Is it a time to speak or a time to zip it?
This last Sunday I preached a sermon about Quakers and I presented to everyone a Quaker meeting guide about whether or not you should speak at a meeting. I was asked to share this guide so that others could have it. For those that don’t know, some Quakers hold what are called unprogrammed meetings in which there is no plan, no script, no schedule, only silence until someone feels called by God to speak. Obviously many would ask… well, how do you know you should speak? Luckily there’s a guide for that!
At the Middle of it all is return to center… which many might call meditation or perhaps silent prayer, or the more crass of us might say… zip it! But it is a time of quietly and thoughtfully listening to what God is trying to say to you at that moment. In order to speak at one of these unprogrammed worship services where nothing is planned in advance you first have to figure the correct answer to 8 questions.
Do you perceive this message as a gift from the Holy Spirit? No? Return to Center or don’t speak. Yes? Go onto the next one. Will your message be easy to distinguish from political rhetoric, pontification? Don’t you wish more people would ask themselves that question? Does your thought not do that? Return to Center. Yes? Go onto the next one.
Are you certain this message is not meant for you alone? No? Return to Center. Yes? Go onto the next one. Are you certain this message is not primarily in response to the last speaker? Are you not just looking to pick a fight rather than speak for God? No? Return to Center. Yes? Go onto the next one.
Would it satisfy your sense of leading to speak with others at a later time? And here they switch it up on you to see if you are paying attention… Yes? Return to Center. No? Go onto the next one. Are you still looking for the right words to express what God has placed on your heart? Yes? Return to Center. No? Go onto the next one.
Will your message enhance the work Godʼs Spirit has already done in the meeting? Will it contribute to what God has already said? No? Return to Center. Yes? Go onto the next one. Are you compelled to speak? No? Return to Center. Yes? Speak!
Wouldn’t this be a great thing to have as the rules for our upcoming political debates? Or even think about having this come up before someone is allowed to post something on the internet. But think about our meetings or gatherings or times together… we at times are so fearful of silence, but the danger is not always in the silence. We heard on Sunday about Jesus saying that we need to make sure our word is yes yes or no no and that we mean what we say because when we lie to someone, what does that do to that person’s ability to hear God through us? The Gospel of John tells us, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” and that that true light can shine through us when we allow it.