Category Archives: Liturgical Studies

Having been kicked in the teeth of my teacher’s pride last November while trying to explain the value of liturgical worship and living to my Sunday School Class, I’ve decided to really study the ins and outs of liturgy this year. This is my journey. I happen to believe that if I can’t teach it, then I must not really understand it. Several ladies in my class railed against my thoughts – calling them archaich or religious and unnecessary. It occured to me that I’ve started taking liturgy for granted, and I’ve stopped paying attention to the relational aspects of the church year. So here we are.. back at the beginning, being romanced once again by the lover of my soul, Jesus Christ – who is indeed the heart of worship.

Memory Verses for 2011

As some of you know, I spent 2010 in a praise and worship fast and studied liturgical worship, not because of some legal requirement, but because this was honestly the path I believed God was leading me down. Jeremiah 6:16 – Thus says the LORD:”Stand by the roads, and look,and ask for the ancient paths,where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. “

While I may be married to a Missouri Synod Lutheran – which are historically liturgical almost to the point of legalism (depending of course on who you are speaking with) – I love praise and worship and interestingly enough so does my husband. Also interesting is neither of us really like blended services. – I may or may not write more about that later, just know that my soul craves both the fullness of praise and the richness of liturgy at different times and combining the two is like – well, I don’t have a good analogy other that to say it’s like trying to fish while I water ski, if that makes sense.

And rather than go down a rabbit hole today, let me just leave it as – I needed a break. After four years of helping with our church plant – which is primarily praise and worship, teaching bible studies, pursing new career paths (comedy), and sending my oldest away to college, I entered 2010 worn out and dry as the desert. Jeff’s mom had a fatal stroke . I had a mass in my uterus that knocked me down for six months, and I started abusing diet pills trying to lose weight. 2010 was a low bottom year for me.

And yet – even in the midst of all of that I found rest. I’d been reading Joan Chittister’s book on Liturgical living and while I found her book to be dry and cumbersome to read, I did feel a certain draw in my spirit to learn more and so with the help of a local mentor/pastor – I spent 2010 studying the church year, and liturgy. I regret neither the fast, the lows, or the choices of the year – 2010 was as gloriously rich with love and grace as God had promised.

My season of fasting is over and a new season has been placed on my heart – “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” – Luke 6:21 ESV Bible

Some changes for 2011, praise and worship is back in my fold of worship opportunities as is high liturgy. I’m not sure if I’ll teach or not as I am still needing much time in the master’s hand. (I have food issues that we are working through) Last but not least, I am back memorizing verses this year, just like I did in 2009. If you would like to join me on that, please see Beth Moore’s Living Proof live page and jump in. You won’t regret it.

Have a great week you guys.

Today is Epiphany, also known as Kings Day, or the 12th day of Christmas. If you would like to know more about Epiphany, please check out the very cool link a friend of mine posted on Facebook: http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html

Wordless Wednesdays: Handel’s Messiah

 

I didn’t grow up in the church. I never went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or Egg Hunts. I never even got to be in a Christmas Pageant. Ever. I cannot begin to explain what it felt like as a kid, to see the neighborhood churches bustling with activity and knowing I couldn’t be a part of it. Those things were for members only. I wasn’t a member.

Through a wonderful set of circumstances – meeting my husband and moving to Oklahoma – I did join my very first church in 1993, and I have never looked back.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine told me about the All Lutheran Messiah and invited me to participate. That was big deal, because all Lutherans do not see eye to eye, and technically we’re not even allowed to worship together, lest we give the impression we agree on doctrine. — I kind of think that is stupid, but that’s just me. I tend to be more ecumenical than my brothers and sisters in the LCMS realm. Christ is the only thing that matters to me. If we share that, what difference does the rest make?

Hence, I’ll never be an LCMS staff member. — Don’t get me wrong, I love my LCMS Church, I love my pastor, I love my husband, I even love my Synod. I just love God a little bit more. There are too many rules surrounding paid staff. They aren’t allowed to publicly worship, commune, or pray with non LCMS people lest they give the impression that they agree on doctrine. As a newcomer, I can’t help but interpret that to mean they are more afraid of what people think then they are God and I don’t understand that.

