Conversations With My Toddler: Crucifixes vs. Crosses

Recently, Babykins has started to notice the crucifixes in our bedrooms. My husband and my bedroom has one hanging above our bed, the nursery has one hanging above the closet door. Whenever she points them out, we talk about how Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins.

However, in the guestroom we have a decorative cross. Babykins was looking at it the other day and we then had this chat:

Babykins: What’s dat? (points to the cross)

Me: That’s a cross

Babykins: Jesus no on that one!

Me: Well, yes, um. . . That’s because it’s just a cross. When Jesus is on the cross, it’s called a crucifix. Can you say “crucifix”?

Babykins: Crucifix!

Pastor’s kids can have the oddest vocabulary.

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The Church Triumphant

Even as a Christian, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Halloween and slide into the Christmas frenzy. However, let’s not forget that today is one of the biggest church festivals of the year–All Saints Day. The Treasury of Daily Prayer explains that All Saints’ Day, “sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19).” (pg. 871). It goes on to explain how this feast shares the Easter celebration of resurrection, the celebration of the catholic (note: not Catholic) church that we mark on Pentecost, and has the end of the church year focus on the life everlasting.

We mark on this day all the saints that have gone before us: mothers and fathers, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Many churches also have a special remembrance of members who have died this past year. Our church has 6 members who have will be joining the All Saints celebration in Heaven for the first time this year. How blessed are they who are now in full communion with Christ our Lord, while we only get a taste of that Feast at the communion rail. However, we can also look forward to the day that we will join with the great multitude in their unending praise.

Now you’ll have to excuse me as I finish getting a certain little baptized saint ready for church. Happy All Saints Day!

P.S. The earliness of this post is brought to you courtesy of Daylight Savings Time ending. Babykins has been up since 5:30 a.m. Whee!


Ordination

Until a few years ago, I had never attended an ordination or installation service.  That’s not surprising because many people have never had the chance to attend those services.  So what is an ordination service like?

It’s a church service.  Typically (at least in my experience), the ordination is set in a regular church service.  Several of the ordinations I’ve attended were vesper services.  My husband had Communion at his ordination, so the service was set to Divine Service III in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB).  The rite of ordination is generally placed after the sermon but before the Prayer of the Church.  That way a newly ordained pastor’s first action is to lead the prayer.

There are a lot of pastors.  Pastors in the area of an ordination typically try to attend the service.  They come as a source of support, as well as to lay hands on the newly ordained pastor.  Sometimes pastors travel a bit further to attend an ordination.  My husband was able to have his brother, his home pastor, and our college pastor come to his ordination–That was quite special!

Since the liturgical color for an ordination is red, all the pastors wear their red stoles.  At one point in the ordination rite, all the pastors lay hands on the new pastor at the same time.  Consequently, there is a sea of men wearing red and white surrounding one man.  If they all started saying, “Braaaaaaiiiiiiiins“, it would be like a scene from a zombie movie.  Wait, no, that’s not very dignified. . .oops.

The congregation is very excited.  Since they are getting new pastor, members are typically excited on ordination day.  They are also trying to make the service special, so they are very busy prepping.  Our congregation made a fantastic meal following the service.  I hope the cook like that often!

There is a difference between an ordination and an installation.  This can be confusing, especially since a lot of ordinations are combined with installations.  A pastor is only ordained once.  This is when he officially becomes a pastor.

A pastor can be installed several times throughout his life.  Every time he accepts a new call, there will be an installation.  This is also typically done in a service.

For a new pastor, he has a couple of choices of how he can be ordained and installed.  Some pastors opt to get ordained at one church and then get installed later at the church they were called to.  A pastor may choose to do this for several reasons.  Perhaps there was a church that was particularly influential in his life (i.e.–a home church where he grew up).  Sometimes this is done because the new pastor’s call is too far for most family members to attend.

Other pastors choose to have the ordination and installation rites done at one service.  This can be a nice way for the congregation to welcome their new pastor into the ministry.  It also means only having to prepare one service.  You know, kill two birds with one stone.

That’s about it

So there’s a brief rundown of what an ordination service is like.  My husband walked into the sanctuary on Sunday as Pastor-Elect and walked out as Pastor, with all the responsibilities that comes with the title.


Book Review: Broken

talking to people

Well, I’m technically not busy right now, but between some in-depth post ideas, trying to help pull together the seminary wives newsletter, and this weird thing called “actually interacting with people,” I feel like I have about a million things whirling through my brain.  Consequently, today you’re getting my review of Broken:  7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Johnathan Fisk.

I read Broken several weeks ago, quickly calling “dibs” on it as soon as my husband bought it.  It was awesome!  Pastor Fisk takes a close look at our culture today and discusses the root of the problems within our churches instead of attacking the symptoms.  Additionally, he shows that these root problems (a.k.a. the “Christian” rules to be broken) are not new to our culture, but are commonly old heresies that deviate from God’s Word and hide under the guise of modern ideas.  The opening chapter states, “This [disappearance of belief in a pure Word from God] is nothing new.  It has happened before, and it will happen again.  But every time it happens, every time Christianity declines in a society, it happens for the same reason:  because genuine believers tried laying a foundation on something other than God’s Word,” (pg. 14).  With topics like mysticism and prosperity, Pastor Fisk shows how easily we Christians wrongly try to replace God’s Word with something of our own creation.

