Noise, Stillness, and Rest



Pastor Jonathan:


The Lord said, go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord or in the presence of the Lord. For the Lord is about to pass by then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came, a gentle whisper. Hear the word of the Lord. Thanks Peter. Go. You may be seated.


Pastor Jeremy:


Good morning everybody. Hello, my name is Jeremy. I get to be one of the pastors. I'm the executive pastor here at Journey. It's good to see all of you. I am also the only journey person on staff that did not wear their journey shirt. So you can chastise that later. And the worst part is I had that idea three weeks ago and this meant to tell somebody about it. But here we are. That's okay. I'm preaching. I need to have a collar right? That's the rule. So it's good to see everybody here. And last week I got to preach too. Normally I don't get to preach two times in a row, but this week I did. And you can tell I'm out of practice because at the end of last service or the end of last sermon, I put a scripture into my notes. Cause I did not read ahead in the book.


And that scripture that I talked about last week happened to also be the scripture that we are preaching from this week. But that's okay because it's obviously very important in the Holy Spirit was working ahead of me to be able to draw us into this piece of scripture. But the point I was trying to get with this story with Elijah last week was tuning our ears to the voice of God. It takes practice, it takes intentional practice, and it takes a willingness to be able to hear God no matter what. And it is important to practice and it's important that we make it an intentional practice because what practice makes wrong, practice makes permanent practice makes permanent. And I truly live and believe in this because we practice things all the time without even thinking about it. The way we drive as a practice, the way we interact with people as a practice.


And if you don't, you're not intentional about the way you do these things. They become ingrained in you. Perfect practice makes perfect, but practice by itself makes permanent and it takes a lot of work to make something a part of who you are and your identity to the core. So the challenge last week was to pick a day and a time and a relationship to completely, completely leave their phone behind or turned off. Did anybody pick a day or a time or a relationship to not have their phone with them at all? Anybody do that? Oh, nice comment. Yes. Yes I did. Now mine, let me preface was the day that was chosen for me was not by choice because my kids stole my phone and hid it from me. So I just decided to make that day my day of abstaining from the phone.


But I was going to pick a Saturday, and I know for a fact that my wife picked Saturday, that was yesterday because she told all of her family and friends, if anybody needed to contact her, they had to contact me. So I got to play secretary yesterday. But it was helpful and beneficial and rewarding when that happened. I didn't check my phone constantly. And it's pretty amazing how, well two things. One, how addictive we are to our little screens in our pockets, but second, how quickly you can break the habit and be comfortable just interacting with nothing. In fact, last night we went out to dinner and we were joking. We went to this barbecue place that we never had had before and I left my phone in the car on the accident and Carmen didn't have her phone. And I said, we can't take a picture of this awesome date night, but we still had the date anyways and it was nice and wonderful and the food was great.


So practice makes permanent is why we gave you that practice last week. And this week we're getting into part two. So for those of you who are new or haven't been following along with us, we are going through this book right here, being with God. It's kind of helping to guide our conversation through the weeks up until Pentecost. And it's all about prayer and deep prayer. Not just I'm going to talk to God, I'm going to tell God what I need. I'm going to try to listen for God, but just being with God, being present in the moment with God. And so we're in part two of this book, which is titled Necessity. And so why do we talk about prayer? I know if you've grown up in the church, you've been around prayer for a long time. You've heard people pray, you've probably said a bunch of prayers yourself.


But I think at least for myself, I was not very good at prayer for a long time. I knew the words to say. I knew I had to close my eyes. I had questions about straight hands or folded hands, but I knew how to pray I thought, but I've learned that I was not very good at it. And in fact, this book, again, the Holy Spirit working ahead is a multi-year culmination of something that I needed in my life to really understand being present with God. And obviously it's resonating because I am able to tell exactly what the author is going to write in the next bit of the book without reading ahead and preaching it to you on accident. But in short, I think we're looking for God in all these big moments like Elijah does, right? The passage we just read, Elijah, he names all these amazing things that happen, thunderstorms, earthquakes, and God was not in all of those, or at least not the voice that Elijah needed to hear from God.


