still small voice that is almost inperceivable, but must be listened for in silence. Thanks for the quote! Blessings, Barry
| 2008/2/9 5:43||Profile|
Good stuff, Brother Mike!
Have you ever thought about the most incredible times that you have ever had?
To the world, they might point to a wedding, a first kiss, a baby being born, a graduation, etc... But for believers, we tend to point to our conversion, our first time in prayer, the first soul that we introduced to the Lord, etc...
For me, I've come to the conclusion that these "greatest times" have come when I was alone with God. Even my conversion came out in an open field late at night with no one else around. Since then, all of the most memorable times in prayer have come when I was in silent communion with God (even following times of sleepless, anguished prayer). Sometimes, I have felt that same awesome hand of God while just taking a walk about in the country. Sometimes, I have felt the Lord speak to me while simply gazing up at the celestial sphere of the heavens as I lay upon my roof.
Regardless, I think that it is difficult to experience such two-way communication if we talk too much. Sometimes, I think that we just make too much noise!
I've attended churches that almost perform a spiritual [i]rain dance[/i] in order to "experience the presence of the Lord" in their congregation. One particular congregation did not feel "fulfilled" unless they "feel" a "spiritual breakthru" (more likely, it is an [i]emotional[/i] one) that usually follows vibrant and loud singing. I've seen pastors literally talk their congregation into making physical and vocal [i]hoopla[/i] for the Lord -- just to say that "He moved" in their midst. These sort of congregations, although probably quite well-meaning, always reminded me of the prophets of Baal on the mountain. No matter how much they shouted, danced or even cut themselves in order to show their dedication -- the fire never truly came.
But does God truly need our efforts in order to prove He is amongst us? Do we need to physically "press in" in order to experience intimate fellowship with Him? What would happen if a congregation just became quiet and waited upon the Lord? Is it necessary to "make an effort" to experience personal or congregational intimacy with the Lord? Or can we simply come as we are -- willing to sacrifice 100% of ourselves -- with a unquenchable desire to know Him?
Thanks for sharing this, brother. What a great reminder of the need to just be quiet for a while! My wife and I have wonderful time together in prayer. But we have been speaking about designated time each day where no one will be around in order to remain in a quiet, intimate prayer closet. Wouldn't it be wonderful if our local church meetings could operate in a similar manner? What if our worship, praise and prayer was not dependent upon the worship team, the pastor or anyone else in the congregation? I wonder: Would it resemble those waiting in Jerusalem just prior to the day of Pentecost?
| 2008/2/9 12:24||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Silence|
I have often wandered what a whole service or "meeting" would be like as the old quakers did or as Max brings out.
Tremendous testimony here Barry and so bittersweet to hear it just slowly eked away into programmatic replacement ... It raises the question or maybe just makes altogether the same point that Chris made; We just must have noise! Probably more than one way of looking at it, having to be busy, having to do something, prove something but another aspect is just frankly ... fear. Fear of silence. I know it well in my circumstances, the family must have noise and noise constantly, it provides that distraction from having to think and contemplate, "recollection" and without a doubt to just quiet the busy mind under the Lords examination, the fear of being found out perhaps.
There is some old redundant expressions of fleeing up to the mountains were my in-laws live. Oh I must get back up there once again. I live in the main artery of Silicon Valley and we know and produce the highest quality of 'noise' of an internal sort that ... there is New York I would imagine if it was to be turned into a contest. Some hyperbole there. But as Chris mentioned, those quiet times, wherever they might be, my recollection flies back to hearing the sound of a bumble bee breaking the sound barrier like it was an F-14 fighter jet and my perception put him at least some 75 yards away, that is the sort of silence those mountains provide.
Great stuff here brothers.
[i]And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.[/i] Rev 8:1
| 2008/2/9 12:51||Profile|
Oh, to lose ourselves in the silence of His presence! This reminds me of a simple chorus (of two simple songs) that we used to sing as children:
[b]As We Seek Your Face[/b]
As we seek your face,
may we know your heart
Feel your presence, acceptance,
As we seek your face
At your feet we fall,
We cry holy, holy,
At Your feet we fall
[b]Jesus, Draw Me Close[/b]
Jesus, Draw Me Close,
Closer Lord to You,
Let the world around me fade away.
Jesus, Draw Me Close,
Closer Lord to You,
For I desire to Worship and Obey
| 2008/2/9 14:32||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Still|
[i][b]Are there really blank days in the religious life?[/b][/i]
NOT really! It seems sometimes, at the end of the day, as we review it, that we have learnt nothing, done nothing, and been nothing in particular. We have had an innings without scoring; we have been beating up against the wind, without making a single knot. I admit it is an unsatisfactory condition of things. A tradesman who has been looking after business all day, counts it hard to be no better off at night than when he started in the morning.
But it may be, that to have held our own is to have done greatly. The current was running so many knots an hour against us, that to have kept our place is equivalent to having made many miles of advance under happier circumstances. To have held the wicket against such bowling has at least enabled our companion at the other wicket to score,, though not one run has fallen to our bat. Probably this is what Paul meant when he said, "Having done all, to stand," as though that were sometimes the greatest achievement possible.
