Remembering to ask the congregation to stand or sit…is a repetitive action that often slips from my conscious mind as I’m leading people in worship. Especially if you are leading worship in an unfamiliar setting it’s always one of the things I have to make special notes to address.
I remember the first time I heard that sitting was one particular posture of the body that was never mentioned as a ‘worshipful’ posture. Yet….we spend so much of our time worshipping as seated people. It’s actually a heritage of the spaces that early Christians moved into as the faith became legalized throughout the early Roman empire. “Pews” or simple short stone seating was the standard arrangement for public spaces. So this eventually became the standard, the ‘norm.’ I remember when I first visited a Russian Orthodox church where there were no pews. I had architectural vertigo as the floor rose to meet the high ceiling. When I worshipped with the congregation later I stood for almost 2 hours (with some kneeling blended in)! This practice of standing is more closely aligned with the early church practice and is certainly more thoroughly biblical.
Here are a number of great reflections on why we stand in worship.
1. Standing is the posture of victory
Our Savior rose victorious from the tomb. Our first images of the resurrected Christ are a standing, walking Lord on the move with the gospel hope. In our worship we reflect the victory we share in Christ by standing to worship Him.
2. Standing is the posture of pilgrimage
The book of Acts is the story of a church on the move. Jerusalem, samaria to the ends of the earth…until the savior returns to complete all things. Standing reminds us that we are aliens and strangers in this world, and that part of our gospel obedience is to journey into all the nations with the good news.
3. Standing is the image we are given of heavenly worship
if we turn the page to Revelation 7:9 we see ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb.’
4. Standing lends itself to a more heartfelt projection of heart and voice.
Singing is uniquely suited to standing. Our diaphragm, our lungs, and our voices all work better when we are standing. This benefits us, the congregation and our Lord who sings with us.
If you ever have the opportunity visit an orthodox congregation. They stand for their entire service, which are often quite long. I once worshipped with a friend at an Orthodox church where the service was almost 2hours. We stood for the entire time. The young and the old. It was glorious as I thought of the heavenly saints before the throne.