"A Hallelujah Hootenanny!"

I was not exposed to a strong liturgical type of worship experience during my teenage years. However, at the larger than average First Baptist Church in our county seat town, we did have elements in the service that included: robed choir anthems, well thought out pastoral prayers followed by beautiful choral amens, response readings involving the congregation, organ preludes and postludes and a strictly followed and printed order of service. We followed the admonition of the Apostle Paul who taught, “Be sure that everything is done properly and in order!” (1 Corinthians 14:40, NLT).

A Happy Face!

Last Sunday, we returned to my hometown on Father’s Day and attended another fine church where my dad is a member. Over the past years, their worship service has morphed into a more blended service of traditional and contemporary elements. Like many churches today, the words to the songs and Scripture readings were on video screens. The service included a couple of the old favorite hymns mixed with several modern choruses that were upbeat in tempo, and yet appropriately worshipful. The praise team, sermon and total worship experience was excellent. It was evident that considerable planning had gone into the service and true to the Scriptures, “Everything was done in an appropriate manner too!”

During the pastor’s sermon, he used an expression more common in the south that brought a smile and a snicker or two from many of us. He was illustrating how authentic worship should be focused on Christ. If not, he said, it could be described as nothing more than a “hallelujah hootenanny!” I did a little background work on that expression and discovered it may have its etymological roots in the words, “hootin’ and hollerin.” I had a close friend who pastored a charismatic church and he often teased me, as a Baptist, for being a lot more quiet and sedate in my worship preferences. He would say by way of a question, “You know, Mike, the difference between my people and your people? We’re the happy ones!” He would then let out a great big belly laugh!

I’m sure that my friend, Greg, was trying to get me to loosen up a little bit in my worship. I could guess that he had participated in more than a few “hallelujah hootenannies” over the years! I have never forgotten his good-natured jabbing! Now that I am retired from the active pastorate these days, I get to sit in the pew and observe worship practices while I am worshiping, too! I have noted, too often, a disconnect between what we are singing, whether traditional hymns or modern choruses. The expressions on our faces don't always match the music coming from our mouths! Why is that?

The Psalms have plenty of instruction regarding the attitude and expression of worship. Two of my favorites affirm, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24). And this specific invitation to sing out, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps. 122:1). When you and I attend worship, be reminded that those watching us should see the connection between the joy in our hearts and the joy on our faces! In short, “Tell your face what you are feeling!” Smile and be happy! As you look around this Lord’s Day, you may see that your gladness is contagious!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com



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