6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
1Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! 2Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.
One of the most frequent questions visitors have about our service of worship, one of the questions that you may also have, is this: What’s with all the different postures? We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow heads, we lift hands – why all the variety?
The answer to this question is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as creatures with body and soul. As those who have bodies, God expects us to use them for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them is important. This is especially true of our sexual conduct; but the principle applies more broadly. All our actions should reflect our reverence for God and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory to raise these very bodies from the grave. Our bodies matter.
So this leads us to the second answer to our question: why all the variety? The answer is that in worship there are a variety of things we do. We praise and thank the Lord; we confess our sins; we hear the assurance of forgiveness; we listen to the reading of God’s Word; we confess the creeds; we present our tithes and offerings; we pray; we learn from the Scriptures; we feast with God at His Table. This wonderful variety demands a variety of responses – both verbally and bodily. There is no “one size fits all” bodily posture for worship.
And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us and, at times, command us, to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider our texts today from the psalms, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (95:6). And again, “Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD” (134:1-2). These are just a few examples of bodily postures described in the context of worship.
So we worship with a variety of postures, first, because we are bodily creatures and what we do with our bodies matters, second, because we do a variety of things in worship, and third, because Scripture itself commends a variety of postures in worship. But here’s one reason we do not worship with a variety of postures: just to put on a show or go through the motions. After all, the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we worship coram Deo, before the very face of God. He is here with us and we dare not treat Him lightly. He calls us to worship; we respond by standing to praise Him. He thunders at our sin; we respond by kneeling to confess it. He assures us of pardon; we stand to listen and enter boldly into His presence through the shed blood of Christ. He instructs us from His Word; we stand to give our attention to its reading. This is the drama of the Divine Service – but it’s a drama that is meaningful only when accompanied by hearts that love and cherish Him. We are to “glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” – one without the other is hypocrisy.
So what of you? Why do you stand? Why do you kneel? Why do you sit? Do you do it just because that’s what you’re being told to do? Do you kneel so you won’t appear out of place? Do you sit so you can take a nap? Or do you do all these things because you recognize with awe and wonder that the God we worship this Day has invited you into His very presence to worship? That He is here with us.
So today as we have entered into God’s presence He has thundered at our sin – let us confess that we have often just gone through the motions of worship; and, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.