No Baggage Section Please

I love the stillness of private worship before corporate worship begins on Sundays. While visiting a church across town, I quietly sit in what is probably someone else’s pew, close my eyes and drink in the solitude and peace. My spirit is content, and I say a prayer.

“Thank you Lord for this church. The sermons are wonderful. The pastor is brilliant. I have yet to hear him say anything that I disagree with. I know he must truly be a righteous man. The music is uplifting and scriptural. The people are so warm friendly. No one has said or done anything mean or hateful. I haven’t lost my temper, got into an argument or let anyone down. No one gossips. This church is perfect Lord. But… we haven’t joined yet, and I know as soon as we do, that will all change… “

 It doesn’t take long for baggage to accumulate. A look here, a snide remark there. Misunderstandings, unmet expectations,  hurt feelings, gossip, lost tempers. There are all kinds of issues that can get in the way of worship if I let them. Geographical cures, while nice for a while, are not sustainable solutions.

The solution isn’t perfection, constantly moving, or avoiding all entanglements. The only real solution to baggage free worship, is Christ.

I really like visiting other churches. I especially like visiting churches that are nothing like my own. What I don’t like is when God has the audacity to speak to my heart in the middle of a service and tell me “You like it here because there isn’t any baggage.” Not to sound disrespectful to God or anything like that, but I was really annoyed that he would interrupt my denial and worship with truth that day.

I don’t suggest arguing with God while sitting in church. It might look funny. Nor do I suggest accusing his voice to be that of Satan. Communion doesn’t quiet go down right on those days. Who knew you could get indigestion from a little wine and bread.

The pastor asked me TWICE if I was okay as we were leaving. I’m not sure if I looked white as a ghost or what.. No I was not okay, I wanted God to agree with me and I wasn’t getting what I wanted. And how did he know I wasn’t okay?  

 Sin exists in and out of the church. We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church or a relationship of some kind. Sooner or later, we will let each other down. There will be misunderstandings, differing opinions, anger, and hurt feelings. There will be opportunties as well for reconciliation, repentance, and forgiveness — IF I don’t run away every time I get my feelings hurt, or hurt someone else’s.

I can carry that baggage with me into church via resentments, or even shame and guilt. OR I can lay those things down in my confession, be fed and strengthened by the body and blood of Christ, allow the sermon to renew my mind and leave behind that which weighs heavily on my heart.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. –We aren’t changing churches, by the way.  My husband and I are very active in our home church and committed to our church’s mission plant. We do however like to change things up and really do enjoy worshipping across town at another church as well. It’s a high liturgy service and we think it’s beautiful.

The Great Rabbit Rescue

It sounded like a gun shot. And then another, and another. I thought war had broken out in Tulsa. Looking out our bedroom window we can see stripped and broken trees covering our yard. My beautiful trees are no more. All of our trees, save one, fell victim to the ice storm of 2007.

Amid the sounds of branches falling during the night, it also grew obvious to my husband and to me that our youngest son was not going to let us sleep until we rescued his rabbit. Oreo, lived in a hutch underneath what was our tall and beautiful bradford pear in the back yard.

Grabbing the foot of our bed, our son became bound and determined to rouse us into greater empathy than parents usually possess at 3 am. Empathy not forthcoming, he chose to shake our bed violently and scream until we had no choice but to either put him down, or rescue the rabbit.

We rescued the rabbit.

Wearing snow boots and bathrobes, the three of us ventured out into the icy night. I carried a candle for light, while Jeff and I carefully traversed the buried yard. Stepping over branches and around others we made our way to what used to be Oreo’s dwelling. Our tree, Oreo’s shelter, was stripped back like a banana peel. Carefully moving the bent and hanging branches, we found that not one fallen branch had touched her hutch. All of the branches had created a protective cave around her home. Oreo was unharmed. It was an amazing sight.

The consummate story collector, I wanted to go back for my camera but thought better of it. Instead, Jeff reached in to free a very grateful bunny and we made our way back to the house. The joy in our son’s eyes as he held his beloved pet made the whole adventure worth it.

