Silence / Listening to God
You will need a piano.
Familiarise yourself with the story in 1 Kings 19.
Begin today's act of collective worship with a long and, hopefully silent, pause. Following the pause, inform the children that today you are going to tell them three stories.
The first story is about the American composer John Cage. John Cage is now dead but many people today consider him to be one of the most important composers of the last century. Some of his music is very unusual. His most famous piece of music is called '4 minutes 33 seconds'. Tell the children that you are going to play the beginning of the piece for them. Sit at the piano for as long as you or the children can bear. After your recital, ask the children their opinion of the piece. (It is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence).
When '4 minutes 33 seconds' was first performed in 1952, it caused a great sensation. Some people thought it was a really good practical joke. Other people thought that it was an outrage and that John Cage was a con man. But what John Cage was really trying to do was to make people listen to the sounds all around them in everyday life.
Invite the children to listen to the sounds they can hear outside the room/hall. Then ask the children, without making any sounds themselves, to listen to the sounds inside the room/hall.
Tell them that listening is a very important skill, one which you have to learn before you can learn anything else.
In the Bible there is a story of a man who was taught to listen by God. The man's name was Elijah.
Elijah was very depressed. He lived at a time when it seemed to him that he was the only person in Israel who loved God. Everyone else, including the king, had turned away from God and, because of his beliefs, Elijah was a wanted man. In panic and fear, Elijah ran away to the desert and hid in a cave. He thought he was safe. But God found him.
God asked him, "Elijah, what are you doing here?" Elijah said, "Everyone has turned away from you, God, and they're all doing the things which you say are wrong. And now, because I love you, they want to kill me..."
Elijah was in a state of total panic. God wanted to say something important to him, but he knew that Elijah was in such a state that he would not listen. So God told Elijah to go and stand at the mouth of the cave and wait for the important announcement.
But, as predicted, Elijah was not listening. He stayed where he was, hidden away at the back of the cave. So God sent a great storm... still no response... and an earthquake... still no response... and then a raging fire.
Inform the children that they are going to help you re-create the sound of a storm. There
are four components to this aural storm:
Light rainfall - finger clicks.
Heavier rainfall - slapping own knees.
Thunder - feet and hands drumming on the floor.
Lightening flash - vocal sound, accompanied by the throwing up of hands. The lightening crashes are to be performed only by the children in the back row.
Practice each sound in turn. Each change of tempo/sound is imitated by you and followed by each row of children in turn, starting with the front row. Only the front row follows you, whilst each of the other rows follows the row in front. The sound should travel from the front of the room/hall to the back.
Build up the sound of the storm gradually by starting with slow finger clicks. Once this has reached the back row, increase the tempo. Then move onto slapping knees, then to drumming on the floor. At the height of the storm, signal for three lightning crashes in succession.
After the lightning crashes, cause the storm to abate by returning to slapping knees, then rapid finger clicks, slow finger clicks and, finally, rest. The sound of slow finger clicks should gradually die away.
Resume the story of Elijah by telling the children that during the storm, the earthquake and the fire Elijah was cowering in the back of the cave. With all the noise there was no way he could listen to what God had to say. But then, in the silence that followed, he heard a gentle whisper. Elijah made his way to the entrance of the cave and listened to the gentle voice of God.
Now that Elijah was listening, God told him the important announcement: Israel was to have a new king and Elijah himself was to have someone to help him. "And incidentally," said God, "you are not alone. There are another 7,000 people in Israel just like you. People who have never turned away from me." Elijah left the desert and went to find the helper whom God had chosen for him.
So Elijah learnt to listen to God.
SONG AND LAST STORY:
Lead the children in singing an appropriate hymn or chorus (see two suggestions below).
After the hymn, tell the children that the final story today is about a woman who was very good at listening to God. Her name was Mother Theresa. Every day she would spend at least an hour in silence, listening to God. Once someone asked what God said to her. With a smile, Mother Theresa replied, 'Oh, he doesn't say anything. He listens as well.'
Conclude the act of worship with a period of silence. In the silence, the children can either listen to the sounds outside and inside the room/hall, listen for God to speak to them, or silently allow God to listen to them.
'Find the Silence through the Noise' (Paul Field, Kidsource, Kevin Mayhew)
'Lord I Need to Know that You Love Me' (Ishmael, Spring Harvest Kids' Praise, ICC)