Sunday, July 13, 2008

Liturgical Dance

Last week I was meeting with Paul and Nate and they called my attention to the WordAlone Network News article Lutheran Worship: liturgical or confessional? That article, in the July-August 2008 issue, speaks in favor of stability in the order of worship from week to week. "The freshness of the service," it says, "should come from the sermon, not the liturgy." (Liturgy means the "order of worship.") The author, Robert Benne, even quotes one of my favorite theologians, C.S. Lewis, who says that prayer or worship should be like a dance that "he wasn't doing so long as he was counting one, two, three, four."

I think that means if you're feeling awkward during worship, you don't end up worshiping at all. I can understand that. And its true, as Benne writes, that some pastors "spend all kinds of time trying to write fresh liturgies for every Sunday, and putting tomes of material in the bulletin so people can read along." I don't do that, for either contemporary or traditional worship, but I know it happens.

(You can pick up a copy of that Network News issue at church. Perhaps later this month you can click here to download a pdf file. It's not available yet online but should be soon.)

There are, however, different kinds of dances and different kinds of liturgies. Some are formal. Others are not. Some don't even have "steps." Sometimes we just get up on the crowded floor and move.

Our contemporary worship is like that, and it won't be comfortable for all. Some of us are just more formal by nature. And some of us, including myself, really like the depth of hymn lyrics (words) more than the repetition of praise music.

I believe both formality and informality are important. Formal worship highlights the dignity and order which are important aspects of God's character. It's just that I think spontaneity and freedom, within the bounds of God's Word, are a part of God's character too.

** I wrote a bit about liturgy before. After I wrote that piece, I ended up changing my mind. We've been omitting the kyrie and hymn of praise from our traditional worship order for more than a month and no one has said anything yet. Now that I've called attention to it, someone probably will! ;-)

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