True Worship

Worship is something that people can get very passionate about.  There can be a great enthusiasm to tell others how it should be done, often thinking our way is the only way.  I suppose it is something we are passionate about because it is so meaningful, which is a good thing – but, we need to remember that different people need different things, and so different worship styles are ok.  Just because someone is not doing it the way we like does not mean that they are wrong – honestly!  They just have different need and ways of expressing themselves.

However, what really does matter is what is behind that worship.  It is not what we do, but why we do it, and similarly to last week, it’s not what we say in worship that is important so much as how we behave out of it.

Isaiah 58:1-12 (CEV)

True Religion

58 Shout the message!
    Don’t hold back.
Say to my people Israel:
You’ve sinned! You’ve turned
    against the Lord.
Day after day, you worship him
and seem eager to learn
    his teachings.
You act like a nation
that wants to do right
    by obeying his laws.
You ask him about justice,
and say you enjoy
    worshiping the Lord.

You wonder why the Lord
    pays no attention
when you go without eating
    and act humble.
But on those same days
    that you give up eating,
you think only of yourselves
    and abuse your workers.
You even get angry
    and ready to fight.
No wonder God won’t listen
    to your prayers!

Do you think the Lord
    wants you to give up eating
and to act as humble
    as a bent-over bush?
Or to dress in sackcloth
    and sit in ashes?
Is this really what he wants
    on a day of worship?

I’ll tell you
what it really means
    to worship the Lord.
Remove the chains of prisoners
    who are chained unjustly.
Free those who are abused!
Share your food with everyone
    who is hungry;
share your home
    with the poor and homeless.
Give clothes to those in need;
don’t turn away your relatives.

Then your light will shine
like the dawning sun,
and you
    will quickly be healed.
Your honesty will protect you
    as you advance,
and the glory of the Lord
    will defend you from behind.
When you beg the Lord for help,
    he will answer, “Here I am!”

Don’t mistreat others
or falsely accuse them
    or say something cruel.
10 Give your food to the hungry
    and care for the homeless.
Then your light will shine
    in the dark;
your darkest hour will be
    like the noonday sun.

11 The Lord will always guide you
and provide good things to eat
    when you are in the desert.
He will make you healthy.
You will be like a garden
    that has plenty of water
or like a stream
    that never runs dry.
12 You will rebuild those houses
    left in ruins for years;
you will be known
as a builder and repairer
    of city walls and streets.

This is really quite an angry tirade.  God is not happy.

People claim they are worshipping God, they maybe even believe they are faithfully, but God knows otherwise and he is cross.

Oh yes, they look like they are doing all the right things, even asking all the right questions, and fasting; but, and it is a huge but to God, they are not following through on that.  Now I get really grumpy when I am hungry, but when they are fasting they are angry, and taking it out on everyone else.  They are claiming humility and piety, but failing to live it.  God doesn’t want worship to look good, but to be true and lived out.  How can they worship God in shouting at everyone around them?

No, to truly worship God is to work for justice, to bring freedom, to share what you have and to be a nice person to those around you.  God is not served by any other kind of behaviour, however good worship might look.

And that applies as much to me today as much as it did to those who God was so angry with in Isaiah’s time.  Our worship is meaningless unless it informs, challenges and effects our life every day.  For that is where worshipping God counts, in how it hits the ground in our everyday actions.

I Will Speak Out

Lord,
I am sorry
for the times
when My worship
has been about me,
how I look,
what I like,
and not about you;
for the times
when my worship has stayed in church
and not come with me
into my every day;
for when
I have made you angry
by my inconsistencies.

May my worship
Be such a part of my life
that it is lived every day,
in all I do.
Help me to speak out,
to stand up,
to live
for justice,
peace,
hope,
love
and truth
– beginning in me
and how I behave

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6 thoughts on “True Worship

  1. yes. Fasting isn’t about hunger – it’s about submission, about holiness, about dying to self. If it doesn’t lead to transformation in everyday life then it’s a comlete waste of time.

      1. yep. And we need constantly to hold up our apparently white-as-snow lives to the Light of Christ which will then reveal all the grubby, ingrained stains. The more we submit to Him the more subtle are the temptations. Our motives are always mixed, our submission is always incomplete. Antony de Mello once said somethign along the lines of “we always act from selfish motives – it’s just that some forms of selfishness are less damaging to others.” As in we do good because it makes us feel good…
        And the most amazing thing of all – God _delights_ in us! Like a mother delighting in her grubby, naughty, rebellious two-year-old! 🙂

      2. And how I loved my two year old, even when he slid into the fish pond and came out with trainers wriggling with tadpoles 🙂

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