I worshiped with a different congregation yesterday. They’re a church on the deep end of the liturgical tradition, which means they had an elaborate, sturdy ritual scaffolding to hold God’s people before God in prayer. The church was high-ceilinged, marbled, and gilt. There were columns and candles and a great throne for the bishop above which hung a shield with the word humilitas–humility–which I found strangely endearing.
I love this sort of thing; I’m a high-church soul in a low-church ecclesiastical body. But what struck me about worshiping in this place, with this congregation that kneeled and went forward for communion in a harmony born of long tradition was not so much the finery and intricacy of it all, as impressive as that was. What grabbed me was the way that the sacred movement of the congregation was aimed at bringing us into an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We stood for the reading of the gospel. We went forward to receive the body of Christ.Standing for the gospel seemed to me a profound honoring of the words we were to hear, which happened to be Jesus’ invitation to “come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.” We stood because we expected to hear the very word of Jesus. We expressed with our whole bodies our faith that Jesus was showing up to speak his good news into our lives. At least, that’s how I experienced it. Jesus was talking to me.
I’m not proposing that every congregation should take up the ritual actions I was moved by. This post is not a call to arms. My intent is more modest: I just want to tell you about how I experienced Jesus showing up in worship, and how standing to hear him speak was a vital part of that experience. It seems to me like that sort of Jesus-encounter should be our regular expectation.
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!