Times of conscious growth and progress are generally succeeded by periods of stationariness (if we may coin such a word). It is as though Nature demanded a pause, in which to garner up and store the results which she has gained. The nation which has had a successful war, by which vast new territories have been brought within the national limits, must have leisure to extend a whole network of governmental and social agencies throughout the newly-acquired area, only so can the new be closely pieced with the old. Nature herself, after the glory of the blossom and the wealth of the autumn fruit, demands months of rest, when it seems as though she were idling time away and doing nothing; but in reality it is not so. In the depths of her heart she is preparing for a fresh flow of energy, which shall presently carry each wooded fibre to a further length than ever before. So is it in the life of the soul. We must have time by our practice to put into execution, and so make our own, what we have learnt. By patient continuance in well-doing, we must weave into the texture of character the raw material imported from the realms of the spiritual world. It is not enough to sight the land of promise from afar, we must go up and possess it, and we can only possess when we put down our foot in obscure and daily obedience to what we have learnt.
Sometimes at the end of the day one says drearily, "I have added nothing today to the fabric of my character," and one says it because there has been no conscious advance. But foundation work is quite as necessary as the erection of the finial in the sunny air. The experiment of the laboratory is essential to the demonstration of the theatre. In the sub-conscious region of the soul, processes of thought, judgment, and resolution are being elaborated, which will astonish the world by their strength and brilliance. A busy man might count sleep a blank in life's business, but, so far from it being so, I am increasingly sure that during the hours of apparent unconsciousness, we are thinking out our problems and forming conclusions, of which we shall presently become aware, which we shall promulgate as oracles of wisdom, and adopt for the practical regulation of life.
Such periods of pause and apparent standstill are also necessary to our true blessedness, for they deprive us of that self-complacency and retroversion of thought on ourselves, which is fatal to growth in the knowledge and love of God. How often have I met people flushed with the joy of some new truth. "We have got it all down here," they cry, holding up their neatly and closely-written notebooks. And they rush off to some new teacher, whose words are yet more thrilling and whose views more novel and startling. Some spend their lives in travelling from convention to convention, always learning but never coming to any sound knowledge of the truth, because they confound the intellectual vision with the practical appropriation, which can only come through patient and plodding transformation of truth into character, by obedience. This is the reason why the Apostle James says that men are blessed in their doing (Jam_1:25). We think that blessing comes in hearing. At the end of a meeting we overhear this or that person saying, "I have got such a blessing." No, they haven't. They may have come to apprehend the conditions of blessing; they may have beheld the blessing from afar; they may have felt the warm beams of its dawn striking on their hearts. But they possess the blessing only when they have begun to fulfil the conditions, and follow the gleam. It is only by obedience, often prosaic and unemotional, that we really make the deepest and truest advances in the knowledge and love of God. Live up to what has been made known to you. Be stead. fast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Never mind whether the days seem blank or not, they may be blank so far as emotion is concerned, and so far as new views of truth are concerned, but they are not blank, if you are living up to the limit of your" life, practising it, and allowing patience to have her perfect work.
Is it not possible to be so taken up with the new views of truth that dazzle our fancy, that we may miss the truth, which can only be seen by each man for himself, and which is shy of noise and bustle and great meetings? May we not be so taken up with our thoughts, or other men's thoughts, about Christ, that we fail to sit at His feet? Is there not a danger, that by looking at the progress we are making, we divert our gaze from Him who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith, and to behold whom is the one secret of growth and progress in the Divine Life? We are too apt to try to discover some new symptom of our growth in grace, forgetting that we grow best, when we are absolutely unconscious of the successive stages of our growth. To feel our pulse is most likely to disturb the regular rhythm of the heart. To be self-centred and self-conscious is the worst possible condition of soul-health.
Is it not enough, also, to believe that God is working in us both to will and to work? It will be time enough for us to work out what He has wrought in, when His work has come up to the surface, like the coral island from the ocean depths, it must emerge above the waves before Nature can bless it with a crown of fronded palms. Let God work in you, in silence and darkness, elaborating the secret processes of His Divine purpose, He is working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, and conforming you to the image of His Son. Dare to believe that it is so. Here is an opportunity for you to exercise your perfect faith in Him. This is faith, to believe where you cannot see or feel, and to commit the keeping," he training, and the nurture of your soul to His loving care. Mary supposed Him to be the gardener, but her surmise was nearer the truth than it seemed.
In the meanwhile, let the attitude of the soul be constantly towards the Lord. Still yourself like a weaned child; wait His time; keep His way; be silent unto Him; rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Live, not in your experience, but in your standing in the Risen Christ, that is unaltered and unalterable by your changing experiences. Let your will be set on doing the will of God, come sun or shower, come joy or depression. Let the clay await the Potter's touch, and be content that the responsibility should be on Him.
| 2008/2/17 12:00||Profile|