The Exploding Sermon

January 28, 2012

Traffic in Mumbai (Google Images)

We started with a real bang this morning.

Benny said he would pick us up at the hotel about 9:30 AM. When he didn’t arrive at the appointed hour, we remembered his advice that in India you need to be like water, ready to “go with the flow.” As we stood outside the hotel, Josh and I watched the never-ending stream of people walking, riding bikes and motorcycles, traveling in rickshaws, and driving cars. Now and then a cow came ambling past. Mostly you hear the constant beeping of horns. The streets are so congested with people and vehicles that travel doesn’t seem possible. Benny said that the one thing you need to drive in India is a good horn. And I would add, nerves of steel. 

India is people. Waves of people. Oceans of people. People everywhere, seemingly all of them moving at the same time. And all of them honking at once. Traffic lights don’t seem to matter. It’s true that in India they drive on the wrong side of the road (for an American), but that is only partly true. Indians drive and walk and ride everywhere in all directions at once. How do they not have 1000 crashes every 10 minutes? 

Benny eventually picked us up at 10:10 AM and off we went to nearby compound where they had erected a large tent for the weekend services. He mentioned in passing that a wedding had been scheduled at the same time as our service. We were whisked past some crumbling buildings and into an area near the vast tent that could hold perhaps 1500 people. This morning maybe 100 people were there. The service had already started when we arrived. After Benny introduced me to my translator, he disappeared. Maybe 30 seconds passed and someone introduced me to the crowd. 

So I walked up, grabbed a microphone, and greeted the people. I announced my text as Luke 12:16-21, the familiar parable of the rich fool. The translator and I got into a good rhythm (not always easy to do) where I would speak several sentences at a time and he translated them. I spent some time asking the question, “What did this man (the rich farmer) do wrong?”

I was maybe when 25 minutes into my sermon when I heard loud music coming from somewhere nearby. Assuming it was the wedding, I continued preaching. 

Five minutes later I heard an enormous boom, like an explosion, behind me. It sounded like a gun blast of some sort. I was so startled that I blurted out, “What was that?” It turns out that they were lighting fireworks as part of the wedding ceremony. These were enormous blasts, nothing like the “Black Cat” firecrackers we used to buy when I was a teenager. More like M-80s. And they kept on going off. Seeing my astonishment, the crowd listening to the sermon started chuckling. I don’t know how many explosions there were, but it sounded like we were being attacked in force. 

At one point we all started laughing, and when I asked the translator what I had been saying, he said, “I don’t know.” “Neither do I,” I replied.

Somehow I managed to finish the sermon with the audience cheering me on. My first service in India is now behind me, and it’s safe to say that we all had a blast. 

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