Cuthbert United Methodist Church
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

THE BODY IN WORSHIP

Our postures in worship hold traditional meanings which “speak without words” for us and for our attitudes in  worship. 
STANDING  When  an important person enters the room, people stand.  As a mark of respect for God’s presence, we stand in worship as we say together our Call to Worship and Opening Prayer.  We also stand when we sing, which frees us to raise our hands or move to the music, but also signifies our common assent to what we are singing.  For the same reason, we stand for the Creed.  Standing for the Gospel Reading is a traditional practice highlighting the primary significance of the Christ story, and especially the words of Jesus, to our faith.  (This is a common but not universal practice.)  
SITTING  In 2 Samuel 7:16, David sat to pray. Students would sit at the Master’s feet to be taught.  This could be why we sit for the sermon and prayers (but IMHO, long periods of standing makes one think about achy feet more than what is being said!).  Sitting for worship/prayer  did not become common practice until pews were invented (just in time for those long Reformation expository sermons). 
KNEELING  We also have the opportunity to kneel in worship, especially for communion or altar calls.  Kneeling signifies our humility before God.  
OUR HANDS   Contrary to what you learned in Sunday school, you are not required to “fold your hands and bow your head” to pray.  But, this practice (a long history, especially in Jewish tradition) can help you to be still and minimize distractions.  Back in feudal times, serfs would fold their hands and place them into the hands of his Lord as a sign of his fidelity and loyalty.  It’s also been a sign of surrender. So it can be meaningful to imagine putting your folded prayer hands into God’s hands, as a way of showing your submission and faith.  Some like to sit with hands open, palms up, which is a physical way of making room for the Word (like a cradle).   You also may see the worship leader stretching out his/her arms, palms up, during the Benediction, initiating the Passing of the Peace, or the Great Thanksgiving prayer.  This is called “orans” and is an ancient prayer posture.   
MOVEMENTS  In the UMC, we don’t do a lot of bowing or signs of the cross, but they are certainly welcome  gestures in our church.  The sign of the cross is made from forehead to chest, then left shoulder to right. Along with the gesture, most people silently say (in the name of the) “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  Bowing or making the sign of the cross can set apart a special action, such as hearing the Gospel or the words of consecration in communion.  We rarely formally process in to worship (we’re just not built for it), but our acolytes do, as the light of Christ is brought in during our Centering Music.  We are invited to process forward to receive communion.  Each Sunday, at the end of worship, we all process out, following the Christ-Light, the Preacher and Worship Leaders into the world. You may have heard that “Methodists don’t dance,” but we do!  Sometimes we do a little sway, shuffle or toe-tap.  And we all enjoy our Sacred Dancers gracefully move to express the meaning of a special song.  Sometimes, we clap to music or after a special musical offering.  It’s important to understand that when we clap, it is not for someone in worship to receive appreciation – God gets all the glory!  But, out of a feeling of joy, or as an          accompaniment to singing, clapping is a natural worship response.  
 
A song I like says, “Body, mind, Spirit, voice – it takes the whole person to sing and rejoice!”  God created all of us, not just our Spirit, and what we do with our bodies has an impact on our spiritual approach.  Even more, if you try to remember why you’re standing/sitting/kneeling, etc., you will reinforce its power to help you keep your worship God-centered.