We are looking for God, I think at least I am in the very big moments of our lives. Maybe it starts with Sunday, Sunday's a big moment. We all gather together as the church body. So we're looking for God in this space right here, and I'm looking for God on Sundays. He's going to be there because we're praying in tragedies. Somebody dies unexpectedly or even just not unexpectedly. We look for God for comfort. We look for God in cataclysmic events like wild tornadoes or earthquakes or floods or hurricanes that wipe out whole cities or a whole pandemic that lasted two years. We look for God in the middle of these huge events and in great joys we look for, we say, oh, thank God we had a baby. It's wonderful. God is truly present here. We look for these big, big, big moments. However, I have come to learn that God is everywhere all of the time, big moments and especially the little moments where nothing seems to be happening in the church calendar.


If you follow along, we have two really big events in the church calendar. Can you guys name what those two seasons are? They're seasons. But what are the two seasons of the church? Anybody? We just came out of one for the dozing journey. Easter. Yeah, L the lead up to Easter. And then what's the other one that happens in the wintertime? Christmas or advent, the lead up to Christmas. Those are not that long in the church calendar and the rest of this time is called ordinary time, boring time. It's not really called boring time, but that's what it kind of feels like because we just do the work of being with God outside of these huge celebrations. So in this prayer, when we are trying to learn how to pray and trying to be more spiritual, we look to these people that are the prayers of the church.


We all know the prayers of the church. The people who are really, really good at prayer, maybe they're the first one to always volunteer to pray, or maybe they just are the ones that everybody, their attention is captured. I've prayed with a lot of people, I've prayed with people who speak in tongues. I've prayed with people who read every prayer line for line. They can't do anything besides that. I've prayed with people who bring a task list to God. I got these people I talked to this week. Bam, bam, bam. They're my prayer list is good. And I've prayed for people who are looking for God in everything from marriages and illness all the way to their fourth cousins, best friends, barbers, cousins, sister-in-law's dog, all those people I have prayed with. And so sometimes I'm at a loss like, well, what are we doing in this prayer?


Well, it wasn't until I learned to really just be quiet and listen and that I learned to be with God, that I understood what praying is the starting to cultivate those fruits of the spirit that Jonathan talked about in our prayer time. Paul writes about that in Galatians and that's those fruits just don't happen. It takes time cultivating, like we talked about last week, farming and agriculture takes intentional time. No matter how good the technology is growing, something takes time. And so prayer is important because it is the spiritual life. The author of this book, he writes this, he writes, spirituality is nothing less than intimacy with God through prayer. Prayer is the spiritual life. So all the people that you think are spiritual may just be putting on an act. And I'm not saying that's true. You can't look at somebody and say, oh, you're just faking it because you raise your hands in worship. How's your prayer life? But this is saying that prayer, how we interact with God and spend time with God privately is the spiritual life. And out of that everything flows. All of the ways that we interact with the world flows out of that. So how do we put this into practice? We need practical steps. Well, I have three steps. Silence the noise, make room and shush. That's it. Silence the noise. Make room and be quiet it.


There's so much noise in our lives. Has anybody paid attention to the noise? Last week I talked about some of the science and the cruel stuff about noise, but I also shared that it can be quiet and have no noise, but you could also not be listening. So the other day I was filling up some water at the water station for our water machine at home and my mind was wandering, thinking about this sermon, thinking about field day and all that stuff. And I was going everywhere and I was not present in the moment. And I just said, I caught myself and said, just listen, there's nothing special happening. Just listen. And when I did that, I heard all kinds of sound just like somebody turned the volume up of the world. I heard the cars driving by, I heard, I heard leaves rustling. I heard the water machine going, I heard breathing, which somebody pointed out to me last week.


