Sermons: What’s The Point?

A politician will say what the people want to hear. A motivator will say what the people need to hear. Learn to say what you want the way they like to hear it” – Imisi

First, I must say this is not an attempt to justify my being perpetually late to church. In fact, I’m working extra-hard to correct that. That being said, let’s carry on!

I don’t know if you’re like me, wondering why most of our naija pastors can’t sing to save a soul (well, save the few with some “disco history”). The common options are to go off-key, off-beat or opt for the opposite of “AYEFELErization” (named after the crooner who makes new hits by quadrupling the tempos of old classic hymns). While it can be argued that singing isn’t really their forte – rather preaching – I’ve noticed it hardly helps the mood. Focusing now on their JDs (delivering the sermon) two particular cases linger on my mind; opposites, alas! While one reminds me of the delightful lingering taste of a butterscotch candy, I’d describe the other as a kolanut-walnut hybrid – one which combines the not-too-exciting taste of the kolanut with the hydro-phobia of the walnut.

A short while ago, I wrote an exam – and, I had written man before this. In fact, it was my last core-course as an undergraduate. The date of the exam wasn’t to be called convenient by any standard but it had to be written. I was up by 3 am for the paper at noon, uploading all relevant data (The fire-brigade approach saves lives). The DJ at the PHCN base was in his stride with the scratching – practically turning my room into a dance-hall with pulsating lights. So, out came the lamps and candles – I was preparing for a war in which there was to be no prisoners. By 6 am, I was brainstorming with the “Knights” of the course – picking up whatever boosts I could.

Interestingly, it only took 5 minutes of sitting in the exam hall to know I had lost that battle. “6 questions, answer ANY 4”. Shit! The only one that looked familiar was proving tricky. The other ones looked like the scribblings of a mentally deranged dictator. It doesn’t look right – but you have to take it. I was drowning fast in an ice-lake. It felt like a million pins stabbed me all over! Didn’t I prepare well enough? I wasn’t the type to “engage a consultant” in an exam – and the reverse is also true because of my overly encrypted hand-writing {in fact, someone once said I used glasses because of my writing}. “I will definitely be here next year. Now all your 5-year plans will become 6-year plans”, I mused painfully to myself.

Surprisingly, my hand-writing was looking much cuter as I had all the time in the world for calligraphy – but that was the last thing on my troubled mind. This experience was redefining the word “misery”. I had bragged many-a-time to my friends that I’d never fail an exam that was set in English; well, it had finally happened! I didn’t want to make my plight obvious, so I waited patiently for the expiration of the allotted time – it felt like eternity! As soon as time was up and I had soberly dropped my script, I donned my dark glasses and sped off home. No time for all the post-exam chatter others were engaging in – plus I couldn’t afford people noticing how shaken I was. It was going take all of heaven working overtime to get me an ‘E’ – or at least so I thought. Then all my sins came back to me, well catalogued. I kept asking myself if I was really entitled to a miracle. My parents asked how my paper went – and I didn’t lie. I gave the pre-memorized “I did my best!” response. I couldn’t eat. After many calm years, something had finally gotten to me. That night would go on to be my longest on earth. I had at least three nightmares in rapid succession.

The next morning, I hurried to church; earlier than ever. The choir did this beautiful song about God speaking life into hurting lives. Then the pastor spoke on a title …… guess? “It would cost God nothing to help you!” I was stunned; it was exactly what I needed to hear. It changed the next two weeks for me – it brought me a strange unfounded but concrete belief that things would be alright. Christ! That was a sermon!!!

For the other experience: I had suddenly discovered that I missed too many annual carol services over the years. I picked the church with the best choir (by my ranking) and planned to be at theirs. No friends, no chix, no family – just me! I spent all week planning for it – and then the day came. What I hadn’t made allowance for were errors in my ranking algorithm. You see, I had based my rankings on “samples” taken about a decade prior. Many of those once-awesome vocal chords had aged terribly over the inter-lying years. It was like sour milk! Alas! Everything has an expiration date. Theirs was definitely under a decade. Of course, their rendition ended up being a big let-down but that was fair compared to what was to follow. The preacher mounted the stage – and till now, many years after, I still cannot picture what he was talking about. It was Christmas Eve for Christ’s sake (literally!). I could have sworn I fell asleep but my eyes were wide open. I had “been privy” to a few off-the-tone sermons but there had never been any like that. This was a new record! I was sorely tempted to ask the usher next to me what the point of the sermon was but I knew it would sound a bit insulting, so I resisted. I however have not stopped asking myself ever since.

Every now and then, I pit these two experiences against each other and ask myself what a sermon really is. What the church needs to hear or what burdens the preacher. I still do not have an answer – but the quest for an answer goes on! There’s a preacher in my church who is just articulate. Though he can’t sing either (is this a syndrome or what?), he gives illustrations where needed, jokes which drive home the point …generally, stuff you can relate to. But he’s not a regular – and since there’s no way of telling when next he’d be up, I {try to} go every Sunday.

I’ve heard outright confrontational sermons – usually directed at my (lack of) punctuality. Some sermons were purely amusing; others had messages intended only for a section of the audience. No grouse! – but a pointless sermon? Lord have mercy!!! Looking into the future, I have to say I don’t think being a Pastor is along my route. Still, if it so happens someday, I’d encourage my members to see the movie “The Men Who Stare At Goats”. I’d direct their attention to the scene where the naive soldier asked Sgt. Ben Echmeyer what the practical application of hanging cement bags off one’s nuts is. After that, I’m sure someday they’d learn to ask what the point is in a bogus sermon.

 

iYa Basta! I rest my case!

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6 Responses to Sermons: What’s The Point?

  1. Kola Osasona says:

    Brilliant. reminded me of church on sunday (yes, i finally went). the usher had to keep poking the folks beside me with her pencil; they kept nodding off. she obviously didn't spot me. it got worse when the preacher said: "let's bow down our heads for prayer".

  2. ... says:

    Thanx, Kola. Wow! That's a good one. If you try that "bow ur head" thing in my area (on a cold day), the only "amen" u would hear would be ur own echo!

  3. Sermons, they probably have to do witrh what bothers on the preachers mind.How many sincere preachers do we have today? most are just lyricists who try to hypnotise their audience and steal from them.this is a trend that cuts across all religious beliefs.the best sermon is always that which your conscience preaches.

  4. Imisi says:

    @Hemhem Looool! Nah you talk am oh!

  5. misstik says:

    nyc taste buds!!(kola nut-walnut hybrid.u eva tasted dt?).was laughing throughout.guess sometimes wt we think is the best comes out the worst and we cant do anything in our strength, we need God. love the post.had a good laugh with a good msg encrypted within it. thumbs up!!!

  6. Imisi says:

    @misstik: thanx a lot. you sure pick your words well!

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