When was the last time you took a moment to stop and be still? Not at a set of traffic lights whilst driving the car? Not when you got to the last page of the book you’re reading or even the end of a conversation with relatives on FaceTime or on the phone. Genuinely stopped?
I’d like to encourage you to do that. I’m not going to give you anything to ponder or ruminate on. No pithy words or bible quotes for you to reflect on. I’m not even going to ask you to determine the length of time you’re going to stop for. I’m just going to ask you to stop and be still.
What did you do in your stillness?
Where did your mind go to?
Did you start to question the validity and value of the time and what else you could have been doing?
How strong was the temptation to find something to fill that time?
Did you succumb to that temptation, or did you persevere?
This month I’d like us to spend some time reflecting on the stillness and silence and the impact that this has, but we’re going to do it from a possibly strange place.
The Old Testament tells the story of Samuel, one of Israel’s great prophets and the last of God’s Judges. Below is quite a well-known part of scripture. The context is that Samuel’s mother, Hannah hadn’t been able to have children, and was constantly being mocked for this by her husband’s other wife. In her anguish she was praying in the temple, where the priest Eli saw her. Assuming she was drunk (her lips were moving but no noise was coming out), he rebuked her, only for her to share her anguish. Eli called God’s blessing upon her and Samuel was conceived. In thanks and gratitude to God for what he’d done, she committed Samuel to the temple to serve. The man, who Samuel served under… Eli.
The Lord Calls Samuel
3 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
2 One-night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So, Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
You may be wondering where does the silence come in? God’s calling to Samuel didn’t come in the busyness of the day-to-day temple life, or through a burning bush or epic symbolism, but rather in the quiet of night. In the stillness of everyone’s rest. It is in this silence, that Samuel was attentive to the voice which called him, and whilst it took Eli’s wisdom and perception to discern the voice who was calling, Samuel continued to wait in the silence for God’s call.
At the beginning of July, the SLT – Shared Leadership Team – spent some time in the silence, seeking God’s call and asking what is next for east to west. We used this reflection to challenge the plans and hopes we have for 2021/22, and to put ourselves into Samuel’s shoes and wait in silence to hear what God’s plans and hopes are for us in 2021/22.
This exercise can be hard and difficult as we may struggle with the silence (as some of us found), but as I did to them, can I encourage us all to embrace this, recognising that the plans God has for us are far greater and incomparable to the plans and hopes we may have for ourselves.
Thank you so much for praying for east to west over the past academic year, it’s truly humbling and a real blessing to know so many of you are interceding on behalf of east to west. There won’t be an August wePRAY, due to holidays etc, but please can I ask you to continue praying for us during this break?
We look forward to sharing with you what God has laid on our hearts for 2021/22 in the new academic year.
This month we’re praying for Tracy, Relational Support Counsellor at Town Farm Primary School in Stanwell.
Please pray for the staff and students at Town Farm. It’s been a long year and they’ve done a brilliant job. Pray that they’d get the rest and recovery they need over the holidays.
Pray for the Year 6s as they leave school as the end of this month. Pray that they’d enjoy these final days and be excited about their next steps.
Pray for the children coming into Reception and that this transition would be as easy as possible for them.
Give thanks for those teachers who are moving onto new challenges and schools. Thanks for all they’ve done at school and what they’ll bring to their next adventure.
Please pray for my family and friends. Give thanks for all the love and support they’ve given me over the years and the encouragement and support they are.
Also, please pray for me as I’m due to have spinal surgery over the summer holidays. Pray that I would feel at peace and that the operation would be a real success and the recovery gentle.