Last week we heard of God's promise to rescue the Israelites from slavery. God did that, and they were led out! Yet God then led them to the edge of the sea, and the Egyptian army came closing in behind, facing them the choice of drowning or being over-run. God did something amazing, parting the waters for them to safely cross. The army chased, but the waters closed in killing most of the pursuers. The people could clearly see that they had been spectacularly rescued, and this chapter puts the story into song.
It was a song they would surely keep for years to come, a kind of theme song for the people. It had been a defining moment, a shared experience ('communitas'). We know music is a powerful medium, so it makes sense to capture the emotions to share down to future generations.
The song is first and foremost about the Lord - He is their strength (v2). It is about Him, not humans or human power. In response all humans can do is worship. It talks of the enemy's strength (v3-7), but in comparison with God ... who is going to win?! Note here victory is seen in physical terms - for us as Christians we now understand our struggle isn't with people but in the spiritual powers (Ephesians 6).
Verses 8 & 10 tell us something wonderful: enemies of God can boast all they like (v9), but God can deal with them in just a breath! The wonder of God is set out (v11), and the glory of His unfailing love (v13). The song finishes with the prospect of a wonderful inheritance (v17), gathered together to worship God. Finally note that Miriam (Moses' sister-in-law) joins the song as a prophet - singing this song is a spiritual work.
As a church what is our shared experience, the things that God has led us through? We have seen God lead us collectively, as well as the many individual stories that when combined shape us as His people.
Many in the West perceive 'church = building + minister + service', but this is not the model given in Scripture or shown by Jesus. Instead we see that it is people, followers of Jesus, who associate together to be church. Each of us, from the greatest to the least, is empowered by Jesus to minister, to effectively be His hands & feet out in the world. We encourage people to take initiative and minister, but we also suggest that they do not do so as lone rangers, but rather in relation to other followers of Jesus, i.e. to minister as someone who belongs to a church.
In this way when we serve either as an individual or in a church organised activity, both are in a sense the church acting. Either way the story of the ministry (be it good, bad or indifferent) can be shared in the wider body - if good it will bring encouragement, if bad then receive advice, support and prayer!
We then gather together, in a building like this one on Chapel Street, on Sundays, for whole church prayer, and for members' meetings, to bring together our collective discipleship and ministry - the individual and group stories. Sunday in a sense is the culmination of 80 stories, which overflow into our worship together and the songs that we sing. We want to see Kingdom Life across the city - is there are way we can all celebrate when different people bring back stories of this happening from different locations?
Note that in this model of church the real growth is out in the community, where members are ministering and seeing God at work. Yes the central gatherings resource that, and are important for worshipping together, for ministry among one another, and for teaching ... but we should be wary of calling this our main feeding when there is so much action outside the walls, doing discipleship in mission.
Let us find our collective voice, perhaps even our own song of this particular local church called the Countess Free Church. God has brought us through many things, and led us in many developments. He will continue to do so, so may we share together in this God led experience.