Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Body language

"Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Psalm 95:6. This one verse has been in my mind continually since Sunday, and I am still processing what happened in our church that morning.

We don't bow down to anyone. It's the American mindset. Besides, it's culturally foreign to us. The most we might do is stand up to show respect--a standing ovation or rising when the national anthem is sung. We might stand in church when God's word is read. I know kneeling is common in the Catholic church, but not in ours. In ancient times people were accustomed to bowing down to kings and to idols. Sometimes this was mandatory. Picture Americans bowing down to George Bush! I can hear my sons' choice words to that idea.

Let's look at what it means to worship. (This is from my sermon notes.) The word "worship" in this Psalm means "to cast yourself prostrate on your face." Not exactly what we think of when we hear the word. This posture expresses humiliation and surrender. Our director of music filled in as pastor on Sunday. He said Psalm 95 traditionally was a public call to worship. So falling on your face was done publically? Who in this day and age would do that, even in church? We might mess up our clothes. What would other people think?

When was the last time you fell on your face before God, even in private? Maybe we should. Is he worthy of that kind of worship? "For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods." Psalm 95:3. "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." Revelation 5:12. Are we serious about our surrender to this God?

"Bowing down" expresses humility and respect to someone greater than we are. It shows we are indebted to someone. Kneeling is a position of submission and receptivity. It is acknowledging that we have been blessed and given gifts. Do we regularly bow down or kneel in prayer? We could do this to show we appreciate what God has done for us and to be ready to listen to him.

We were invited to worship in whatever way we desired during the service, in a long, silent moment with our own director of music in his fine suit kneeling with his face to the floor in front of us all. I wish I could have torn off my inhibitions and fallen prostrate to the floor. I don't know if anyone did. People did kneel, a mostly strange concept in our conservative church. It was a very private moment and yet a very public declaration. I felt freedom in giving my body to the God I love. I thought of Peter when Jesus was about to wash his feet and Peter said no. Jesus said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Peter then said, Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well." John 13:8, 9. Take all of me, Lord.

Does God care what position our bodies are in when we worship him? He does care about the position of our hearts. Maybe our bodies reveal our hearts. Or maybe our body posture can change our hearts when we throw off our pride and allow ourselves to be broken. Then we would be ready to hear from God. I will end for today with a quote from our director, "My body tells the reminds me in whose presence I dwell and who I worship." What is your body saying to God?


Anonymous said...

I remember attending our Catholic church's Good Friday service a few years ago for the first time since I was a young girl and being extremely moved when, at the beginning of the service, all the priests of our parish processed up the aisle and then lay prostrate at the altar. It was a humbling experience for me and when I attended the service again the next year I was just as moved as I was before. It was not only a sign of the priests humility but, in my mind, also a way of them saying, "I give my life for Christ; I gave up everything to dedicate myself to Christ and His Bride, the church." Despite the scandal in the Catholic church with the priest abuse issue, I gained a new respect for priests by that simple yet meaningful act of laying prostrate before the entire congregation and, more importantly, before Christ.

As a Catholic, it is normal for me to get on my knees when I pray; I really don't give it much is just ingrained in me...when I talk to God, I get on my knees (where I belong). We kneel at Mass because we are in the presence of our Lord and we kneel at home because we are talking to God and are in his presence in prayer. A frustration for me is teaching my children to kneel while they pray. They start out kneeling but by the middle of our prayers they may be sitting or laying or rolling around. I don't want to get angry and have them associate prayers with mom getting angry but I want them to realize that they are talking to God and they need to show respect. I remember the speaker at my bible study of Isaiah this past spring at the Church of the Nazerene talking about Isaiah 6 when Isaiah describes his vision of God. The speaker said that if we are going to talk to God (pray) we need to remember that we are interupting all the angels who are worshipping God and singing, "Holy, holy, holy". So I try to keep that in mind when I pray and I tell my kids the same. We are interupting the angels worshipping God and we ought be humble and respectful. After reading the blog entry, I feel that I should do more than kneel as laying prostrate would be more fitting for the King of Kings.

Anonymous said...

I read Elizabeth George's book, A Woman's Call to Prayer. In it she talks about the various postures mentioned in the Bible when people prayed, kneeling and laying prostrate being just 2 of them. It was very interesting.

Last Sunday at our church, one of the young ladies in our church spontaneously danced before the Lord during a worship song. It was beautiful. She later read us the story of how King David danced before the Lord when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem and how his wife was embrassed by his behavior.

I was truely moved by her dance. Although if you had asked me earlier, I would have told you that kind of thing makes me uncomfortable and should be avoided.

I think we need to be willing to worship God as the Holy Spirit prompts us. This is a hard one for us with our traditions and our worry over what others will think of us.