Participating in Bodily Worship

For human beings, worship is both a physical and a spiritual activity.

When the Apostle Paul tells us to “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper (‘logikos‘) worship,” I think the first application pertains to what Christians do when they assemble on Sunday morning.

The place of worship has moved from the temple in Jerusalem to the assembly of the faithful. Instead of offering a ram or a bull, the congregation unites itself to Christ’s offering of himself on the cross. All who are united to Christ a members of his royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). But Christian worship is still a bodily, physical activity.

Every one of us is a somatic psycho-social whole. Even our thoughts and our emotions take place in physical bodies. What we do with our bodies shapes our perceptions and our affections.

Among the ways that can Christians “offer their bodies” in worship are:

  • Touch the water in the font at the entrance of the worship space and make the sign of the cross.
  • Sit silently in receptive meditation before the beginning of the service.
  • Bow when the processional cross passes by during the entrance and recessional hymns.
  • Make the sign of the cross at the invocation of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), especially at the opening prayer and closing benediction.
  • Kneel for the prayer of confession of sin and absolution.
  • Stand for prayers and hymns of praise, adoration and thanksgiving.
  • Stand for the reading of the gospel.  
  • Raise your hands in prayer and praise.
  • Sing hymns to God and proclaim the gospel in song.
  • Sing parts of the the worship liturgy (for example, the Gloria Patri, the Doxology, the Kyrie, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Sanctus)
  • Chant the psalm of the day responsively.
  • Join with the celebrant in the responsive prayers and dialogues.
  • Say “Amen” at the end of prayers.
  • Listen actively and reflectively as the word of God is read and expounded.
  • Proclaim the gospel and confess the faith of the church in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
  • Exercise the priesthood of all believers by praying for the church, the world and those in need.
  • Pray the Lord’s prayer aloud with the congregation.
  • Take the hand of your brothers and sisters and speak peace to them.
  • Offer your physical gifts to God (bread and wine for table, money to support the Lord’s work).
  • Process to the Lord’s table as if you are entering the New Jerusalem.
  • Approach the Lord’s table with a beggar’s hands (one over the other, open to receive).
  • Kneel to receive the body and blood of our Lord.
  • Eat bread and drink wine at the Lord’s table. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
  • Make the sign of the cross after receiving communion.

Passive worship makes passive Christians. Worship God with every part of your being.

Related: On the Physical Nature of Spiritual Worship