Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Power of Gestures
Some are suspicious of gestures and postures during worship -- fearful of a religion which is formalistic, in other words, that worships form without substance, form without spirit. Their concern is based upon a faulty understanding of Scripture's promise that those who worship Him will worship Him in Spirit and Truth -- as if this were somehow in opposition to form, ritual, gesture, or posture.
Where I came from in Nebraska is home to the one finger wave (NO, not that finger!). Driving down the road you raise your pointing finger off the steering wheel and it signifies, "Hi, how are you... how are things going... have a good day..." I still find it hard not to practice this gesture of friendship (given to strangers as well as those you know) but Tennessee does not understand it.
I think of the many gestures that form part of our unwritten communication -- ways in which we say things without words. It happens in the sports arena and in the mall and in schools and a thousand other places. It also happens in Church.
Worship involves gestures, gestures that have meaning because they are born from hearts filled with faith. When we kneel, it says something about our humility and about God's majesty. When we stand, it says something about honor and respect of Him who is God and Lord of all. When we fold our hands in prayer, it speaks of trust, devotion, and love. When we extend our hands in the sharing of peace, it says something about fellowship and friendship. When the chalice is elevated at the consecration, it says something about who is present in bread and wine.
No one suggests that these gestures have meaning or significance without faith. But in faith, they speak without words what we confess in our hearts regarding sin and its death, God and His majesty, Christ and His mercy, the Spirit and His grace.
When someone folds his or her hand over the heart at the national anthem, something is said. We all acknowledge this is a gesture of meaning and significance. So let us also acknowledge that part of the worship of God's house happens without words being spoken or lips moving... in the way we carry ourselves, in the posture we show, in hands folded or uplifted... These too are worship... in Spirit... and in Truth.