If it came to it, and you knew you were going to be remembered in public, would you want a minute's silence or a minute's applause?
Our culture is changing.
I did a quick Bible study on silence this week, in preparation for a thought for the day at a men's breakfast this morning.
Obviously there is no noise in a vacuum, so when the earth was without form and void it would have been quiet. Genesis 1 tells us God spoke into this silence. There then follows a hubbub, a cacophony as the created order finds its place and seemingly, in the process, loses its God.
Only with the onset of the ministry of prophets do we have the poignant thought that God is not in the earthquake, wind or fire (where his people might have expected him after a few skirmishes on mountains) but a still small voice. When the earth was formless he could speak quietly. Why raise his volume now?
In the wisdom tradition Job's best comfort comes from friends sitting in silence; when they speak they screw up. Proverbs tell us that a fool seems wise when he remains silent. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be silent like a sheep before its shearers. Six centuries later, before the High Priest, Mark tells us the Messiah stood and said nothing.
After the resurrection the noise is of proclamation with accompanying special effect tongues of fire and wind. Now there can be shouting. The rest of the New Testament is all talk.
At the end of all things Revelation tells us only of silence in heaven for half an hour.
On Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday we fall silent for two minutes in memory of those who fell silent for ever. We are currently the people in between, a poppy for comfort.
You may applaud me when I'm gone if you wish. But silence reminds the senders of the sent. It takes one to make a noise; it takes everyone to make a silence.