While Pastor Fisk’s metaphors get a bit long at times, his proclamation of  the Gospel at the end of every chapter bring comfort to any Christian struggling to make sense of our chaotic world and the disturbing trends we see in American Christianity.

Image from amazon.com


Adding a Bit of Excitement to the Athanasian Creed

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday when Lutheran Congregations typically recite the Athanasian Creed.  It’s the longest of our three creeds, so I came up with an idea to make it more exciting to recite.

You know the children’s song “Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia”?  It’s a simple, repetitious song that doesn’t really teach anything.  No, the fun in this song is that the children are divided into two groups:  The Allelus and the Praise Ye the Lords.  Every time the respective groups sing their parts, they stand up and belt out the words as loud as they can.  When they aren’t singing, they sit down.  The idea is to do the song several times, each time going faster and faster until the children are hopping up and down to sing their part.

Okay, so it’s a little hard to explain in writing.  Perhaps you should just watch it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag5l9u4h4eU (note:  These kids are a bit confused, so they aren’t going up and down like they’re supposed to.  For some reason, there aren’t many videos of kids screaming out this song on YouTube).

Anyway, I suggested to my husband that we should do the Athanasian Creed in a similar fashion:  Divide the congregation into two groups, one group saying the odd “verses” and the other group saying the even “verses.”  Likewise, I told him we should see which group could do it the loudest.

A Creed Sunday

He didn’t use my suggestion for some reason.


Hymns Can Be Creepy

As Lutherans, we’re not afraid to talk about death.  Death is inevitable, death can come at any time.  We cannot teach the full sweetness of the Gospel without talking about death (Why did Jesus die on the cross?  To save us from our sins and eternal death.  Why is Jesus’ resurrection important?  Among other things, it’s because it shows that He conquered death).   Likewise, Luther’s explanation of the seventh petition of the Lord’s prayer includes praying for a blessed end, that is, a death in the faith.

This acknowledgment of death is apparent in many of our hymns.  The last verse in “Abide With Me” states,

"Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me." LSB 878:6

Another example is found in “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus”:

"Let us gladly die with Jesus.  
Since by death He conquered death, 
He will free us from destruction, 
Give to us immortal breath.  
Let us mortify all passion 
That would lead us into sin; 
And the grave that shuts us in
Shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus here with You I die,
There to live with You on high." 
LSB 685:3

Now look at “In God, My Faithful God”:

"If death my portion be, 
It brings great gain to me;
It speeds my life's endeavor
To live with Christ forever.
He gives me joy in sorrow,
Come death now or tomorrow." 
LSB 745:3

There are many more examples in which Lutheran hymnody acknowledges and embraces the inevitability of death.  For the most part, I find this openness about death comforting, especially when facing the life’s constant sorrows.

However, a couple of weeks ago my husband and I were looking at “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” (LSB 594).  It’s a wonderful baptism hymn filled with sound teachings of what it means to be a baptized child of God.  Then we get to verse 5:

"There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring;
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise!"

Opened-eyed my grave is staring?!  That’s a creepy image!

openeyed grave

Really, I’m not a great artist so I can’t capture how eerie a staring grave would look!

What adds to the creepiness of this phrase is the fact that the setting in the hymnal is very bouncy–it’s such a happy-sounding song!  Go ahead and listen to it if you want (this video is from a WELS church, hence the different hymn number).  Despite the spooky image, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is a great hymn that teaches what baptism gives us, tells of Christ’s death and resurrection, beautifully explains what happens when we die, and provides comfort as we face sin and death.   I love this hymn, open-eyed graves and all.

What is your favorite “creepy” hymn?  


Introverts and Liturgical Worship

Last night I finished reading Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh.  Overall, I didn’t find this book as enlightening as I hoped.  While Rev. McHugh does an excellent job defining introversion, his Presbyterian background differs too much from my Lutheran upbringing for me to gain much insight on how to thrive in a church community as an introvert.  From theology to church structure, I found most of my experiences as an introvert in traditional worship churches didn’t line up with his megachurch and evangelism-oriented church experiences.

However, his had some interesting comments in his last chapter about introverts and liturgical worship.  He wrote:

A paradox I uncovered in my research is that introverts often feel more freedom in worship services that feature traditional liturgy than they do in ones that feature more open, informal, unstructured styles of worship.  Introverts often appreciate the depth of liturgical prayers and hymns, as well as the rich symbolism that fill traditional churches.  They may feel less expectation from worship leaders in these churches to offer outward, emotional responses.  One friend who attends a traditional church said that the liturgy “guides me into God’s presence” and requires less energy on his part than the nondenominational church he used to attend.  

