Take notice of your posture right now. Are you comfortable? Is your spine curved? Is your neck tilted? Are your shoulders tense? Our physical posture is important. We’ve perhaps become more aware of this during the pandemic, as many of us swapped our office, swivel chair for a wooden dining chair, or perhaps the sofa. There are YouTube workouts for posture, routines of head titles and downward dogs, as well as many products online available to buy.
But what about our spiritual posture? What about both the physical position that we come to God, as well as the approach or attitude.
The Bible has much to say about our spiritual posture. Philippians 4:1 says, “my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord”. Similarly, in Ephesians 6:10-18 we are invited to put on the full armour of God so that we can be strong and stand our ground against the devil’s schemes.
Another posture we see in the Bible is sitting. In Luke 10:38-42 we read about two sisters, Mary and Martha, who welcome Jesus into their homes. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teachings, “but Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” To this, Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her””.
How often do we busy ourselves with all the things that ned to be done, growing more and more anxious and upset, when instead we can be more like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet.
In prayer and worship, many people find it useful to hold out their hands to illustrate their openness to receive from God. Other people may bow and kneel on the floor, maybe illustrating their respect and reverence to the King, or perhaps to portray their exhaustion and need for God to take over. There’s a popular quote that says, “when life gets too hard to stand, then kneel”. Sometimes we change our posture in the presence of God.
In practical situations, perhaps in families, workplaces, friendships, ministry, even reading the news, our posture affects our gesture. The posture of confrontation or condemnation limits the gestures of love, grace, acceptance that are open to us. The posture of accompanying opens up the gestures of love and grace.
What is your posture in difficult situations? (Yarhouse, 2018)
In the past year of doing Church differently, I’ve become more aware of my posture - that is, my approach or attitude.
I best engage with worship when I’m surrounded by people, even more so if they’re raising their hands and moving about. I best engage with worship when there’s lots of loud instruments, and when we sing songs I like. I best engage with sermons when there’s teaching that clearly applies to my life; my studying, my working, my relationships, my spending, my consuming. I best engage with sermons when there’s something to look at, like a video or pictures, and when there’s stories, not just from the Bible but from the speaker’s life.
I have recently written my dissertation on how some churches successfully engage emerging adults (18-25s), and found that these ways of engaging with church are common for my age group. I think that part of this is to do with personal preference. Just as we each have different learning styles in the classroom, or you might prefer watching IT whilst I’d like to watch Notting Hill for the billionth time, I think we each have different worship and teaching styles. However, whilst there are styles of teaching and worship I engage best in, my posture is often what actually limits me meeting with God. If I go into Church (or log onto Church these days) with my journalling Bible, pens, my notebook, and with a posture of “I’m ready to hear from God”, then I am more likely to learn & receive. Sometimes, I think our posture gets in the way of us meeting with God, similar to Martha’s posture when meeting with Jesus. She welcomed Jesus into her home, but her posture was closed, whereas Mary’s was open.
So I finish with a challenge to you: what is your spiritual posture? Are you standing firm, equipped with the armour of God? Are you busying yourself, worrying and upset, or are you kneeling at Jesus' feet? When it comes to Church, particularly during Holy Week, are you closed or are you open?