Note to the Teacher
There is a lot in this particular story, and this lesson takes an unusual approach to the story of 1 Kings. Without discounting how helpful silence can be in knowing the presence of God, discussion will challenge us to remember that God is always present in all things; sometimes we just can’t seem to focus beyond our concerns to be aware of God’s presence with us!
1. Opening Activity (10-20 minutes)
Options 1: House of Cards (best in person)
Divide your group into two teams, instructing each to do the best it can to build the tallest “house of cards” on the table you have provided. As the groups build, play music. As the teams work, whisper a warning, and then bump the table! When they protest, share that you warned them, and invite them to go back to work. After a few more minutes, repeat: whisper a warning, and bump the table.
Ask: “Why is this activity hard? Is it because you can’t hear the warning? Or because you can’t seem to build a house that can withstand the table moving?”
Option 2: Picture Set (best digitally)
Do an image search for the words, “chaos,” “calm,” “noise,” and “silence.” Save two to three visually striking images for each word that are safe to view and discuss. As the leader, share the images one at a time; have youth vote on which of the four search terms the picture represents.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is about chaos and calm, noise and silence. The main character is Elijah, who has actually just been part of an amazing miracle a few days before. He has challenged a group of false prophets and proved that God is real. Now the queen of the land is angry because she prefers the false prophets and their own gods. She is after Elijah’s head.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
It is interesting to note that the three radical, noisy events on the mountain—the great wind, the earthquake, the fire—are events that elsewhere in the Bible indicate that God is present. In fact, at least two if not all three are experienced by the disciples on the Sunday at the beginning of this season, Pentecost! Here’s a radical idea: what if the story isn’t being told objectively, but is from Elijah’s perspective? Maybe it isn’t that “the Lord wasn’t in the wind” or “in the earthquake” or “in the fire.” After all, don’t we believe God’s love is in all things? Perhaps in that moment, it was that Elijah could not perceive God!
- What might have made it hard for Elijah to perceive that God was present on the mountain?
- Do you think it is easy or difficult to perceive God’s presence in your life?
- Are there times in our lives that might be so loud, busy, and chaotic that we, like Elijah, might find it hard to know God is present?
- In all of the chaos, how does Elijah perceive God?
- How might that moment of stillness –what the NRSV calls “a sound of sheer silence” – have helped Elijah to better know God was present?
- Think about a time that you felt life was going crazy. Was there anything that helped you through that time?
In this season of Pentecost, we are emphasizing what it means to live in the Spirit. Part of that life is discerning the presence of God, even in the midst of the chaos of our world, and part of it might even be serving as a calm presence for someone else when all is chaos in their life.
4. Activity and/or Discussion (10-15 minutes)
Option 1: Silence as a Spiritual Practice
The practice of silence, particularly as a form of contemplative prayer, is as old as the Christian church, but we often don’t practice it in our churches. When many of our churches do have a “moment of silence” in worship, they tend to be less than a minute long! Yet silence can be a means of connecting with God.
Invite the youth to consider this the beginning of a spiritual experiment, one that you hope they will try more than once. Get comfortable, and sit quietly for five full minutes, trying only to focus on breathing slowly. (It will seem like an eternity!) Tell them at the beginning that their mind will wander, and that is okay; when it happens, try to focus on breathing again.
After the experiment, ask some questions:
- How do you feel?
- How is sitting in silence different from how we normally pray? How is it similar?
- How might taking time for silence help you better connect with God?
Option 2: Become the Calm
We all likely know someone who is feeling more like they are in the midst of an earthquake, fire, or hurricane than hearing a calm word from God. So let’s be that calm word. Think of someone, or more than one person, that you would like to send an encouraging word to. Perhaps it is someone who is ill, or grieving, or struggling with a relationship, or facing a big change. Maybe it is just a friend or adult you really appreciate. Take some time now to write that person a word of encouragement.
As best you can as a group, address these notes so that they can be sent by regular post the next day.
Total Time: 45-60 minutes
- House of Cards
- A table (that is hopefully not too sturdy)
- One or two decks of cards
- Source for music (phone, CD player, record player, bassoonist, etc.)
- Become the Calm
- An assortment of cards (blank, “thinking of you,” “get well,” etc), pens