AWSO is now completely in Paducah, Kentucky. Boy, it is HOT. They have had record temperatures, with the all-time high of 108 F on Friday. Right now, it is about 103 F. I don’t mind heat, but I cannot do this. I like the air conditioning. However, we do have a performance tonight on the boat at 8 pm. It is not so bad when the sun is down. The program will be a little shorter, for our health.
This morning, the entire group played at Southland Baptist Temple. This was the first time I was at a Baptist service since Heidi’s funeral in 2001. The church was huge, new, and beautiful. The population was white. They are led by a giant volunteer choir, who stand up front, with selected soloists, piano, and drums. The congregation responded enthusiastically (with clapping and exclamations) to the choir and the sermon. I think that this is what Chapel wanted to do, but never succeeded. The choir split into two or maybe three parts, but with about fifty members, each part was strong. Even the soloists were often in groups of two or three per part. The numbers and simplicity made the choir and band seem more talented than the average church, but really, the music minister is just smart in how he directs.
The service had no liturgy. There were multiple prayer breaks and many, many songs. The sermon came at the end of the service. Since Independence Day is Wednesday, the service was extremely patriot. Many members of AWSO complained about how political the service was. I felt the service was patriotic, not political, but now I understand. The minister emphasized that our freedom is from God, and only a country that fears Jesus Christ and his cross, will be free. Without faith in Jesus, it would be very political to continue to push God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The minister’s sermon theme discussed two symbols of freedom: the flag and the cross. The flat theme seemed to drag on and on to me. He told stories of Francis Scott Key, Old Glory in Tennessee after the Civil War, and of John McCain as a P.O.W, and how for all of them, the American Flag stood for freedom from oppression. Then he discussed the cross. It was packed with verses of law and gospel. He emphasized that we are all deserving of hell and need a Savior. He discussed how death on a cross was a cursed death, and that is why St. Paul was criticized for worshipping a Savior who was put to death in such a manner. But now, it is the ultimate symbol for our spiritual freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
I was very impressed with the sermon. And then there was the “accept Jesus into your heart” bit. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. I honestly feel guilty when I listen to the radio knowing that I haven’t “accepted Jesus into my heart”, but the Holy Spirit has freely filled me with faith. I can’t ask for it, I can turn away from it, but it is freely given and there is nothing I can do about it.
AWSO played “American Tribute” for preservice music, a brass fanfare by Strauss for the offertory, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for a music break, and the ending of a liturgical fanfare by Henri Tomasi. The music director of the church did not want the Tomasi, which is strange because it is highly religious, written specifically for church (probably a Catholic mass), and depicts Christ walking to the crucifixion. However, it is very intense, and not suited for the character of a charismatic church. Boudreaux got around that by only doing the very end without voice. That way, it just sounded like pretty brass music. “American Tribute” was a big hit for the congregation, but I didn’t think it was appropriate because it included a long list of secular patriotic tunes as well as patriotic hymns. Oh, well.
Stay cool, wherever you are.