I heard all of these sounds going on around me. And with so much noise around us silencing the noise is difficult. I know it's difficult. The book here talks about how long it takes to record one hour of natural sound and how so many years ago it took 15 hours of recording to produce one hour of sound with no human interference in it. And now it's something like thousands of hours that you have to record to get one hour of polluted natural sound in just less than a century. But we practice this already. You already practiced something here to silence the noise. We just did it a few minutes ago and that is breath prayer or contemplative prayer where we slow down, we focus on something and we just focus on that. So everything else around us cannot come in and it's always the same.


Honest, we've noticed this, but we're pretty routine here at Journey for the most part. These practices we put into place are for our benefit and really for your benefit of developing a spiritual life, we start with the best prayer and there are four prayers. The first prayer is to remember how to breathe because for some reason when we ask people to take a breath, our minds become conscious of that and we forget how to breathe. So we just give one breath for free to say, remember how to breathe, let's do it together. The second breath always is what worries do you have and give those worries to God. The third breath is always feel the air feeling your lungs. Give thanks to God for the breath. The fourth breath is always, where are your thoughts at right now? Center yourself in this moment. And then typically after I get done doing those four breaths, I stay quiet because silence and silencing the noise and doing that practice would be so awful to say we need to center ourselves and be quiet and then to just start talking right afterwards.


So we do that every week. You already are on the way to practicing silencing the noise. So you're welcome for that I guess. And that practice is very old. That practice is very, very, very old. So it's not something that we just made up so well. Now we've already created space in which silence is welcomed, the space welcomed in the space. I know the absence of noise, like I said early, doesn't mean that it is quiet and my brain especially, nothing is ever really quiet, even if no sound is happening externally. We have internal noise which sometimes can be deafening. Sometimes our internal noises don't make sense. Sometimes they are just kind of gibberish sometimes some of you might actually hear a voice talking to you like your own voice in your head speaking. Some of you might see pictures. I don't see or hear anything, but it's still noisy.


I can talk to you sometime about that if you would like. But our brains never stop unless we really are intentional about doing it. And that basically stems from three different things that this author Pro puts up. He says, we're busy comparing ourselves to the world around us or to ourselves. We're busy controlling or trying to control the world around us and we're busy consuming all of the noise that is coming into our ears whether we want to or not. And if we're not doing that, we're trying to make noise for other people to consume, right? I'm trying to overwhelm the noise with my own noise. And there's another quote from this book that really has stuck with me and I've been thinking a lot about it. And it says it's humbling when we discover that we are not creating our thoughts as much as our thoughts are creating us. And I thought about that. I'm like, what does that really mean? It sounds like a very important quote. So I highlighted it and I said, I'm going to put it in the sermon and explore it a little bit. And it's because as I got down to it, do you think about what you think about, I know there's like some big level thinking, but do you actually think about what you are thinking about?


I know it's big, I know. But if we let go of the comparison and the controlling and the consumption, once we let go of that stuff that we're now aware of that you're going to be aware of this week that you think about once you don't think about that stuff, what are you left with? Nothing. And that's okay. That is okay. Once don't we get rid of constantly thinking we can start to get out of the way of the critical reasoning that often gets in the way of our understanding of God. There are some very logical people, people who need to say, this happens. So this happens. We need those pieces of evidence and the steps to take. And that can oftentimes get in the way. All that critical thinking and critical reasoning can get in the way of just being because God is not always reasonable.


Our understanding of God is not always reasonable. When I think of God and I think of God's love specifically, I very be quickly or used to very quickly become overwhelmed. It's like looking at space. I love to look. The stars are cool, but I like to look at the black spots in between the stars. You know why? Because I don't know what I'm looking at. And it goes on forever. And I think that is super cool, a little terrifying. But that is endless. That goes on forever. And that is God. If we ever arrive at a spot where we say, I fully understand God's love, I fully understand God, I would suggest that you have put yourself at a level of God and you need to repent and understand that God's love is deeper than you could ever imagine. And you just sit in the silence and be overwhelmed and love harder and love more. And just understand that God cannot be fully understood ever. And that's not reasonable to our human brains. But that's okay because God is not reasonable. And that I think takes a lot of trust and a lot of faith to say, I'm giving over all of my thinking. The brain that I understand the world around me. I am giving all of that to God. That's a big ask. And that is a big, big, big surrender.


