Last week here at the Cathedral in Eldoret we had a visiting preacher, who also happened to be the father of one of our Cathedral clergy. He based his sermon on a text from the first chapter of the Epistle of James and he told the following story.
He had recently visited a parish in Tanzania which had undergone a rapid turnaround. This had been due to the somewhat unusual approach of the new incumbent who had taken the same text from James into a whole new arena.
When this priest had arrived at his new parish the congregation was virtually non-existent. So he visited the homes of each and every previous church member, announcing to them that the following Saturday there would be a funeral at the church. Now funerals are very much a community event in rural Africa and so on the following Saturday the church was packed and there at the front stood the expected open coffin.
Everyone was speculating about who had died as no one had heard of any recent demise. During the course of the service the priest invited people to come and view the coffin and one by one they came forward and were profoundly affected by what they saw….the priest had put a mirror inside the empty coffin and so each person saw themselves reflected back! He then challenged the congregation à la passage in James not to forget what they had seen but to return to being doers and not just hearers of the word.
The story reminded us of an Anglo-Catholic priest we know back in the UK who once stunned his parishioners when he rode his bicycle into the church in order to illustrate his sermon….he too thereby proving that perhaps there really is more than just one way of making a point?