The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Speak out when the Holy Spirit says so!

quiet please 380CFSilence-lover John Myhill explains that there are times when we should not remain quiet.

Imagine if the Gospel of John began: “In the beginning was the Silence, and the Silence was alone and self-centred, for there was no God.  The Silence saw the corruption of the rich and the suffering of the poor, but said nothing.  Wars raged until all was Silence.  And the Silence saw what it had done and felt smug.”
As a Quaker, I am a great fan of silence.  It can provide the peace and understanding out of which it is possible to speak from the depth of our souls, to speak as one flame of the Holy Spirit, and thus ignite that flame in all those who listen; as at Pentecost.  It can even provide the sense of oneness, where words are unnecessary, as when my wife and I sit together in mutual trust and fellowship.  When a Quaker Meeting for Worship remains in silence for a long time, this is referred to as “a gathered silence”, suggesting that we are all of one mind, discerning a shared way forward that does not need to be put into words.
Sadly, a gathered silence is almost as rare amongst Quakers as it is everywhere in our noisy world.  Even when we escape the noise of machines and neighbours, and hold our wagging tongues, there can be the silence of distrust: where people say nothing for fear of causing offence, but interpret the silence of others as indicating animosity, disapproval and intolerance. 
Notice the free chatter of small children, with no awareness that what they say may be hurtful.  Most of us prefer that spontaneity and liveliness, yet find it hard to do.  We adults are inhibited by years of social conditioning, fearful of saying what we think, but still managing to cause offence by what we fail to say. 
Notice how some people suffering mental distress, say startling things, which we forgive just as we forgive the person who swears, having hit his thumb (instead of a nail) with a hammer.  But surely we are all in pain in this corrupt world, where the poor suffer and the undeserving become super rich?  So why can we not tolerate whatever is said by those around us; understanding their words as howls of pain.  Compassionately seeking to empathise and respond to whatever is said.
King David insisted that his people should be counted.  It may have been the first census, but it questioned God’s promise to Abraham, to increase the Jews till they were numbered as the stars of heaven.  A plague started amongst his people and many died, before David took responsibility for his act of pride, asking God to punish him alone, and not the people (now that is the kind of leader I would follow!)  David had realised the essential of worship and prayer: first we must trust wholly in God, and make ourselves available to do whatever he commands us to do, not questioning His will, not trying to do anything in our own strength.
Of course this is not easy, and I know many people who are better at this trusting than I am; but in the context of Silence we have to be prepared to speak up.
Often it is not what we say that matters, but rather that we say something rather than nothing.  That we speak with enthusiasm rather than cynicism.  That we give encouragement rather than negative criticism.  That we are excited and emotional rather than boring and clever.  That we apologise for letting our tongue run away with us, knowing that those listening want to feel what we say, want to find common ground, want to work together.
Jesus spoke up far too much for the liking of those in power, and he paid the price.  But those who “had ears to hear” heard what he was saying and followed his teaching.  Early Quakers spoke up in churches in the middle of sermons, and they also paid the price.  We often find ourselves in conversations with those who have strayed from the teachings of Jesus, to the worship of material things.  There is often that moment of silence, when we could speak by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, yet we let the opportunity pass, for fear of conflict. 
At its best, speaking out of the worshipful silence of a Quaker Meeting, is practice for speaking our Truth in the everyday conversations where we may ignite the flame of the Holy Spirit in others.   As in all true worship, in all our churches; the ritual is practice for our daily life in the world, not simply an end in itself.

The image above is courtesy of https://pixabay.com


JohnMyhill450John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/

The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users. 
We welcome your thoughts and comments, posted below, upon the ideas expressed here. 

To submit a story or to publicise an event please email: web@networknorwich.co.uk