Oh What a Night!
July 21, 2009
And not the late September type, either.
The day started routinely enough. At least routinely enough for a group of American’s in a fairly good hotel in the midst of a relatively normal sized (1,000,000 pop) city in India. We went out to the orphanage where I was teaching on the journeys of Paul, (I made it as far as the stoning of Stephen) and Katie and Dorena played with the kids. Later at night found us sitting in the dark of a remote village as we waited for the villagers to gather so we could begin our VBS program. We had already taught the lessons four or five times and we were starting to feel like we had ironed out all the wrinkles. But there is no place like an Indian village for expecting the unexpected.
About an hour till show time, Pastor Jyothi turned around and motioned for me to move close to where he was banging out Indian beats on a keyboard. This is when he informed me that it would probably be good if my part of the VBS program was more of a sermon. He went on to explain that most of what we were doing was all focused on the kids and many of the adults would feel left out unless there was a sermon for them. I had been teaching on the Incarnation of Christ. So I asked, “You want me to just teach the same thing, say the same things but make it sound like a sermon.” “Yes!” Well okay I thought that’s easy enough.
Half an hour later Jyothi motioned to me to talk to him again. It would be good, he told me, if you would go last, do you think Katie could do your lesson and you could end the program with a sermon. Kudos to Katie she agreed right away without hesitation to take both my lesson and her own (the crucifixion and resurrection) but that left me with about 20 min to get together a sermon that tied together and wrapped up the entire story of man and God, creation, flood, incarnation, crucifixion, repentance, and final judgment. It was at that point where I decided, “Lord, this is one is all you, there is nothing I can do.” It’s kinda of a freeing thought to realize the thing you are about to do is entirely in the Lord’s hand, there was no way of knowing and thus no way of preparing for this task.
The Lord of course came through; I immediately thought of Isaiah 42 and used it to preach “Who is this hero? And what did he do?” The sermon I think was going very well, when about half way through, it started to rain ever so slightly. My laptop was sitting out near the projector and I was a little worried about that but more so about the people who were being distracted by the slight drizzle. Then the rain picked up just a bit more. Still nothing to worry about but the villagers began to look up. Then just as I was explaining a “bruised reed” the rain picked up a bit more. A couple of things happened all at once. Neerickshena, sitting on the sidelines told me to finish up, the villagers began to get up to scatter to dry places, but Jyothi who was translating told the people to sit down God will take care of the rain. The villagers listened, sat down again, and just like that the rain was gone. After that I finished the sermon wrapping things up with verse 6, “as a light to the Gentiles,” as a picture with a cross superimposed over pictures of the villagers we had taken earlier was displayed on the screen, and I told them all this God has done for you.
Later on Peter and the girls told me that as soon as it had started to drizzle they had begun praying that the Lord would hold back the rain till we had finished. There were certainly many mistakes made that night, myself being to blame for switching the slides to quickly for the girls, one time prompting Katie to stare at me with the most severe look of bewildered confusion, but it is also equally certain that the Lord was with us that night as well, giving strength and power and words where we had none. And although I would never contest the moral of the old homiletic story, I for one liked the part the Holy Spirit wrote much better.
2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
-Pastor Matt Ude