IV: Expressing Our Faith
Q: Why does Lutheran worship have so much "getting-up-and-down" in it?
A: Compared with many denominations, Lutherans do seem to engage in a great deal of "liturgical calisthenics". Our liturgies are filled with action and movement because common gestures in our worship are a way to let the whole person pray, as well as a way of expressing the unity in prayer of the whole people of God - the Church. We use gestures and movements because of a deep respect within the Lutheran Church for the Incarnation - theology comes off the page and becomes a matter of the heart and body.
It is not, of course, a matter of just any gestures performed in just any way. Certain actions convey special meanings for Christians. Some of these include:
SITTING: Sitting is the easiest posture to explain in worship, perhaps because we do so little of it. We sit to listen (at the first and second readings and the sermon) and to watch (during the distribution of Communion).
STANDING: We rise to greet the clergy as they enter the Church (Entrance rite), to express our joy (Hymn of Praise, Offertory, Post Communion), to honor Christ (Verse and Gospel), to voice our beliefs (Creed), and to welcome the Christ who is in our midst (Great Thanksgiving).
KNEELING: We kneel to express humility (to receive the sacrament).
BOWING: Bowing is an action of reverence. We bow our heads in prayer to show respect for God, toward the altar and the cross because they represent Christ's presence among us, at the words "and became Incarnate ... " in the Creed to express our thanks and humility, at the "Holy, Holy, Holy" to express our awe in the presence of God, and when the Name of Jesus is mentioned as a sign that we accept Him as Lord.
These, along with making the sign of the cross, folding the hands, genuflecting, taking Communion, exchanging the Peace, processing, and many other gestures, are ways of expressing our faith, showing deep adoration and heartfelt praise, and being people who can fully pray.
Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.