Traditional Christian worship involves the whole person, including the physical body that Christ assumed and redeemed.
We’re not just an audience, seated to enjoy, critique or snooze through a performance by someone else.
Nor is worship limited to standing to sing or sway during a block of music.
The postures of traditional worship – sitting, kneeling and standing – are important expressions of the worship being offered to God.
Sitting is not passive. Many of us just “sat down to Thanksgiving dinner.” We feasted on abundance and enjoyed companionship. In worship, we sit to feast on the Word of God, read and preached. We don’t sit in isolation as if wolfing down drive thru food in our car, but at a generous board spread for a great gathering.*
Kneeling is the least natural of the postures. It hearkens to times when our concepts of equality hadn’t emerged. There were superior and inferior parties. We kneel as sinners to ask the mercy of the divine judge. We kneel in prayer as if pleading for help. In many churches we kneel for Holy Communion, in a true beggar’s posture, empty handed but for what God generously provides.
Standing is a confident posture. We stand up to affirm truth when we say the Creeds of the church. We stand up to sing, not only because that’s the best posture for vocal work but because faith gives us confidence to lift our voices to an invisible God. Some congregations stand to offer prayer, expressing confidence in God’s accessibility and desire to help. Others stand for Holy Communion, not just because the worship setting lacks space for kneeling but because an invitation from the Lord to his table should inspire confidence.
Jesus himself calls his people to stand in that glorious moment when he will make all things new – a new heavens and new earth,
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:27-28 NRSV, in the Gospel for the I Advent in the Revised Common Lectionary).
The “apocalypse” isn’t just CGI destruction for our gawking pleasure. It is profound pleasure and good news for those who are in Christ, a time for ultimate confidence. Stand up! Lift your sights! That which was longed for arrives; that which was hidden is made clear.
* Elijah was rather dangerous when sitting down, fyi.