Jesus talks a little bit about a prayer and the next, so that's silencing the noise. The next part of this is making room. There's a very famous musical that came out a few years ago called Hamilton. Have you ever heard of this musical? Very popular. And there's a very fun song there called The Room Where It Happens. I want to be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens, because the guy who sings it wants to be in the shaping of the country. He wants to know all the insider baseball. He wants to be important. And so space is important. Where we put ourselves at is important. And in Matthew chapter six, Jesus, he's teaching about prayer and he teaches the disciples how to pray. He says, I don't want you to be the pagans or the people who stand on the corner and just pray for the sake of being noticed that they're praying.


Right? You can't just have endless words that mean nothing. And you can't show off how spiritual, spiritual you are by showing off how spiritual you are. And so he teaches them the Lord's prayer because he wants 'em to have a framework of how to pray. We said that prayer last week in our prayer Sunday, and a lot of you are familiar with it, but if you're not, it starts out with our father who are in heaven. And then you probably are starting to go through it in your brain right now. He teaches 'em how to pray. But actually right before that in chapter six, he teaches the disciples where to pray. So before he even teaches 'em how to pray, he teaches them where to pray. In Matthew six, six, he says, this is Jesus' words. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen.


Then your father who sees you, who sees what is done in secret will reward you. The room where it happens is the room that Jesus calls us to pray to God the Father, so he can see you in all of your vulnerability because you're just standing in a room. Who are you going to impress? Nobody. The closet wall. No, you can't do that. This contemplative, oh sorry, this room that he's talking about, the author, I'm going to have to trust him cause I'm, I don't know, original language, right? I'm not an original language person, but I'm trusting that this guy, AJ did his research and talks about this room where it is. Now in ancient judum, there's not a lot of privacy, right? The rooms were very few. If you had a house, you didn't have very many rooms. You had a lot of people probably in there.


You had family in there and stuff. And so actually the spot that he's talking about, this room, he suggests is like an inner closet which would not have been on the outside of the house. So no outside distractions, no windows or it could have been like the pantry where all the food is stored. And he compares this to a scripture in Matthew later in Matthew six, in verse 26. He writes, Jesus says this, he says, look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? And so that word for barn where either storing up the food is the same word that Jesus says to go to. So this comparison of food or a pantry, I wrote in this note, I think it's interesting that the spot where we go to nourish ourselves physically where we get our food is a spot that Jesus calls us to nourish ourselves spiritually, physical and spiritual combined together in the same spot.


I don't think that's an accident, and I think that's pretty, pretty neat. This intentional private practice is not meant to replace stuff like we're doing today. Like public corporate prayer is important. We should continue to do that. The Israelites, you know those who practice in the synagogue prayed multiple times a day. Jesus just never said anything about that. But he did tell his disciples that when you pray individually this private practice, go to this spot and meet there and meet with God. Bruce Demarest calls it the inner Sinai or a sacred meeting place for you and the divine, which Sinai refers to Mount Sinai, which is a very famous mountain in the Old Testament where Moses got to commune with God. Moses went up there in this great cloud and talked to pe, talked to God, got some instruction, came down very famously where the 10 Commandments came down a couple of times, right?


