Enough! A popular worship video a few years ago titled Me Church carried the tagline “where it’s all about you.” The video promises would-be attenders that the church service won’t start until they arrive, they won’t have to give but they can know what others do, a car wash and wax—even an oil change, Super Bowl tickets, and a pony (in the backyard).
But are these really worshipers? Are we? If our only motivation is what we get out of the service, then maybe not! Jesus said that God seeks those who worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Worshiping “in spirit” includes the realization that God is spiritual. Therefore we must be attuned to God’s will and work in the world. As Christians, worshiping “in truth” surely includes the idea of our lives conforming to the character and teachings of God revealed in the person and work of Jesus.
God complains about Judah’s worship practices, expressing no delight in sacrifice, offerings, incense, or solemn assemblies. Yet the levitical code prescribes these religious practices. How can God be so critical when the people attempt to follow God’s will? They indeed follow a form revealed by God, and they worship according to a semblance of truth. But they are not in sync with God’s spirit or God’s truth. They have forgotten that the fruit of authentic worship is faithful living. Worship calls them and us to repentance, ceasing evil to learn good, to seek justice, rescue the oppressed, and defend the widow. In other words, the measure of worship does not hinge on acquired information but on transformation by God.
In worship, we are not the audience. God is! Instead of focusing on where we want God to bless us today, may we be vehicles of God’s blessing to others.
God, forgive our self-centered focus. May we remember to worship you in accordance with the Holy Spirit who expresses your truth this day. Amen.
ThelessonfromIsaiahandthepsalmcallthe people of God to “Hear!” The message has to do with sacri ces and burnt offerings: God does not want them! The sacri cial system had come to be understood as a means of attempting to manipulate God for self-centered purposes, and the texts there- fore call for worship that is God-centered. The Gospel lesson also calls the people of God to decision. Our use of nancial resources is inextricably linked to our conviction that the future and our destiny lie ultimately with God. What we believe about the future affects how we live in the present. This af rmation is precisely the message of Hebrews. The entrusting of one’s life and future to God is “the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.” For those who trust in God’s reign, “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”
• Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. In what ways can you let go of a self-centered focus in worship?
• Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. What are your antidotes to worry? How do they allow you to deal with anxieties in your life?
• Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. What allows you to focus on the awe and wonder of being held in God’s grace?
• Read Luke 12:32-40. Where do you see God at work in your life? How is this awareness a part of having your “lamp lit”?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.