Susurration - Monday Musing, February 21, 2022
Susurration. I read somewhere that there are over 171 thousand words in current use in the English language. It comes as no surprise that we don’t know all of them, so I appreciate it when I come across a new word. I was getting gas at Shell on Saturday when the video on the gas pump blared its usual array of advertisements. I typically don’t pay much attention to these, but the word susurration appeared on the screen. The word is defined as “a whispering sound, murmur.”
I have been thinking about the Church Cabinet retreat that we had a week ago Saturday. I mentioned in Sunday worship that the Cabinet made progress toward answering the question, “Where are we going?,” and that there is still work to be done. Upon reflection, it seems as if visioning is not always obvious. There was no thunder revealing where God is calling us, no “ah-ha” moment, nothing definitive, other than our re-commitment to continue “serving God by loving and caring for our wider community.” One could say there were stirrings of the Spirit throughout the retreat – dare we say God’s whispering?
There is the story in 1 Kings of the prophet Elijah who triumphs over the priests of Baal. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was outraged, so she said to Elijah: “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life (Elijah) like the life of one of them (the prophets of Baal) by this time tomorrow” (19:2). In other words, she’s going to kill Elijah. So Elijah runs for his life and hides in a cave. God seeks out Elijah and asks: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answers, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away” (19:10).
So God says to Elijah – and this is one of my favorite passages in scripture – go stand outside for a minute because the Lord is about to pass by. This is so cool; here we have this great prophet of God who is used to seeing God work in spectacular ways, reigning down fire from heaven, and so when Elijah goes out, the first thing he sees is this great wind. A wind so strong that it was splitting mountains apart, but no God. Then there was a powerful earthquake; Elijah was out there bouncing around expecting to see God, but no God. Then came the fire. If I were Elijah I’d be thinking, “Okay God, talk to me,” but no God. The text says this is followed by “a sound of sheer silence” (19:12). Eugene Peterson translates this passage as “a gentle and quiet whisper.”
The work you and I are called to do as a community of faith is not revealed in grand ways – no wind, earthquake or fire – but rather by the susurration of God. May we be open to the Spirit as we continue to discern as a community of faith the why we are here. See you in church!