Week 41 (October)
In the spring of 1966 a team of 20 students and adult leaders from what is now Southern Nazarene University took their Easter vacation to build a church in Muzquiz, Mexico [ mission trip story ].
During our 10-day stay across the border we discovered something of what it means to be an "alien," to be a foreigner. Shut off from our environment by cultural and language barriers, we found we were being shadowed day and night by a gnawing uncertainty.
However, we did manage to cope with our culture shock long enough to participate on Easter Sunday morning with District Superintendent Roberto Moreno in the dedication service of the simple little building.
As we drove back across the Rio Grande River to Eagle Pass, Texas, that shadowy fearful uncertainty vanished. In two of the vehicles, crew members began spontaneously to sing "God Bless America." We sang because we felt "free" again, free in a way we had not felt for the previous 10 days.
I look back on that incident now and smile at how "provincial" we were, and how intimidated we had been by language and cultural barriers.
But that adventure gave me a tiny insight into some of the feelings and emotions the children of Israel must have experienced as they broke out into a song after their dramatic escape at the Red Sea.
While deliverance from Egyptian slavery had seemed to become increasingly impossible, the situation at the Red Sea appeared impossible from the start. So hopeless had the situation become that when they were set free, it was clear that the Lord Himself had delivered them. No other explanation was imaginable. God had led them out and shut the door in Pharaoh's face.
No wonder they broke out in a song of thanksgiving. And it's no wonder that redeemed sinner often sing about their miraculous redemption from sin.
It's no coincidence that the Church of the Nazarene -- which preaches a "know-so" salvation, a full deliverance from all sin -- is known for its music. I know of one church that used to have the phrase "The Singing Church" splashed in neon letters across the front of it. That phrase is still used in the advertising of some Nazarene churches.
Of course, not everyone has been comfortable with the happy, exuberant kind of praise that characterizes Nazarene singing. For instance, after I had been in Florence a year, a young missionary working on the University of Florence campus quit attending our church to began attending the services of another group across the city.
That was OK. She was not a Nazarene, nor did she even accept holiness theology. But I visited her to find out the reason for her change. One of the main reasons for her switch, she said, was that "they have less singing over there."
I couldn't offer to make any changes in our order of service just for her. But I did wonder if her message to the university was one of full divine deliverance from all sin, a deliverance just as complete and miraculous as that wrought at the Red Sea.
As for me, I cannot help but sing, because He has made me free!
These devotional thoughts were written while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the October 12, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
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