This Liturgical Dance
John 4:23, "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
Hebrews 12:28-29, "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
Watching good ballroom dance is mesmerizing. And perhaps the key (if I knew the key to dancing, you would think it would be more self-evident in my so-called “dancing”) is tension between two parties. Marriage has been described as a dance, not as one party rolling over the other in a mosh pit, but two loving participants pushing gently against the other, not out of self-interest, but in leaning in to be braced against the other, supporting the other, and not relying just on self.
In our worship service we do a bit of a dance. In this space we explore the vertical relationship between God and man, in the context of our horizontal fellowship, us together. And while in this space, fueled by the Holy Spirit, we hear from God in Word and in sacrament, and we respond. We dance. This is not quite the same as two people dancing, two who are equal, but in this dance we are invited by one who is in every way greater. He leans down to us and asks us to dance. And in his grace we should respond, not only in our words, but with our whole selves.
As we then prepare worship services, we do want the service to be a drama, incorporating the whole story of our sin and our redemption, acknowledging our weakness in confession and celebrating our liberation. We also incorporate the Old and New Testaments, showing that God has spoken as part of one story his very character in Scripture, revealing himself to us and inviting us into his family. We are directed in worship by The Bible itself, God revealing to us how we should worship him. This means that our worship will make sense, it (we hope) will not feel arbitrary, but will invite you instead to participate in this dance. As a function of this reality we will be incorporating more responsive readings in our worship, allow more time for freedom of response in worship, and be even more bodily engaged. God’s Word instructs us as to the elements of worship that are absolutely crucial, but the way they are expressed in local vernaculars will vary, and should vary, depending on where they are implemented. In other words, the Argentine tango may not fly in Poland, but there is still dance in Poland. God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and some will preach truth in Spanish and others in Mandarin. Further, to be open in this way is an expression of love, of invitation, to learn how to dance like our neighbors have been dancing for years.
It was pointed out yesterday in a seminar I attended that it is too often the case that those who want to just celebrate in worship are reluctant to get on their knees in humble submission to God, and those who are willing to be introspective are reluctant to shout for joy. Both of these attitudes are integral in worship, that we are quiet before our God, and exuberant before the grace that he has shown. I will be a better leader in this area as we continue to grow as a worshiping body. But I do invite you too to stretch yourself (not physically stretch before worship, that would be weird), but do be ready to be engaged in worship. Get ready for the dance.