So the Sinai is right here where you're supposed to meet God at going into the deepest parts of our soul. After relinquishing control of comparison, control and consumption frees us to stop praying from the tops of our minds and allows us to pray from the depths of our heart, the tops of our mind, the logic, the reason, the understanding of the world as we know it. We're trying to get past that, to pray to the depths of our souls that we don't always understand ourselves. And this opening and freedom is where we really start to allow the work of the Holy Spirit and our lives, the fruits of the spirit to be cultivated and to come out. When Jesus walked on this earth, he walked with and alongside the disciples, he taught them, he ate with them, he walked with them. And then when he comes back, he says, I'm going to send somebody to help you to be with you.


And it's better that I am not here. And that promise of a person coming was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn't walk around us, doesn't walk alongside us, doesn't push us, doesn't pull us. The Holy Spirit resides inside of us in the depth of our soul, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and our souls makes us a part of the Ecclesia, which is the fun way to say the church. If you're a Christian and you have accepted Jesus Christ to Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of your heart, not alongside you and shapes you and transforms you. And you get to be a part of this big body of believers called the Church. God is inviting us to something that we are created for depth and relationship with the creator of the universe. If we go all the way back to Genesis before sin was introduced into the world, it says that God walked in the garden and had relationship, a relationship with Adam and Eve. He you get these two jokers who messed everything up for everybody, walked with God. God created the universe, right? Said stars, sun, land, animals, plants, all that stuff. You two, they got to be like, oh, that's really cool. We get to walk with you.


And so since that was messed up, we are continually being invited to that depth. Whether you've come to know Jesus, like if you're not there yet, God is still inviting you, come and be with me. If you are in the family, you're a part of the Ecclesia, God is calling you, come be with me. Always, always journeying more into relationship with God. It's a spirituality that boasts that does not boast. I get God. I get God. God know It is one that confesses. God has me, God has me. It's a spirituality that allows our imaginations to open up and allows us not to talk at or to God, but to be with God. This guy named Blaze Pascal, he writes this. He says, I have discovered that all of the un unhappiness of men arises from one single fact that they're unable to stay quietly in their own chamber.


Now, who is this guy Blaze? Why should we care about him? Why is this quote interesting? Well, blaze is an old guy and he laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities, formulated and formulated what became to know, become known as Pascal's principle of pressure. In other words, he was a very smart, logical, reasonable guy that wanted to understand the world around him. So smart that he created frameworks of probability, which is used in statistics and all kinds of stuff. But he also said that we need, he propagated a religious doctrine that taught the experience of God through the heart rather than through reason. Now, I'm a pretty reasonable guy, a pretty smart guy I think. But that only gets me so far with understanding God. There has to be a point where I experience God's through my heart and through my soul more so than I try to understand God with my mind.


And I think that's what Blas here is talking about. And the stillness allows us to control or to see what's important around us. I call them pick your head up moments. And these moments are, if you've ever been on a project working, you just, you're so focused on what is happening right here. I need to do my part of this project. I don't really know how it fits into the larger picture. I need to do this really important. And then you don't know why you're doing it. You just know you have to do it. The pick your head up moments or being still with God in this case, allows you to look up and see what is important and why you're doing what you're doing around you.


Stillness helps to make that clear because when you are still and you are with God, God will shape your heart, which turns your heart into heart after God's which will pull you to do things that God wants you to do. Stillness is the divine invitation to zoom out in order to scan our life horizon, to discover what we really long for. And this leads to St. Augustine early church Father who asks this question, why do you speak and not want to listen? You are always rushing out of doors but are unwilling to return into your own house your teacher is within. Now, I hope it's not lost in you what this means, but I'll explain it that you can go to church, you can go to Bible studies, you can watch 20 sermons a week. You can volunteer all you want. That's all very good stuff. But God is not just there. God resides in you, in your house, in your heart. So why are you always trying to do other stuff when all you need to do is sit still and be quiet? And what an amazing opportunity we are missing out on if you don't live into the practice of stillness.


