C.S. Lewis once commented, in reference to the liturgy, that “As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance.” He recognized that learning the liturgy was similar to learning how to dance. It took time, practice, and familiarity. Once the steps became so ingrained in the person, however, they were able to really dance. We believe this is true for our liturgy. When you first experience our ancient worship, it will likely feel awkward, unfamiliar, difficult, and uncomfortable. At the same time, you will notice its obvious reverence, mystery, meaning, and significance. We believe the steps of this dance are most appropriate for entering into the impenetrable mystery of the presence of the Triune God. The liturgy opens up a biblical reality, where Christ is present in His gifts for His people along with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven. As such, we believe that the Lutheran Dance is worth learning and practicing. We will not abandon it for the fads and novelties of our culture or for personal preference. Instead, we invite you to join us in the hard and worthy task of discovering the rich beauty of the ancient liturgy.
The Lutheran Dance is also known as the Divine Service, the name Lutherans typically attach to their worship. Contrary to most Christian perspectives that focus on worship as a human effort, Lutherans believe that worship is first and foremost something that God does for us. We believe worship is God serving us with forgiveness of sins, grace, and salvation through His gifts of Word and Sacrament. Only when we have received these gifts do we then respond to God through prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. The Lutheran Dance is like the two-step: God serves us so that we may serve Him. It is this rhythm, God to us and then us to God, which marks and defines our worship. Lutherans believe it is important that worship places God at the center. Therefore, we use the God-given words of the Bible to ensure our focus is on God and His certain promises, not on our personal wants or desires or our confused feelings and emotions.
In the practice of the Divine Service, God calls His church together so that He can bestow His gifts to His people and they can enjoy His presence. God’s people enjoy a privileged relationship marked by His loving-kindness. As such, God comes to His people through Word and Sacrament in order to bring them His grace and forgiveness. In the liturgy, the pastor speaks and acts on behalf of God in these sacramental acts. God is doing the work, but the pastor serves as His called representative. God’s people passively receive His gifts in faith and then actively express their faith with prayers, praise, and thanksgiving. In the liturgy, the pastor leads God’s people in these sacrificial acts. The Lord encounters His people and by His grace they express their faith in word and deed. This evangelical rhythm flows throughout the service and is directed by the pastor (Eph. 2:8-10).
The Divine Service consists of three sections that form a unitive whole: the Service of Preparation, the Service of the Word, and the Service of the Sacrament.
In the preparatory section of the liturgy, the pastor announces to His people that they are in the presence of the Triune God, reminding the people of their baptism through which God adopted them. The pastor then leads the people in recognizing and confessing the sad reality of their sinful lives as they stand in God’s holy presence. But God treats His people as He did Isaiah. The pastor, as God’s servant, speaks God’s words of grace and forgiveness, which are applied to His people through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
After God works His forgiveness through Holy Absolution, God’s people are led by the pastor to give Him thanks and praise (introit, psalm or entrance hymn), plead for His intervention in their lives (Kyrie), and joyfully proclaim the mighty redemptive acts of God, culminating in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gloria). The pastor and the people then exchange peace, which reflects the peace that now exists between Christ and His children and the pastor then prays on behalf of Christ’s people to focus their attention on God’s Word. God then speaks through His Word read and proclaimed. The pastor applies God’s Word to God’s people, speaking for God Himself to direct them to the forgiveness and salvation offered in Christ. The pastor then leads God’s people to respond appropriately to His grace. The church responds like Peter and confesses its faith in the one true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, using the ancient creeds shared by all Christians. God’s people respond with their prayers, presenting their needs to their heavenly Father, knowing that He hears and cares for His people. And God’s people respond to His Word, gathering their gifts to support the work of His Church. Offering allows all the opportunity to praise God with the gifts He has given them.
The pastor then directs God’s people to prepare their hearts to feast at the Lord’s table and to give thanks to their God. Acknowledging that heaven and earth collapse on each other in the presence of God, the church sings the Sanctus, joining with all the heavenly realms as Christ rides into our midst in the lowly forms of bread and wine, His body and His blood. The church gives thanks by praying the perfect prayer given by Christ Himself. The words of Christ, then spoken by the pastor, brings the church into the mystery of the Sacrament of the Altar, the true and real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine. There Christ gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. There Christ gives His people peace, which they share with one another before kneeling together at the altar of the Lord. The church then sings the Agnus Dei, which expresses the reality of Christ’s presence among them in the Sacrament to take away sins and give peace with the Father. The pastor then distributes Christ’s body and blood to His people, speaking on behalf of Christ, “Take, eat” and “Take, drink” for the forgiveness of sins. When the distribution has ended, God’s people proclaim the Nunc Dimittis. Like Simeon, the church has seen God’s salvation in Christ through the Sacrament and affirms its belief that God’s promises are for them and the entire world. The pastor then leads the people in giving thanks for God’s goodness and mercy before acting on God’s behalf to place God’s name and blessing on His people as they depart into the world for service and mission.
Please contact Pastor Hall by phone or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in enrolling for dance lessons.