Morning service, Sunday 17 February 2013, 11.00am
Led by: Lead Pastor Paul Rees
Preacher: Assistant Pastor Andy Prime
Christians are hypocrites. That’s straight from the horse’s mouth, or rather straight from the mouth of Andy Prime, who offered this apology at the conclusion of his sermon. But horses were very much the meat of the matter too, because just like the rest of the nation Andy couldn’t resist a few equine jokes to illustrate his main (mane? … sorry, I’m letting this horse thing gallop away with me) point.
There are too many so-called Christians out there, he said, who are like beefburgers with no beef in them, like the salt that’s lost its saltiness or the light under a bushel (or in the NIV, under a bowl, which is somehow less poetic). The theme was “Salt and Light” (Matt 5:13-16), and the argument was cogently made. Jesus was preaching to uncover a scandal and expose hypocrisy, and to explain in these four verses the purpose of discipleship: 1) for the praise of your Father in Heaven; 2) for the sake of a dark, decaying world; and 3) for the sake of those who hate you and will persecute you.
That last one roused an echo of last week’s sermon at the FP Church in Inverness, but the tone couldn’t have been more different. Rather than leave us with the grim inevitability of being despised by a world that hates Christ, Mr Prime suggested that persecution may be the means by which God calls us to shine for him, though our instinct is to hide our light.
The place was packed. I’d say 200 downstairs and however many fit in the gallery upstairs, which I couldn’t see fully from where I was sitting, but latecomers were being shoehorned in wherever there was the odd space. It’s the fullest church I’ve been in for a long time, and I’m glad I went when I did, because Charlotte Chapel is being sold this year and the congregation is moving to St George’s West Church. How many churches in this day and age are outgrowing their premises? Not many, I’d wager.
That many people singing together is pretty powerful, and the hymns were a mixture of old and new, starting with an old chestnut, “You servants of God, your master proclaim”. “You servants”, note, not “Ye servants”, although they couldn’t do much to modernise “God ruleth on high” so they just left that as it was. Then there was “Light of the world who stepped down into darkness”, which I’d never heard before, and two more with new words to old familiar tunes, one of which, the Londonderry Air, was a particularly brave choice for congregational singing given its wide range, but it seemed to work out okay.
There was an electric piano and an organ, both played at once, but I couldn’t work out if the organ was connected to the surrounding pipework or was a standalone electronic thing. I suspected the latter and found myself wondering about unplayed organs in churches that have opted for alternative accompaniment. Is it just fashion, or could there be a shortage of organists, or organ tuners? I feel a little spin-off investigation coming on.
So that was Charlotte Chapel – busier than I’d expected, gently buzzing, confident in its vision (illustrated with a diagram on its website for the avoidance of doubt) and in keeping with its motto, “Conspicuous for Christ”. Obviously an attractive place to worship, but not the place for me. The fault is mine, of course. I just can’t get back on board with all the Jesus stuff. The whole point of my mission is to put that to the test, though, and you never know, one of these days …