Some introverts decry the shallowness of contemporary worship songs and their repetitive refrains, which can feel emotionally manipulative.  They say that loud music disrupts their internal dialogue with the Spirit.  One member of a charismatic church lamented that when people showed emotion in worship, the pastor would proclaim “The Spirit is really moving this morning!”  These kinds of churches tend to encourage spontaneous bodily responses–raising arms, kneeling, dancing–and many introverts are uncomfortable with these kinds of reactions and the attention they draw.  And the more the expectation for this kind of worship grows, the more introverts consider it artificial and stifling.
–Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church  pages 190-191

Shockingly, many of his reasons that introverts like liturgical worship are the reasons I prefer liturgical worship. I like the depth, I like the structure, and I like the calm.  Of course, I also like the fact that Lutheran liturgy focuses on God coming to me instead of the other way around, but his description of liturgical worship was surprisingly accurate.  However, I am now curious about what can appeal to extroverts in a liturgical worship.

Is anyone an extrovert in a liturgical church?  If so, what do you like about the worship?  What do you dislike?


Hymnal Transition Fail

On Sunday morning I was really excited to see that one of the communion hymns was “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”  However, I learned the hymn using The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) and we were singing from The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH).  No biggie, right?  Wrong.  Apparently the two settings (tunes?) are just different enough to have me become completely lost while singing.  To make matters worse, the congregation hadn’t sang the hymn very often so they got lost as well.  Our joyful noise to the Lord was more of a confused mumble.    


Why Using a Hymnal Is Such a Comfort

It would be foolish and prideful of me to claim that using the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) is the only way to worship.  I realize that there are many styles of worship and that God never gave a specific rubric for worship in the Bible–a church doesn’t have to use LSB to having meaningful worship.  However, that being said, I think my worship experience yesterday makes a strong case for the unified use of the hymnal within the LC-MS.

This past week was moving week for my husband and me.  On Thursday and Friday we traveled about 650 miles from our farmhouse to our new home (which I am dubbing “vicarage house”).  Since my husband technically has a week or two before starting his vicarage and the current vicar was preaching the last time, we decided that we would wait another week before worshiping at with the vicarage congregation.  However, this also meant that we needed to find a different church to attend on Sunday morning.

My husband found a tiny Lutheran church about 30 minutes from the vicarage house.  Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by the pastor.  He explained to us that they were using Divine Setting III from the hymnal and gave us a card so we could take communion.  We found a pew and waited for the service to start.

Nothing has been more comforting in this move than to walk into a strange church 650+ miles away from where we worshiped last Sunday and know what was going on.  I may not know where the post office is, I may not know how to get to the bank, I may not know what on earth I am going to do with myself this year but I do know DS III.  I have heard that some people don’t like a traditional liturgy because it isn’t exciting enough or that it doesn’t change enough from week to week.  However, when everything around me is different and a bit scary, I don’t want an “exciting” or “unusual” church service.  All I wanted yesterday was to hear God’s Word and receive the Lord’s Supper without feeling overwhelmed and confused.  Thanks to that hymnal-using congregation, I was able to find just that.


My First Easter Vigil

My husband has been talking about attending an Easter Vigil since we started dating.  Unfortunately, since most churches don’t have this service, we never had an opportunity to attend a vigil service.  Not this year!  Much to my husband’s happiness, his field work church has an Easter Vigil every year and we were staying town for Easter.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced about vigiling the night before Easter.  Much like crossing myself or wearing crucifixes, I thought of a vigil as “too Catholic” (a distinction that I use a lot and my husband has never understood).  However, since I have spent the last three Easters hearing about how great attending this service would be, I decided to check it out.

This Easter Vigil was divided into six small services.  The first service was the Service of Light, where the congregation enters the church following the paschal candle.  At this point, the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed, I believe to remind us that Christ still lay in the tomb.  The second service was the Service of Readings, where passages from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and Daniel were read.  The third service was the Service of Holy Baptism, where the congregation restated parts of the baptismal liturgy to remind them of their own baptism.  The fourth service was the Service of Prayer, where the Litany of the Resurrection was said–lots of “Have mercy” stated.

Then came one of the most beautiful transitions into Easter I have ever seen.  The fifth service was the Service of the Word, where the first “Alleluia!” of the Easter season was proclaimed and the lights turned back on to full brightness.  During the hymn of praise (“I Know That My Redeemer Lives”) the altar was stripped of the Good Friday black and replaced with the Easter white.  During this service there was also a sermon focusing on God’s promise to Abraham that “Your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” (Genesis 22:17b)–surprise, the enemy is death and Jesus has now conquered death!–and on Joesph of Arimathea’s faith .  Pretty cool stuff.  The sixth and final service was the Service of Holy Communion, where we had the Lord’s Supper.

There are many reasons why people might shy away from attending an Easter Vigil–it’s too long (the one I went to took an hour and 45 minutes), it’s too hard to go to church that many times in one week (which I totally understand, I missed the Maundy Thursday service), it’s too Catholic, and so on.  However, if you ever have an opportunity to go to a vigil I would encourage you to at least try it.  It was a clear and beautiful way to leave the gloom of Good Friday behind and enter joyfully into the Easter season.  And on that note, Happy Easter to you all!  Christ has risen!  Alleluia!