Let me re-phrase that. I spent most of my life being more afraid of what people thought than God, and today, I’m trying to repent of that and avoid those traps. So if I spot an issue like this, it’s only because I have an issue like this.

LCMS isn’t alone, we have many denominations under the Christian Church umbrella. I just don’t understand the separations. The body of Christ is the body of Christ. Jesus is ONE bridegroom, and he has ONE bride. I believe the titles on our doors do more to break the body than it does make it.

Up until last year’s ELCA Synodical convention, most local  LCMS congregations participated in this joint presentation. Because of changes that ELCA made, many of our LCMS churches chose to drop out. I won’t go into that here. LCMS staff members were even forced out of participating for fear of losing their jobs.  We as a group had to make some changes in order to keep this alive.

Structurally, the Messiah presentation is its own NPO and is not supported by any synod. There are no pastor’s leading any aspect of the service, there is just “the multitude,” meaning the singers. We don’t even publically pray together. But those changes are not enough for some people.

Some churches have chosen to do their own in-house services to replace this, and I refuse to support those.

Why?

Because I’m the kid who walked past churches like that and felt left out. You had to know somebody on the inside in order to go.

Christmas is a time we are called to look past ourselves, and give to others. In house presentations for members only, flies in the face of what Christ came to do. The Jews wanted an “in-house” Messiah and he shocked them by coming not only for them, but for the Gentiles as well. Jesus became that “somebody” to know.

Being a part of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the community is more important to me than some political debate. I still sing in The Messiah and this is our 90th year, making us the second longest running presentation in the United States.

In our liturgical calendar year ends this Sunday where we look to the second coming of Christ. The following Sunday, marks the beginning of Advent (The Christmas Season) where we as a body, look forward (in spirit) to the first coming of Christ. We celebrate his birth.

Right now, while we practice the choral runs and solos, time intersects my spirit. Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and return consume me today and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart: Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic. All rights reserved 11/17/10. My views and opinions are not necessarily reflective of my home congregation or Synod. These are just my thoughts.

National Youth Gathering 2010: New Orleans LA

It started with fundraisers.. and more fundraisers.. those ended with a celebratory night at the movies seeing Toy Story 3 after our last talent show. Having raised all of the monies necessary to go to National Youth Gathering being held in New Orleans, all our kids could do was wait.

July 16th could not come quickly enough and so the kids met up at church on the 15th for a lock in.

5:00 am comes awefully early but they were on the road.

13 hours later they had arrived along with pretty much everyone else.

25,000 youth and adults together in the New Orleans Super Dome

It was an amazing week of mass events, community service, Bible Studies, Speakers, Skits, Concerts, and sight seeing.

The Jesus Painter
Gregory Manning

 Even the Skit Guys came out to play with our youth.

The Skit Guys

 
There is more to be sure, but for now… I’ll leave you with this face.  D-man came back exhausted and too wired to sleep. I can’t describe it other than to say he just “glowed.”

Photo Credits: Sonja Schneider and Melinda Miller.

Post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart, July 30,2010. All rights reserved.

Finding my Humor again:Liturgical Muppets Oh My!

I’m nine weeks out from my surgery and I’ve discovered that while I handled my female issues with some levity and humor, that humor did not carry over to my coverage of the Synodical Convention or the arguments about our National Youth Gathering. I need to change focus and fortunately for me, a friend provided a wonderful opportunity to laugh.

My friend posted on facebook that “I believe liturgical puppets are a sign of the apocalypse.” At first I thought he was talking about our more conservative brethren, (stuffing is stuffing you know) but apparently not. He was actually  referring to churches employing walking puppets as part of their liturgical dance procession.

The whole confusing dichotomy of liturgical dancing aside, I really thought that was funny. Think about it. You are sitting in church – and as part of the opening processional you have dancers, streamers, and walking puppets made up to look like either really large people or – if you are celebrating creation that day – maybe a 12 point buck or something.

I live in the south. We’re a little on the sunburned side when it comes to the backs of our necks, and my church is full of card-carrying NRA members who hunt.

