Today’s 11 AM service was at Grace Church – Fishers Campus at 124th and Olio Rd.
Though there were several hundred congregants attending there were none in sight when I took this picture of the facade. I would rather not include persons in pictures because who wants to be pictured without their permission? That explains why I have no interior photo but it is large, clean and comfortable. The sanctuary holds about 700(?) persons. The chairs are cloth and soft but unlike their neighbor church, Cornerstone, they don’t have cup holders. Just sayin’.
Service began with a short introduction by Pastor Kevin Roth. He spoke of the murder-suicide of two local teachers and what Grace Church was doing to help employees at one of the schools. He mentioned the various mission programs Grace Church was involved in and ending with a prayer for the chaos in our communities to come to an end. As he began his prayer the band started playing and segued into a three song set. These three songs were “Come As You Are“, “Waiting Here For You” and “Our God“. The other songs they played were “”Won’t Stop Now” and “Do It Again“. The band consisted of nine persons – 3 guitarists, 1 bassist, 1 organ player, 3 vocalists and a drummer encased in a drum shield off to the side. Oddly, they treat the drummer the same way at Cornerstone. According to Wikipedia –
A drum screen, sometimes referred to as a drum shield or acoustic shield, is a tool used by audio engineers to avoid the sound control problems caused when louder instruments overwhelm quieter instruments and vocals on stage.
So there’s that reason.
The musicians were talented and each song sounded very U2’ish. They started each tune quietly with either front-man saying something about the power of God in his life and moved into the praise song and, as U2 frequently does, they played toward a crescendo before cooling off to a soft instrumental and the next song. The band received two ‘already standing’ ovations as a result of their playing.
Worshipers were urged to stand during the songs and nearly all did from my point of view – middle section, back row. The music had some persons swaying back and forth, others with one or both arms raised but I didn’t hear many of them singing. The volume of the music was probably the culprit.
The sound and video production were excellent. The stage had overhead colored spotlights, a couple floor spots which circled on the ceiling. Plus they had five upright 2′ x 8′ panel lights stood up in a line behind the musicians which changed colors with the music and mood. The lyrics and videos on the three screens were ably managed.
Sermon based on Exodus 15 (posted below)
The sermon was video recorded on Saturday and played for us. Pastor Barry Rodriguez preached on Exodus 15, The Song of The Sea.
Pastor noted that many people think Exodus 15 is just a re-telling of the first 14 chapters where God leads the Hebrews to freedom. That and the first 21 verses are written in poetic form and who really likes poetry? Usually just poets. He said Ex. 15 isn’t a re-telling but rather a reinterpretation of Ex. 1-14. It explains how God led His people to freedom the same way He will lead His people, today, to ultimate freedom through the doorway of Jesus. God keeps His promises yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Ex. 15 seems to present God as an angry warrior, far from our normal view of Jesus as an even-tempered, loving pacifist. What has He done? He has destroyed Pharaoh’s army, sending his generals, horses and chariots to the bottom of The Red Sea. A reason this story is told in poetic form is to be evocative, or to bring strong images, memories, or feelings to mind. Throughout the Bible the ocean, seas and rivers are used to represent chaos, death and destruction. The enemies of God are described in terms of floods or surging oceans. Isaiah 17:12 says
Woe to the many nations that rage—
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.
God used this same sort of ‘chaos’ to destroy His enemies. Water was used to destroy life on Earth via The Flood, God brought hail down upon the Egyptians destroying their crops and cattle, and used the wall of water of The Red Sea by collapsing it on the Egyptian army. But God always gives His foes the opportunity to repent, become His children and avoid destruction.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
He offered this peace to Pharaoh, the Canaanites, and many other nations but they refused His offer. He still offers this repentance to unbelievers each today and each tomorrow. Those who turn away from this gift will ultimately be doomed not because He is a warmongering deity who hates people but because He is a God of justice, a father to those who follow Him.
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.
“Then I said, ‘How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’ And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.’
Still, the Bible reads as though God is indiscriminately destroying this group, that nation, that person. Not so. God, by being a father, is defending His nation, His people from the harm done on them by enemies. He protects His children the way you want your father to keep you from danger and evil.
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
God, Himself, uses descriptors such ‘mountain’, ‘rock’ and ‘firm structures’ to describe His strength and stability. An ocean cannot bring down a mountain. Noah’s Ark landed upon a mountain, a haven to re-start humanity. Jesus walked upon the water and later told the sea Be still! to show God’s power over evil, chaos and destruction.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.“
How was the liturgy similar and different from a typical Lutheran Church – LCMS? Both include worship hymns, a sermon and an offering. Where they differ is Grace Church did not include a corporate prayer for other churches in God’s realm to be united and work together for the good of all. It did not recite a creed. It did not recite The Lord’s prayer. It did not have the congregation confess its sins, subsequently it offered no absolution of sins. It did not include any responsive readings from Psalms or any scripture. It had no Bible readings whether Old Testament, New Testament, or from the four gospels.There was no benediction to send the people off with a blessing.
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him—
my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
3 The Lord is a warrior;
Yahweh is his name!
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and army
he has hurled into the sea.
The finest of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters gushed over them;
they sank to the bottom like a stone.
6 “Your right hand, O Lord,
is glorious in power.
Your right hand, O Lord,
smashes the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty,
you overthrow those who rise against you.
You unleash your blazing fury;
it consumes them like straw.
8 At the blast of your breath,
the waters piled up!
The surging waters stood straight like a wall;
in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.
9 “The enemy boasted, ‘I will chase them
and catch up with them.
I will plunder them
and consume them.
I will flash my sword;
my powerful hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
11 “Who is like you among the gods, O Lord—
glorious in holiness,
awesome in splendor,
performing great wonders?
12 You raised your right hand,
and the earth swallowed our enemies.
13 “With your unfailing love you lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your might, you guide them
to your sacred home.
14 The peoples hear and tremble;
anguish grips those who live in Philistia.
15 The leaders of Edom are terrified;
the nobles of Moab tremble.
All who live in Canaan melt away;
16 terror and dread fall upon them.
The power of your arm
makes them lifeless as stone
until your people pass by, O Lord,
until the people you purchased pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain—
the place, O Lord, reserved for your own dwelling,
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever!”
19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers rushed into the sea, the Lord brought the water crashing down on them. But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground!
20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. 21 And Miriam sang this song:
“Sing to the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.”
Bitter Water at Marah
22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.