“You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:30
Our Lord calls us to keep his Sabbath. As God’s people we share sabbath rest in Christ as we gather to worship in Spirit and in truth. We reverence his holy place as we seek our Savior and hear his word together! In our worship there is both ceremony and there is celebration as we enter the presence of our God. The sound of the bell toll calls us to meditate before the Lord as we prepare for the holy moment to come. We rise to sing our King’s praises and then mark
ourselves with the sign of his cross at the speaking of his name. After this we fall to our knees to confess and then to hear the pardon for sin that our Lord alone can give!
As human beings we express things with words and also with actions. So ceremonies are important in our service of worship and may aid in our celebration. A physical gesture or even the posture of a person in worship might indicate, direct and perhaps even assist in expressing reverent devotion. Think, for example, of the practice of kneeling with others at the communion rail in the presence of our Lord. This action may express inner reverence and devotion. Will this action at the very least remind one of the honor due the Lord who is present in this holy moment?
Ceremony has been a part of Christian worship from the beginning. In the time of the Reformation the historic Lutheran Confessions speak of the use of ceremony in the worship
celebration in order to clarify the worship practices of the Evangelical church.
“Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass (The service of Communion); for
the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the
usual ceremonies are also preserved.” (Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV)
Long ago at Saint John we had made use of a list of suggestions for proper etiquette in our worship together. These items ranged from suggestions regarding entering with reverence, to
avoiding actions that might distract our neighbor in the faith. This list has fallen into disuse over time, and so, having discussed with our elders, the plan is to update and consolidate the list for our use today. We might then include it in our worship bulletins with the goal of aiding all participants in the service, even as the Lord serves us in his saving grace!
Although some may consider historic Christian worship as little more than form without substance, we recall the words of the psalmist. He reminds us to worship and to bow down; to
kneel before the LORD, our Maker! The reason the psalmist gives for this manner of worship is that he alone is our God, and that we are his people! Let us reverence his holy place as we make use of ceremony for the purpose of celebrating the presence of our Lord!