It’s cold in Tulsa right now. Temperatures are below zero at night, and we’ve once again rescued our rabbit and brought her indoors for safety.

Another snow storm hit Tulsa this year and all Christmas services had been cancelled through out the city. It just didn’t feel like Christmas without church and I missed it. Grace Lutheran was holding their Christmas Eve service on Epiphany. Grace is not our home church, but I wanted to go. I wanted to celebrate Christmas even if it was a few days late.

During the service they did what they call the “Procession of the Gospel.” I don’t recall ever seeing that before. It is very high church, and not necessarily something more “modern” churches like mine do anymore. Acolytes carried the cross and candles, while the pastor came down the center aisle with the bible. This processional stopped right next to our pew. It was there that the gospel was read.

Like a child, I relentlessly tugged on my husband’s sleeve asking what they were doing and why. High Liturgy is not something I’m familiar with. It was moving, and beautiful. The tears in his eyes caught me by surprise. “Immanuel. God with us.” is all he said.

By coming down into the crowd, so to speak, to read the Gospel, we are reminded that God himself traveled dangerous terrain to rescue us. We are reminded that He is not some distant and untouchable figure way out there. He doesn’t need a child to shake his bed to come get us. He just did. It was dangerous and it was scandalous. And it was necessary.

He is with us.

In the center of it all.

Yesterday.

Today.

And tomorrow.

Again and again,

calling us,

 protecting us,

saving us.

He is Immanuel.

The Liturgical Year: Joan Chittister

Click on Cover to preview this book

Please note: If you landed here because you are looking for Reverend Mason Beecroft – you aren’t going to find him here. I’ve noticed a lot of y’all are searching for him. (At least that’s what my stats show) I wish I knew where he was, but I do not. He was a mentor of mine for a while and I too cared about him as many of you. He is a brilliant theologian. For now, he is under the radar. I trust when he wants to come back, he will. In the mean time, grant him his peace and respite from all that entangles.  — God’s blessings, Deana

The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life

Written by: Joan Chittister

Book Description

A journey of the soul through the map of Christian time.

The liturgical year, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent and carrying through the following November, is the year that sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ.

This book sets out to open what may at first seem to be simply an arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days, or liturgical seasons, to their essential relationship to one another and their ongoing meaning to us today. It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective, from the viewpoint of those who set out not only to follow Jesus but to live as Jesus lived and to think as Jesus thought.

It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until, eventually, we become what we say we are-followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. It is an adventure in human growth; it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

My Review

How do you solve a problem like liturgy?

How do you explain to someone in the modern world the value of living a liturgical life without sounding pious?

Meet Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, Benedictine nun, international speaker, author of “The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life.” and you answer both of those questions. Joan is well educated and everything but pious. She is humble and very transparent. She is able to answer those questions because she asked them herself and lived to talk about. Joan writes from the heart.

I have to admit that once I started reading The Liturgical Year, my own inadequate knowledge of real liturgy hit me square between the eyes. That was shocking to me because Missouri Synod Lutherans ARE Liturgical.

I’m not Catholic, I’m Lutheran. I’m part of a church plant and I prefer Praise and Worship to Liturgy.  This book and the author’s gentle and pursuasive argument for the spiritual adventures found within the full liturgical year, brought me back again and again to the same question:

Am I missing something in my worship?

Being a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, there are parts of her book that I do not understand or agree with. However, I’m giving this book 5 stars. Why? It made me hungry for more. This book resonates within my own spirit therefor, my husband and I are making the personal sacrifice of getting up earlier on Sunday and attending a High Liturgy LCMS Congregation for early service for one full Liturgical year, (we started the first weekend in Advent) so that we can learn more.  My husband, the praise and worship leader at the mission start, wants to learn more as well.  This extra worship service is on top of our regular church services across town. We will attend both churches for one full year.

Let the adventure begin.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program. If you would like more information on this program see http://brb.thomasnelson.com/

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