Going to church on Sundays was a weekly routine whose influence didn’t reflect in my everyday life. I was an expert in the art of spiritual games so much that I earned the name, “The saved one”.
I woke up one Sunday morning—another occasion to give the impression of a godly man.
It was the first Sunday of the month and a visiting preacher was on the programme.
Praise and worship team had used up their time. If the preacher had come, he would be introduced and given the platform, but he hadn’t.
No sooner had the service leader started to apologise because of the apparent hitch in the preacher’s arrival than a tall dominating character entered the church premise. He looked serious but not enough to overshadow his shining countenance. His mien was that which injected his environment with confidence.
He bypassed the church protocol. He was in a hurry to do what he had come to do. Immediately he stepped into the church, he took over. When he spoke, he had this deep “evangelistic voice”—a voice whose authority was difficult to ignore.
He started by expressing his apology and explained why he had to be late. After the service he would be on his way to conduct a burial. He had the dead with him. He had placed the casket in which the body was outside the door. He ordered the congregation to step out and view the body before they could come back into the church for the message.
We went out and lined up. The environment was that of solemn contemplation. One could assume to ascertain the content of the thoughts in every mind—the agony and mystery of death.
Lying in the casket was another life that has been claimed by the consequence of our first parents’ fall for deception. Each person viewed the dead and went back inside the church.
I was at the back of the line. Finally it was my turn. I drew closer. Some kind of anxiety caught up with me. “Why am I becoming afraid”; I wondered as I whispered a prayer that whatever I was about to see would not “haunt” me. Up till then, I had only viewed the body of my dad. An idea came to me. I’ll close my eyes so that I could pretend to look without actually seeing. No! I had to see. I looked and … (gasp).
In a twinkle of an eye, my mind had raced back and forth, in the process collecting thousands of data and instantly attempting to process them as fast as I could. The face looked so familiar! “Who was that—looks like one of my very close relatives or something?” I wondered as I walked absent-mindedly back into the church.
“Oh no! That was me! How can I forget myself”, I exclaimed aloud as everyone turned to my direction with a ‘we-know-what-you-are-talking-about’ look.
Before I sat down, the preacher began by introducing the topic of his message: “The Living Dead”.
He then read from the Bible:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Though I learnt that the preacher had put a mirror instead of a glass at the viewing window on the casket, I couldn’t just get myself out of that coffin.
Convinced that I was dead, I ran home to announce the bad news. A cousin ordered that I be seized and buried immediately. In terror, I pleaded and begged for five minutes, hoping to resurrect within that time. If I didn’t, they could then bury me. When they refused to grant my request, I started running away to buy time—I was desperate to live.
What a dream! When I woke up, it was clear that this wasn’t just another dream. I had five spiritual minutes “to resurrect”. The art of dramatising had stopped the art of religious games.
The scripture quoted above is Revelations 3:1-3 (NIV).
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