In many Lutheran congregations it is a common practice to reverence the altar and the cross (usually positioned in the same place), especially for worship leaders such as acolytes, pastors, and assisting ministers. This act of reverence is usually performed with a slight bow toward the cross and the altar – an act of humility and honor before the symbol of our Lord’s death and resurrection, and the table where he comes to us with grace and promise in bread and cup.
In recent weeks I have started also to reverence the congregation before I walk down the aisle during the sending song. After bowing toward the cross and altar, I turn and bow toward the congregation and the camera which points me toward the congregation gathered online. The congregation is the Body of Christ, a symbol - and the incarnate reality of - Christ in this world.
Made to be the body of Christ, the congregation is truly holy and worthy of reverence – more so, even, than the furnishings which point us to God’s amazing grace. Because while wood and stain and craftsmanship are blessed gifts, the congregation is a gift like no other, for it is living and breathing and animated by the Holy Spirit, made in the image of God our Creator and knit together as the one Body of Christ in the world.
Let us honor not only the symbols of our faith, but also the living, breathing witnesses of our faith – the church and the people who are the church. For they, for we, are the ones Jesus calls to be his body given for the sake of the world. Such a gift is truly worthy of our reverence.