18 JUNE 2017

TREAD SOFTLY

 

I was listening to my Christian radio station this morning and the host was interviewing, Jennifer Howd, author of the book “Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I survived a Silent Meditation Retreat. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear the entire interview, just the tail end, so I’m left to draw my own conclusions based on the topic in the title. I found the topic particularly interesting because I’ve often thought that I need to learn to speak less and listen more. Lately, for the past four plus months, I’ve had limitations with my voice. I have chronic laryngitis which causes me difficulty talking in varying degrees throughout the day. At times, like first thing in the morning, my voice is nearly normal, but after trying to communicate either in person with my mother or on the phone with my husband, my voice is down to a gravelly whisper. It’s difficult to not speak; everyone expects you to answer their questions or to answer the phone. My doctor has prescribed “total” voice rest, meaning not even attempting to speak, which I’ve found nearly impossible. So the idea of a silent retreat is very appealing to me, especially when it comes to communicating with the Lord. Does your church group show reverence when entering the sanctuary for worship? I’ve noticed an interesting change in the volume of voices, especially children, in church. When I was a child, just entering the foyer meant being quiet and speaking only in a whisper. We approached the large, carved wooden doors outside of the church with a sense of awe and wonder, and inside, the sanctuary was again walled off by doors to ensure noises in the foyer didn’t travel inside. In the foyer, my grandfather was known for standing and greeting people as they arrived, but it was always with a handshake and any speaking was done in hushed tones. Even the smallest child was taught to be very quiet as they entered the main section of the church building, the sanctuary. And inside that area, we knew not to step up onto the platform where only the pastor and elders sat. However, as an adult, with each new generation, I’ve seen those signs of respect loosen until, today, it is not uncommon to see a child wandering the aisle, even running toward, and sometimes onto, the platform. Some even call out looking for their parents! Where once a deaconess would catch the child and return them to their parent long before they reached the platform, now they are afraid to touch the little ones because parents might get offended or even accuse them of abuse! And after the service, instead of quietly exiting the sanctuary, as we were directed by the deacons or ushers, people start greeting each other, even carrying on long conversations with each other before they even exit their row! Yes, that sense of reverence and respect has been all but lost in many churches! But is that a bad thing or is quiet reverence an old-fashioned tradition that needs to be set aside? What does the Scriptures say about behavior in whatever area is set aside for worshipping God?

 

In the Garden of Eden, it seems that Adam and Eve walked and talked freely with the Lord; because there was no sin, there was no need to have guidelines about proper and improper attitudes of worship. But sin changed all that and, by the time of Moses, more than 1500 years after sin entered the world, man needed teaching and training. “He [God] said, “Do not approach here. Remove your sandals from off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5 MEV). Imagine if we were to remove our shoes when entering the church; in western society, this would seem very odd behavior, even frowned on. But in some places, it would not be improper especially with some faiths, like Muslims, who actually do this still. According to the customs of that country, removing footwear is done to either prevent dirt from being brought in from outside or as a sign of respect for the house of God. After all, many remove shoes when entering their own homes or the home of others, at the will of any host or hostess, out of respect. How much more so, for the Almighty to be shown respect? And our attitudes once inside the sanctuary should equally reflect that reverence, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NLT). This is especially true during the divine worship service. We are said to be approaching the throne of grace when praying or listening to His word, even when spoken by another human being, the pastor, preacher, priest, or whatever name by which the church leader is called. The Bible says that The Lord is in the middle where even two or three are together. “Be silent, everyone, in the presence of the Lord. He is coming out of the holy place where he lives.” (Zechariah 2:13 NCV). Respect does not go out of style. Maybe we need to rethink how loose our behaviors have become in the name of friendliness, aiming for a family feeling within the group, or for whatever logic we apply! “The Lord says, “Faraway countries, be quiet and listen to me! Nations be brave. Come to me and speak. We will meet together and decide who is right.” (Isaiah 41:1 ERV). There will come a time to raise our voices before the Lord. When He returns, the world will come together in a loud voice to welcome Him! But until then, let us give Him the glory, honor, and respect due to His holy name!

 

My heart song is one that, in some churches we attended, was sung by the praise team as the service began, to quiet the congregation and get them into the spirit of worship, of reverencing the sanctuary:

 

“Be silent, be silent,
A whisper is heard,
Be silent, and listen,
O treasure each word!

 
REFRAIN:
Tread softly, tread softly,
The Master is here,
Tread softly, tread softly,
He bids us draw near.

 

Be silent, be silent,
For holy this place,
This altar that echoes
The message of grace.

 

Be silent, be silent,
Breathe humbly our prayer,
A foretaste of Eden
This moment we share.

 

Be silent, be silent,
His mercy record,
Be silent, be silent
And wait on the Lord.”

 
“Let the skies rejoice and the earth be glad. Let people everywhere say, “The Lord is king!” Let the sea and everything in it shout. Let the fields and everything in them show their joy. Then the trees of the forest will sing. They will sing with joy before the Lord. They will sing because the Lord is coming to judge the world.” (1 Chronicles 16:31-33 ICB). Have a blessed day!