Psalm 95:6 (NKJV)
6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Psalm 134:1–2 (NKJV)
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 these questions is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as bodily creatures. Hence, God expects us to use our bodies for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them matters. Our actions should reflect our reverence for Him and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory and 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.
And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider the texts I have read from the psalms – “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” 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.” These are just a couple examples of bodily invitations given in the psalter, different bodily actions we are to perform in worship.
As we consider this threefold rationale, however, we must beware lest we merely go through the motions. For the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we have gathered to worship in God’s very presence. 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 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 is a drama that is only meaningful when accompanied by hearts that love and fear Him.
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?
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.