Christmas is still thirteen days away and yet I’ve been to three Christmas services so far. Although the Christian community in Adelaide is pretty small, it is quite splintered into various distinctive groups. The church that I go to had our early Christmas celebration on November 6th, before most of the students headed home to Indonesia. Then we had another Christmas service last week for the more conservative Indonesian Lutheran / Uniting Church group. Today, I went to another Christmas service, organised by a fellowship of Indonesians who are originally from the North Sulawesi province. However, because the Indonesian community is pretty small here, those who attended were the familiar faces that we saw in the other services. So we have pretty much wished everybody ‘Merry Christmas’ for three times now – we will have another chance on Christmas day. 🙂
Today, the message was delivered by the pastor who used to minister in the community last year. The delivery style is so different to the style adopted by my own pastor – and it alone makes me appreciate my pastor a lot more with his humility and grace. The sermon was delivered with such gusto and with the decibel level just below the performance of a campaigner in a political rally, that it made me quite uncomfortable listening to it. There were so many rhetoric lines in the message, complete with one or two comic reliefs thrown in. The message was delivered in Indonesian; however, if it is translated and transported into English, you may hear something like this – complete with the stereotypical fire-and-brimstone sermon style that is often parodied – “Yes-sah! Jesus was born in the mangah to be born among ordinary peoplah. He wasn’t born among those smelling like Giorgio Armani or Bulgari. Oh no, Sahhhh! He was boooorn among those smelling like goats and other animal-ah!”
Don’t get me wrong. I respect the pastor as a man of God and I am not making fun of him, but being somebody with a questioning and curious mind, I wonder why some people need to resort to theatrics when they deliver the Word of God. My pastor is a humble man and his delivery is simple – but God does use him a lot through his simple messages. There may not be many Latin or Greek or Hebrew words thrown in in his messages, but his words are anointed nevertheless. He doesn’t need to shout from beginning until the end or adopt the religious style of the thee and thou delivery. When the words are anointed by God, even the words spoken in such gentleness can hit you right on the spot. When I attended the Paradise Assembly of God in the early 1990’s, there was an Associate Pastor called Ps. Paul Newsham. His messages were always meaty – packed with verses – and not just airy fairy emotional words. I always paid attention when he delivered his sermons, because although he didn’t do any theatrics when he spoke, even the simplest message could teach me or rebuke me deeply. Too many people now feel the need of flavouring their message with theatrics and hyperboles to capture the congregation’s attention – or even to manipulate their emotions – however, I sincerely believe that if the words are anointed by God, even the simplest and shortest delivery can bring the impact so deep that will bring you down on your knees.
The lesson for me – of which I am still learning – is that when I share the Word of God or even when I talk to my friends, to never ever switch into the ‘preacher zone’ but to talk to them as a ‘teacher’ with a message that I myself am also confronted with. I learn that when you speak harshly or accusingly, the other party will build their defense and focus on blocking you out – but when you speak with a gentleness, with the firmness of words that come from God – your words can break even the hardest of hearts.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)
Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones. – Proverbs 25:15 (NLT)