Sunday, 10 January 2016

The naked church.

I dreamt I went to this mega-church. It was huge. The attendance alone in one Sabbath service was about 10,000. The worship hall was like the indoor stadium with all-surround speakers, professional sound crew, and rows of cushy seats. Even the sound system with knobs and dials looked like the console on board the Emperor's death star.

Needless to say, any such service would be incomplete without the worship team, the choir and the music band. And in that mega-church, it was a rock-concert setup with guitar distortion, mega-microphones, floodlights, laser shows, larger-than-life screens, celebrity-like worship leaders, and backup singers that brought down heaven.

I have to admit that I was wholly impressed, speechless even. Then, after the power-packed worship service, which lasted for nearly an hour, the lights dimmed and the pianist played an enchanting number to usher in the founder, lead pastor and preacher for that morning. They called him Apostle Kong Ho. And he was wildly adored by his congregation. Not a negative word was uttered about him. Everything about Apostle Kong Ho started with an "Amen!" and ended with a "Hallelujah!" or "Praise the Lord!"

He was so endeared by his churchgoers that I can imagine every word that comes out of his mouth may as well be the same word that comes out from God Himself. And this is why just his presence alone on stage was enough to set my adrenaline racing and heart pumping like wild horses. I was all primed to hear what this veritable giant of God has to say. I was all psyched up like a pubescent concert groupie.

At this time, Apostle Kong Ho swaggered over to the pulpit to rousing applause and he waited for the blitz-like reception of cheers and clapping (and I thought I heard wolf-whistles) to die down before he spoke. But this is the shocking part. This is uber-queer. Apostle Kong Ho spoke, but nothing came out! No, seriously. Nothing.

His mouth or lips were moving - moving at times frantically - but nothing came out of the all-surround speakers. A pin drop would have been louder.

At this time, I panicked and thought I was struck deaf. I then quickly inspected the sound system to see whether they are working. And they were. The splattering of lights on the console were still flashing. The volume dials were up above mid-range. And when Apostle Kong Ho's mic drew near to the choir's speaker, there was the usual ear-piercing feedback. Even when his lips hit the mic, there was knocking sound. The only problem is that nothing was coming out. The volume indicator lights were at ground zero.

Apostle Kong Ho was clearly moving his mouth and walking around on the stage in animated gesticulation. In fact, everything about him was moving, in synch that is, except for uttered words from his mouth. It was the strangest service I had ever attended. I was again speechless just like Apostle Kong Ho was to me wordless.

So I turned my attention to the surprisingly rapt audience. I began to ask the person next to me this: "Pss, good message?" He smiled at me and nodded enthusiastically. The next person I asked immediately gave me a thumbs-up. I wanted to ask further but hesitated when I realized I was becoming a nuisance.

Yet, I could not make heads or tails of the service because there was neither head, tail nor body to it. It was a ghost of a message, an apparition of soundlessness. Imagine lip-synching without the minus-one tape being played out. Or imagine a game of charades but no one was doing the guessing.

The whole congregation was in fact nodding in agreement at the right time as if they had understood it, and some had even shouted "Amen!" and "Praise the Lord!" in unison. And when Apostle Kong Ho stopped moving his lips, the congregation burst out in applause. Dying to blend in, I too clapped but was none the wiser.

Essentially, everyone that day was getting it except poor old me. I was struggling to keep up with the charades. At the same time, I was flabbergasted by the incredulous silence. It was like watching a silent black and white movie of the 30s but without the subtitles appearing on screen. I therefore had no idea what was preached that Sunday morning.

After what seemed like an eternity of wordless gesticulation on stage, Apostle Kong Ho took a bow, waved his hands, and walked off the stage. He went to the front row to take his seat, and during the whole time, the standing ovation was almost deafening. I have to say that I was totally relieved that the strangest service of my life had come to an end.

After the last song and the third collection of the day, I went around to ask for feedback. I needed to know what they heard since nothing was heard by me throughout the service. Of course, I pretended that it was a superb sermon and endorsed it by blind faith just to blend in.

When I approached individual church members, they told me that the sermon moved them deeply. It was at some point prophetic, and at other point, revival-like - so they said.

On my part, while listening to the heap of praises for Apostle Kong Ho's fill-in-the-blank sermon, I was even more clueless – speechless in fact for the third time. How could sheer silence say so much?

I then approached a group of people to seek their views and asked, "What do you guys think of the message?" A cautious pause ensued in the group before one of them said beaming, "The part about Moses and his encounter with God was refreshing." That was it. That was a rather detailed description of a mute sermon. This was also where the group came to effervescent life.

Another dived into the discussion and added, "Amen. What touched me was his modern day adaptation on the parting of the red sea...isn't that God-inspired?" Another chimed in, "Such message can only come from God Himself!" At this time, a few of them fist-pumped the air and shouted, "Amen to that!" I again followed suit, still a little hesitant of course.

Then, I committed the unpardonable sin and asked: "Did you guys really hear anything?" I think my last question was louder than intended and everyone in the foyer came to a standstill. Their chattering stopped. All attention, mostly glare of displeasure, was converging on me. I could tell that they were immeasurably disturbed by my question.

From where I was standing, their faces registered "blasphemy". I knew I needed to do something desperate. So, I let out a churlish squeal and said, "Because I heard it loud and clear! God is parting the red sea for us in our trials and performing a miracle in our life!" The crowd burst out in a chorus of "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!" and some even sung familiar gospel songs to add to the incredulous unanimity of spirit.

"Phew!" - that was my immediate response. I escaped the social lynching. At that point, my dream came to an end and I woke up still reeling from the strange experience. Cheerz

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