Love your brother
Granite Hills Baptist Church
Here’s one you might not find hard to believe: I hardly ever run into my friends in church. I guess it’s not that hard to believe, since I work at an extremely secular newspaper and all. Still, fairly often I’m recognized in church because of this Filet of Soul column—“Oh, you’re that guy.” But it strikes me as odd that my friend friends have rarely invited me along to their spiritual places. Why is that?
This week, Hunter and I ran into a mutual acquaintance from Hunter’s fencing school, Reno Silver Blades Fencing Club. His name’s Fred Peña, he’s the father of Sean (Hunter’s fencing buddy), and he’s Sunday school director at Granite Hills Baptist Church.
He greeted us at the door, introduced us to the people in the entryway and Pastor Mark Morton, and then gave us a quick tour of the newly painted church—lots of rooms in back for classes, nursery care and meetings.
He showed us into the sanctuary, which was elegant in its simplicity—no multimedia presentation with wild lights and surroundsound stereo here. The baptistery was at the front of the room in an alcove, a simple backlit cross above. There were about 15 chairs on the chancel, presumably for a choir that didn’t appear at the 7 p.m. service. At the left was a grand piano, at the right was an organ, in center was the lectern, and in front of that was a table with two plates and a red, yellow and white summery bouquet. The congregation was seated on about 160 burgundy-colored, padded seats.
Deacon Wesley Fletcher gave the opening prayer and led the singing that began the service. He prayed for the military, for the congregation and for God to protect the people from the government. He began the singing with the old standard, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” but then opened the floor to requests, which I found charming: “Do you have a song you’d like to sing?”
The hands went up like a flock of doves. “I Love Thee,” “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It,” and “Open my Eyes, That I May See” were among the seven songs that preceded the sermon. By the end of the singing and the beginning of the sermon, there were about 70 people in the sanctuary.
I must confess it took me a little while to key into Pastor Morton’s rhythm and message. (Morton’s a former policeman, he retired in September after 21 years.) My guess is my difficulty was because—as I realized later when I sat down with the bulletin—it was the second part of a sermon on “The Court of Conscience,” which used Matthew 5:23-26 as a launching point. The passage deals with when one person has offended another: “Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Essentially, to boil down a half-hour sermon into a few words—the pastor said that there are three priorities to being in good grace: 1) Love the Lord your God 2) Love your neighbor as yourself 3) Practice outward ceremonies for the worship of God.
In other words, if a person is not right with his neighbors, he or she is wasting his time in church.
“If you have offended your brother, your worship is not acceptable to God,” said the pastor, recalling Isaiah 1: 13-15. “We do not want to be in the place where God will not accept our worship.”
I found Pastor Morton’s sincerity both touching and refreshing. I got a vibe from this Baptist church on Red Rock Road, and I think people who are looking for a solid spiritual home for the whole family might just find it here.MUSIC