So this week's practice is actually going to be a long one. And it's not going to be like where you can be like me saying, oh gosh, I got to remember to be quiet right now in this moment and listen for five minutes. Or Oh, thank goodness my kids took my phone. I can now claim that is my day of silence away from technology. This one is going to take you at least 20 minutes. Okay? So 20 minutes of a practice that I want you to do this week, and it's called the Lectio Dina, which is Latin for divine reading. So it's going to require some time and it's going to feel uncomfortable and that's okay. So I'm only going to challenge you to do it once this week, right? That's pretty generous. I think you got seven days to do this one time. And so this practice draws on an ancient practice of the Jews when they read the, I'm going to say this wrong, the Hak or a text read during Passover that retells the Exodus story, the Lectio Davina, this practice in the Christian world is old first suggested and introduced by St.


Gregory of Nisa in three 30 or 3 95 BC somewhere, sorry, ce. So 300, 3 30 to 3 95 ce. So centuries and centuries and centuries old. And this is what you have to do, this is the practice. The first one is, it's not necessarily necessary, but it's helpful is to find a very comfortable, comfortable space. You can kind of tune out the world around you. Cause remember what's the first step is silence the noise. The second step is to make room and then we're going to be still. So the first step for the selector Davina is to find the spot that you can concentrate. And then I would suggest lighting a candle. We love candles at journey. I mean you could tell we got a lot up here, but it is a helpful thing to focus on when our mind starts to wander. And it's good. It's a candles are again used long.


I mean oil lamps were used in the Old Testament. So that might help set the mood for you and then select the scripture to read. This might be the hardest part for some of you and the scripture that you're going to pick. Don't pick a long one, three verses max. Okay, three verses max. And I would suggest to open up the Bible app and just pick the verse of the day as you're practicing this, right? If you've never done this before, open up the Bible app, pick the verse of the day, and the first thing you're going to do is called le, or you're going to read, you're going to read a selection, the scripture that you've picked three times slowly. And when I say slow, I mean slow because this supposed to take five minutes. So I know some of you read fast. So five minutes to read the scripture three times.


So you're going to read the scripture slowly, savor every word as it comes by you. The next step is called in the Latin meditatio, or it means to meditate or reflect. And so what's going to be doing that is when you read the scripture, certain words or a phrase is going to jump out at you, right? It just might be one word. It's going to just like your mind is going to be drawn to that. And so you're going to, for five minutes, reflect on that phrase or that word. You're going to meditate on it. That's it. You're not going to write anything down. You're not going to look it up and see what it means. You're not going to open up your study Bible and look at the footnotes. You're just going to focus on the word or phrase that has stuck out to you in your mind.


And then you're going to in the Latin or tio, which means to pray or to write in which you're going to do now for the next five minutes is you're going to write about the phrase or the word that has stuck out to you. And why is it important? Why did that word stick out to you? What do you think it means for your life? What does it mean for the people around you? Right? What do you think God is impressing upon you in that moment? Is it bringing back some memories of something else? Could you tie it to another bit of scripture? But you're going to write for five minutes why this word is important or this phrase is important. And then finally, con contemplatio, which means to contemplate or rest. And during this five minutes, you are going to just be quiet. You're not going to think about the word anymore.


You're not going to think about the scripture anymore. You're not going to think about all those amazing thoughts you just wrote down in the last five minutes. You're going to do nothing but sit down and shush. And when your mind starts to wander around, you can politely put it back into place where maybe a candle is helpful in that moment to focus on there and just be still. That's it. So you're going to read, meditate, write, and pray, and rest. Four steps, five minutes each, 20 minutes. And I know it's going to be difficult. I know it's going to be hard and it's going to feel slow and it's going to feel like nothing is happening. But you know what? You don't become a major league baseball player the first time you step up to the plate and try to hit a ball, right? These practices have to be practiced over and over again. And this practice will make you a better prayer. It will make you a better listener to what God is speaking to us in scripture. And it will make us be a better being. Stiller, that's not a word, but I'm making it up. It will make you better at being still. And so all of this is to silence the noise, create room, and shush.