I had always wanted to deliver a sermon based on the first verse of the eighth chapter of the Revelation to John. “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” [NRSV] Upon reading this verse to follow I might ask the congregation to keep a time of silence for about as long and conclude with three hours of reflection over lunch. It takes a trusting congregation to hear the word and to follow it directly. I am grateful for the opportunity of silence.
Some people have a hard time with silence. They need to hear the radio or television in the background, or they need a steady flow of conversation. Myers Briggs might identify these persons as those who find it beneficial to have as much interaction and data to informed and charged for daily life. Unlike these extroverts, introverts thrive on silence and reflection to find the clarity and understanding that comes from a lack of distraction and feedback.
This one verse is but a pause in chaotic upheaval. It is a divine comma in a very long and complex discourse of events. With the impending results that are anticipated in 2020 as the church, as a nation, and in our personal lives, we live in the state of certain information and decisions being sealed. When decisions are made, votes tallied, secrets revealed and anticipated life is born, the appropriate response is not necessarily to cheer or to lament. A moment of silence can be a gift, a praise and our opportunity to listen for God’s response.
Most times people as for a “moment of silence’ they are not thinking of this verse. They are paying tribute to suffering or loss and as asking for a “politically correct’ time of saying no words that might offend and allowing people to pray in their own individual ways. The near half-hour of silence at the breaking of the seventh seal is the moment prior to the unleashing of all the struggle of evil, justice, God’s goodness and the darkness of chaos and separation from God.
There have been moments in our lives where there is a calm before the store. We see what is unfolding and we have those brief moments gather ourselves and pray for God’s strength for the turmoils that is about to be unleashed. As a church, as a nation, as individuals and families, when the fruits of evil, greed, misplaced trust, and rebellion threaten our way of life, claim the gifts of silence God provides. Cherish the opportunities to find the open space when we are on the cliffs in a raging storm.
The events that follow in the rest of the Revelation to John foretell of how evil will shake our foundations and test our faith. The call of this apocalyptic message is not to be afraid, but be prepared. Take the time of prayer, rest, reflection, and focus our hearts on God that we might be saved from some dangers and that we perceiver the troubles we must face. Know trouble awaits. Know God is greater than all storms.