A time for……..Solitude and Silence
Sermon date: March 31st
Reading:  Psalm 46

How hard do you find it to be in solitude with silence?
Maybe talk with the person beside you about what feelings it brings up in you and how you have coped with solitude and silence in the past and now? Does it restore you or drain you?

How do we define solitude and silence?

If we disengage from each other, the result can often be that we feel lonely, but solitude is a state rather than emotion, of course the solitude may be filled with emotion, both positive and negative. However, feeling lonely isn’t necessarily the same thing as experiencing solitude. In solitude you are alone, but that has been an intentional separation, on our part from others.
‘Solitude bears the same relation to the mind that sleep does to the body. It affords it the necessary opportunities for repose and recovery’                                                                                          William Simms

Silence though is to cease being drawn into the external noise produced by others, but also the noise also we create. It calls us to stop talking, to stop interacting with the world around us and to become quiet, in order that we might ‘listen’.
‘To every-thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…..a time to keep silence and a time to speak’                                                                                                                             Ecclesiastes 3 v. 1 & 7
In defining solitude, we have noted that silence is not an essential precondition for its existence. But while silence may not be strictly necessary for solitude, the two are very closely connected.

Please read together Psalm 46

They are arguably the most intriguing and compelling of the spiritual disciplines, and yet also seem the hardest to come by in our crowded, noisy, modern world. Our lives are so connected that at times it seems impossible to follow the example of Jesus and withdraw to a quiet place.
Look up Matthew 14 v.23, Mark 1 v.35 & Luke 5 v.16

Q.1 What stops you from withdrawing to a quiet place, to be in solitude with silence?
In Psalm 46 we see a simple yet profound truth of how solitude is relevant to our lives. It is divided into three areas. In the first we are reminded to stop fighting, for ‘God is our refuge and strength’ and that we need not ‘fear’. We do not need to fight in our own strength, God is in all things and he will be with us.
In the second part we are asked again to take refuge in God, and finally in the third part, which I would like to focus on, we are asked to pause and think, in a most profound way. We are asked to ‘come and see the works of the Lord’

Q.2 How can we do this?

Psalm 46 v.10

  • ‘Be Still’ it is a command to stop moving and possibly to stop speaking, in order that we might ‘see’
  • ‘know that I am God’ this means us coming to worship, to study, to pray and to reflect on it all and incorporate it all into our lives.
Q.3 How will we change our lives so we can have solitude and silence in our lives?
Quote from Thomas Merton
Solitude and silence enable the deep inner voice of God to be heard occasionally. When that inner voice of God is not heard, when we cannot attain the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with God, our lives become miserable and exhausting. For we cannot go on happily for long, if we are constantly exiled from home, locked out of a spiritual solitude and silence, where God can speak. If we are, then we cease to be’

Q.4 How do you respond to this quote?

Here are a few suggestions how we might all use solitude and silence as a discipline to come closer to God.
  • Notice the stirring in your soul to withdraw, pursue time with God in Solitude and Silence. Maybe go on a Quiet Day, lots of retreat houses will give you space and time to explore both.
  • Listen, listen deeply to that still, small voice within.
  • Bring solitude and silence into your everyday life, chose a regular time and place to spend at least 10 mins minimum in solitude and silence.
  • Turn off the radio, TV, music and get used to the quiet.
  • Overcome being resistant, don’t let anything distract you, if you feel anxious or have many thoughts swirling around in your head, ask God to comfort, help and guide you. Be courageous, it can be hard to do.
  • Seek rest for your body, mind and soul and pray for wisdom over the balance of your life, when you are tired withdraw, when you are fraught be silent, when you feel spiritually drained seek God in both solitude and silence.
  • Let the emptiness of not knowing what to do, lead you to God, recognise and don’t deny that you might find it hard. Feel the pain and stay with the thoughts which invade you.
  • Face your inner thoughts and try to let go of all that hinders you. See your flaws and recognise God’s unconditional love for you. Know that God is for you, with you and in you, try to offer your prayers of confession and be open to receive forgiveness.
  • The more we can spend time in solitude and silence, the more we can recognize God’s guidance.
  •  Let what you experience in these times, spill out into the others around you, in church, in your family and in the wider community.  It will transform the way we live, if we can only but try.
Once we have integrated solitude and silence into our lives, then spend some time reading scripture and reflect on words and verses which you feel strike you as you sit quietly. Here are some suggested passages:
Psalms: 8, 19, 23, 24, 27, 42, 92, 93, 96, 98, 100, 103, 139, 145, 146, 148, 150
The Beatitudes Matthew 5:1-12, Salt and Light Matthew 5:13-16, the Woman who anoints Jesus Mark 14:3-9, 
The Vine and the Branches John 15:1-17, Jesus Commissions Peter John 21:15-25, 
The Great Commandment Matthew 22:34-40, the Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20, 
Jesus Walks on Water Matthew 14:22-33, the Rich Young Man Matthew 19:16-30,
Jesus Heals a Blind Man Mark 10:46-52, the Hidden Treasure Matthew 13:44-46

  1. Spend some time praying for each other, that a new rhythm of solitude and silence might transform how we are. If appropriate within your group, have a time of prayer ministry in two’s, each person praying for the other, then swapping over.
  1. If you feel you would like to, then pray this prayer as you close.
             Teach me Lord the power and the strength of silence,
             That I may go into the world, as still as a mouse
             In the depths of my being with you.
                Mechtild of Madgeburg (1207-1294)
  1. Lord, teach me to hold myself in silence before you,
to adore you in the depths of my being, to wait upon you always
and never to ask anything of you except the fulfilment of your will.
Teach me to let you act in my soul, and form in it the simple prayer
That says little but includes everything.
Grant me this favour for the glory of your name.
Pere Grou (1731-1803)
  1. Lord, make us people of stillness,

Help us to be open before you;
that we may be filled with your peace.
Teach us to be quiet in your presence,
that we may listen to your words;
and give us confidence to expose our whole self to you,
and meet you in the solitude and silence which surround us.
Sharon Seal

Sharon Seal, 25/03/2019