Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sermon rebuttals

Last Sunday, I preached at First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC.  First Friends is a programmed Quaker meeting, meaning that they hold a pretty normal Protestant worship service with singing and preaching but with a protracted time of silence at the end.  During this time of silence, parishioners are invited to "hold the silence" by sitting quietly or to break the silence by saying aloud what they sense the Spirit saying in or through them.**

If you like to preach because you like feeling like an expert or because you believe that you have God's definitive word for the congregation on any given Sunday morning, I suggest that you don't preach for Quakers.  After my sermon, as the congregation held the silence, the Spirit actually had a lot to say.

One woman was vibrating, having misunderstood that I said that "anxiety makes us stupid" instead of "anxiety is stupid," which then made me vibrate.  As I was wishing I could clarify, another man, the wise and beloved clerk of the Meeting, tactfully pointed out an error I had made in my description of the gospel story.  He was right, by the way, and applied his point to a specific need of the congregation in a really adept way.  Another woman made an absolutely brilliant point about the story that I had completely missed.  And a man then stood up to start connecting the story to other texts, apparently an unusual happening in this Meeting, according to the pastor.

If, on the other hand, you can stay still and breathe through your nose and hope your cheeks aren't burning too brightly, you can be calm enough to be really glad that the Holy Spirit keeps speaking after you sit down.  I really was.  Anyway, it sure beats the sermon postmortem at Lubys that my tradition practices on a weekly basis.

**By the way, this is in contrast to unprogrammed Quaker meetings in which people sit in silence for roughly an hour and speak aloud only occasionally.  Austin Friends Meeting, which Mowgli attends, is an unprogrammed meeting.


Janet said...

I had a bit of a similar, uncomfortable experience on live radio this week and kind of wished for the freedom to just be quiet... or perhaps I had the freedom but did not dare it... I think maybe I need to memorize the collect for those who influence public opinion that I read ofter about God making God's truth known through many voices.

Amanda said...

Are you sure that beats Luby's??? You are a brave woman! I wish I could have heard the sermon- sounds great.