Quiet, please, for Church Aloud!

Heavenly worship

The notice board outside the local meeting place of the Society of Friends invites all passers-by to join them on any Sunday morning for ‘an hour of quiet worship’.

James Jordan, an advocate of church liturgy, reckons that the book of Revelation spells out the order of a service of worship in heaven. Probably he is just imposing his own brand of churchmanship, but Revelation certainly describes the regular atmosphere of heaven. You would run out of fingers (and toes) counting the number of times you read there such phrases as: ‘with a loud voice’, ‘a voice of thunder’, ‘the voice of a trumpet’, ‘the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters’. However, you will only find one mention of ‘silence in heaven’ and, remarkably, it lasted only ‘for about half-an-hour’ (Revelation 8:1)!

Jesus had taught his followers to pray that ‘[God’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). Well, the church in Corinth definitely managed to replicate heaven’s decibel levels: their gatherings tended to resemble an average day at the Stock Exchange rather than meetings of today’s Society of Friends – whose informal name, Quakers, was originally given them by observers of ‘the glory fits’ experienced frequently by many of their members in the times of their founder, George Fox!

Get wind of this

During a spell of soaring midsummer temperatures, I went early one morning to the beach to walk my dog ‘in the cool of the day’. Through the welcome breeze God reminded me of a detail in that familiar story at the other end of the Bible. Genesis 3:8 informs us that Adam and Eve ‘heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ and the footnote in most version of Scripture tells us that the Hebrew phrase is literally ‘the wind [or breath] of the day’.

As I set off on my walk, God showed me that this verse is not referring to my daily Quiet Time. He reminded me of an autumn holiday on the Algarve Coast of Portugal. If we walked out of doors during the hot siesta hours of an afternoon we might see the occasional lonesome sparrow pecking seeds or crumbs from the roadside. But in the cool of the day – at dawn and especially at dusk – the trees were crowded with masses of noisy sparrow, their loud chatter competing with the din of shoppers and al fresco diners – ‘the Quiet Hour’ it most certainly it was not! It was their hour of congregation.

Prepare at home

Jesus said that indoors is the place for quiet prayer (Matthew 6:5-6). The psalmist vowed, ‘I will ponder the way that is blameless … within my house and exhorts us to ‘ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah {‘Just think of that!’] (Psalm 101:2; 4:4). After that, if, as a ‘whole multitude of his disciples’, we didn’t ‘rejoice and praise God with a loud voice’ but ‘were silent, the very stones would cry out’ (Luke 19:37-40).

That radical statement was uttered by Jesus himself   Enough said!

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