I am fairly certain that if a 12 point buck (paper mache or otherwise) came dancing down our aisles, it would be shot without hesitation. No offense to those of you who employ such creativity in your church, but I really don’t think it would work down here.

And since you know I’m not always right, I cannot shake the image of a Jim Henson Liturgy.

Can you imagine?

You’d have Big Bird as the cantor

Miss Piggy Leading the choir

Oscar the Grouch delivering the sermon

and Cookie Monster serving communion.

No church service would be complete without those two cranky old men in the balcony so add them to.

What images does this new practice bring to your mind? Or Do you use liturgical puppets in your processional? I’d love to hear from you. What purpose do they serve?

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. Please keep comments polite and on topic. I reserve the right to delete any comments off topic or just down right snarky.

Theotokos: The Mother of God

Not everyone hates Mary. It’s easy to think that sometimes, especially when sitting in a protestant church. Pastors seem afraid to speak of Mary – Mother of Jesus – in a positive light, lest they give the opinion that we are worshipping her. Lutheran pastors are probably the worst in that regard.

For those who don’t know me, let me add I am a Lutheran, by marriage, but a Lutheran nonetheless. I don’t want you thinking that I’m picking on Lutherans here because that is not my intent. Most Lutherans are, however, overly cautious on anything that might be perceived as Catholic teaching. And so,they avoid Mary.

Mary, as a mother, has always fascinated me. I can’t imagine what she must have been thinking, or how she did the things she did. She was 13, 14 at the most, when Gabriel came to her and offered greetings. WOW — I haven’t really given her much thought lately, until.. A half sheet of paper fell out of a book bag this morning. On it are my notes from a Sunday School class I taught last December. Doesn’t mean much really, except that I taught a class DEFENDING Mary’s title as Mother of God as well as her dignity within our church. My passionate tone, opinions, and facts cover that half page of take home material.

I’m not sure what I remember most, the excitement over being allowed to lead the women’s class in December while pastor led the men – or the fact that I got teach on something that resonated so passionately within my spirit.

Like I said, Lutherans seem to be afraid of Mary. – Unless you are a Catholic – with a capital “C” Lutheran – and I recently learned that we have a few of those around. It was because of one such local pastor, that I found the courage to dig deeper into Mary’s story. By doing so, I found pieces of my own.

I’m looking at my notes today and I see my first point – Mary’s response to Gabriel seems flip, almost a “yeah what do you want” kind of response and why is that? Because Mary knew her history. She wasn’t the first person to “find favor” with the Lord. Abraham, Moses, and King David to name a few also found favor.

Having an angel of the Lord appear to you to say “you found favor” means only one thing really; Your life is about to be turned upside down. Go or someone is going to die.

Lot to ask of a 13 year old. Lot to ask of a 44 year old.

What has me pondering today, isn’t the message I taught on Mary, but the fact that I have roughly 50 of these pages scattered throughout my closet, into my den, and on my kitchen counters. Someone probably just needed that book bag, but still… I’m a little on the creeped out side because

Everywhere I look I see that phrase “Your life is about to be turned inside out – go – or people will die… Will you answer the call?

Edited to add: My liturgical studies have ended for now. I will write more about it later, but for now I’d like to leave this thought. There is a difference between capital C, Catholic and small c, catholic; one equals Rome, the other means universal. While I am grateful for the opportunity to dig more deeply into the things of God, I’ve learned that to replace a real relationship with Christ for the things of Christ (a worship service only from the hymnal) is like having a parishioner who mails in their tithe but doesn’t come to church. They’ve done their duty, but nothing more. They are bound by obligation and pride, but not love.

Replacing Judas:Matthias the Apostle

This post is far more tongue in cheek than my theologically minded friends will probably enjoy. The intent here is not to teach you something about Matthias, but rather to hopefully encourage you to dig and learn for yourself. You’ll remember more that way. –

 

Congratulations Matthias! As we gather today with prayerful and humble hearts, seeking the will of God — we cast lots, and guess what, you won! You are the new apostle. Don’t let the fact that your predecessor betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver and consequently committed suicide bother you. You can only go up from there. Granted, you won’t come out of this alive. Accounts of your death will vary but know that you will be martyred; you’ll either be crucified or stoned and subsequently beheaded. What are you going to do now?

