In the book of the Bible written by the prophet Habakkuk, we read these words in chapter 2, verse 20, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
These words came to me after a recent prayer of dedication that I was called to render. Although there were more than 200 people gathered, I would say that about 30 people listened to the prayer. The rest continued to talk, even after a number of individuals asked for silence.
This event reminded me of another prayer of dedication that I was invited to do at a school that received a new name. It is true this event took place about 30 years ago. There were probably over 300 students in the auditorium and one could hear a pin drop. When I said Amen, the students stood up and applauded. It was the only prayer that I have ever uttered which has been applauded in a public place.
What has happened to us in the last 30 years? I have been at public meetings in this community when taps is being played and the audience keeps talking. I have been in places when the national anthem is being played and people talk as though they do not hear anything. Is there nothing that can be called sacred in the public square?
I have been in school concerts – elementary and high schools – where parents, grandparents and siblings talk constantly. If you ask them to be quiet, they are offended and sometimes they get pretty nasty. Because of these reactions, school officials and band and choir directors no longer ask for silence at concerts. We have become such a noisy bunch, we cannot be quiet. We are no longer able or willing to show respect to our children or to whoever is performing. We feel that since we are there, we have the right to talk non-stop.
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A number of years ago, I went to a concert at Lincoln Center in New York City because a German orchestra was playing. After the intermission, the conductor lifted his baton and he was ready to start. There was a noise in the hall. In the center, there was a lady making her way across. The conductor put his baton down on the stand and stared at this lady who was making her way across the row. When there was total silence, he lifted his baton again and the music started.
It is true that even in the church we often have people who do not want to follow any of the rules of worship. A pastor told me about one family came with three unruly little kids. Although the church has one of the best nurseries in the county and he made a gentle appeal from the pulpit, the parents decided to keep their children with them in the worship service. When they became even noisier, a deacon came down to offer assistance and they still refused.
I love to have children in the Worship Service and I know that that Jesus welcomed the children to come to him. However, when there are opportunities for children to learn on their own level so that the adults can participate in a worship service, I think it is proper for the children to be in their own classrooms.
At the same time, children learn from their parents how to be quiet and how to have moments of silence, how to recognize the accomplishments of another with respect and how to be in a place that is considered sacred – nationally or religiously. It is time to hear the words of the prophet again.