Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Kings 19.1-15a: Empty or Full

At the end of the I Kings reading, Elijah steps out of the cave where he is hiding and covers his head with his mantle. He does this after he has heard the sound of God - the sound of sheer silence (Proper 7C/Ordinary 12C). God was not in the earthquake. God was not in the storms that spun out of control. God was not in the earthquake. God was not in the fire. God was in the sound of sheer silence. Imagine it. In the sheer silence...Elijah knew God was present.

Henri Fuseli (1741-1825), a Romantic artist from Switzerland, painted a figure and called it Silence. The painting seems to be more of an opposite than an echo of the Biblical text. Fuseli's painting (below) shows a single figure sitting in the middle of dark and gloom.
Henri Fuseli. Silence. 1799-1801. Kunsthaus, Zurich
The figure, which might be perceived as female based on the long hair (remembering the date of the work), sits on the ground and waits. We do not see a face and get no real clues from the figure's clothing about the figure's meaning. The form of the figure is stark against the background. Silence's head is bowed. Arms are crossed with palms facing up. The legs, with knees drawn up, are crossed at the ankles. The torso of the figure is hunched over. How would you describe Silence as depicted in this figure? Is silence equated with melancholy? Or aloneness? Depression, maybe? Or sadness? Fuseli's silence seems to be empty.

In I Kings, Elijah discovers that in the sheer silence there is God. Not nothing, but everything.

For thoughts on Luke 8:29-36, click here.

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