Sunday, February 18, 2007

White or Wong? That is the Question.

In church today, I witnessed something quite amazing, something that I sincerely doubt would be allowed to pass in any church in the States. Nevertheless, it was accepted at Eden Chapel and with considerable amounts of laughter.

During the morning worship services at Eden a segment is devoted to addressing the children. Some churches in the States do similar things. The last church I pastored reserved a portion of the morning worship for "Kids' Korner." Many adults often commented to me that they received as much profit from my messages to the children as they did from my regular sermons. (Maybe I should have taken that as a clue about my sermons.)

Today, a coll
ege-age young man tailored his message, as is regularly done, to dovetail with the sermon. Given that the sermon was on Mark 6:31-44, the narrative of the feeding of the multitude from five loaves and two fish, the children's message focused on bread. The young man had put together a quiz about bread. He called for two contestants. Two boys stepped forward. Then he called for Stewart White to stand to the right and Marvin Wong, assistant pastor and the gentleman who would preach the sermon, to stand to the left. Then he instructed the two boys, "If you think that the statements that I make about bread are right, stand by Stewart White. If you think that they are wrong, go stand by Marvin Wong." Of course, at that point the entire congregation erupted with laughter, sustained laughter. Neither Stewart nor Marvin exhibited the slightest embarrassment or disgust.

As an American, I may have exhibited surprise, though no one surely took notice. All were enjoying the hilarity of the moment. There are numerous aspects of political correctness in Britain that
go well beyond its depths in America. State-sponsored politically correct programs run deep and broad in the UK. Yet, what I witnessed today in church, I sincerely doubt I would ever witness in any church in the USA. If the young man who presented the children's message in Eden Chapel were to do the same in a church in the US, I sincerely expect that he would be severely reprimanded if not banned from any leadership role in the church again.

I may be right or wrong in my above assessment, but one thing is surely right, "White or Wong" was hilarious. It was rather refreshing, actually, to witness people laughing at language-based humor (not ethnic-based humor) without shame, without embarrassment, without outrage, and without the humor stormtroopers descending upon the place with their sanctimonious righteous indignation. Pastor Wong laughed as much as everyone else. (His English is excellent. He has no difficulty pronouncing the "r.") Let's all lighten up, Americans. It was funny.

Pastor Marvin Wong's sermon on Mark 6:31-44 was superb. He showed how Jesus dramatized his "New Moses" role by feeding the multitude in the wilderness. As such, Moses foreshadowed the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled Scripture's prophetic foreshadowing. Pastor Wong rightly showed that details of the biblical story in Mark, such as, "he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd," deliberately echo Moses' prayer, recorded in Numbers 27:16-17, "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd." Pastor Wong demonstrated other Old Testament echoes also. All in all, it was a superb sermon, the best biblically-theologically integrated sermon I have heard for a long time. For anyone who plans to visit Cambridge, I commend Eden Baptist Church. It may take a few days for Pastor Wong's sermon to be uploaded, but if interested in hearing it, you may download it here.