I’m guessing he didn’t go to Disney World.

Wikipedia states he went on to preach the Gospel in Judea  as well as to the barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia. — That’s a polite way of saying “Gentiles” I suppose — loosely translate – you and me folks.

Are you game?

Of course he was game. Why wouldn’t he be. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was so alive, so real, so prevalent in his life that he was willing to lay down his very own to preach the good news.

Me? I get cranky if I have to miss the newest episode of 24 to talk to a family member.

I’m being a little tongue in cheek ya’ll and I hope you aren’t offended. The facts are true — see the book of Acts for more information.

In reconnecting with liturgy this year, I wanted to look at the festivals as well. I wanted to see what we can learn from these people who went before us. We can learn a lot. And rather than do a brain dump here, I’m encouraging you to look into St Matthias yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

The Festival of St Matthias is listed as February 24 in our Lutheran Book of Worship. Some churches celebrate it, some don’t.  It’s a day of mixed feelings. We mourn over Judas’s loss. We are reminded that we too can fail and sell Jesus for pennies on the dollar. We can also rejoice in knowing that God see’s all things — and saw in the heart of Matthias and chose him to continue the call.

You don’t know who Matthias is? It’s an easy name to miss, he is afterall only mentioned briefly in the book of Acts. Look him up, learn about him. Ask questions. What does his choice (by God) teach you about Christ? Did he compare himself to Judas and puff up? Or was he more humble than I myself can be most of the time and mourn the loss while taking his call seriously.

What do you think? What would you do? Would you answer a call like that?

Written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights Reserved.

Liturgy isn’t sterile, my notebook is…

I found myself lamenting earlier this week about how I still wasn’t getting it (see post here) regarding my present course of study and I finally figured out why. (And by not getting it, I mean not being able to explain it in a way that other people feel what I feel) I’m trying to answer a heart question, with my brain. I have many friends who do not follow a liturgical calender in their churches and do not know what Lent is or Advent or about any of the high festivals. In failing to answer their questions, I feel as if I’d been kicked in my proverbial teacher’s pride. If I can’t teach it, I don’t understand it.

I can’t give away what I don’t have.  If’ my heart isn’t in worship, than I’m only going to be able to answer questions of the heart with my brain. What I have discovered, at least for myself, is that I’m taking church – and worship – for granted. I’m not paying as close attention to the details as I did when I was younger. I get into these moods of “yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. Tell me something new.” with church much like I can with that family member who has told the same joke for 20 years.

We can do that with everything in our lives. Take driving to work. We know the way, and at some point in the journey, we go on autopilot and don’t pay as close attention to the road as we should. We miss the scenery. We miss the sunsets and the birds, and the landscape. We think we’ve seen it all before and we focus instead on other things.

When I first joined the church back in 1993, everything was new and inspiring. “Why” was my favorite question. That is why I think my notebook is so sterile right now. When I first started studying the Bible, I didn’t just list facts in my brain, I applied them to my life. I wanted to know how this or that piece of the story can fill me and change me. What about this or that chapter brings me closer to Christ. Read the Bible a few times, and I find myself skimming over passages that I think “I know already” and I miss seeing it with fresh eyes.  It’s the same with liturgy. 

I can mentally skip through a worship service, take the seasons for granted and feel empty at the end of the day. Filling my notebook with facts in order to better answer people’s questions isn’t going to serve anyone and it definately isn’t going to bring me closer to Christ. I need to be an active participant in worship, laying down all preconcieved notions and ideas and be intentional in my focus and my attention. Only than can I truly find rest in the landscape.

That is, for me, what has been so great about this journey so far. In asking what and why again, in opening my eyes to the landscape around me, I’m become fully present in worship. I’m once again inwardly digesting truth and finding peace.

Question: What landscape in your church are you taking for granted? Are you on auto-pilot when it comes to worship? What steps do you take to refocus your attention? 

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.