Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And You Thougtht You Were Worshipping

My daily Bible reading this morning took me to Isaiah 58. God's people were frustrated because they felt that their worship and pursuit of God were stellar and yet God didn't seem to notice or reward their self-acknowledged spirituality.

God responding by exposing the hypocrisy of their worship because their lives were selfish and self-centered resulting in failure to show loving care for others and in ungodly conflict with each other.

God described the kind of "fast" He desired: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58:6-8).

This chapter was another rebuke to me as to how much our Western "churchianity" has become focused on "going to church" instead of the church going into the world's pockets of suffering to carry out Jesus' mission. God is unimpressed with my "worship" if I am not immersed in feeding the hungry, bringing justice to the oppressed, providing shelter for the homeless, and clothing the naked. May God forgive my comfort, self-centered ignorance and indifference!

When I started my current sermon series on "Stories Jesus Told," I had no idea how much God was going to speak to me (and to our church) on issues related to using our resources to relieve suffering. Nor did we realize how appropriate it would be to follow up (right after Easter) with a special four-week series we're calling "Justice and Mercy." God's providence in the sequence and timing is evident. I'm praying that this special focus, April 16-May 6, will help us to translate into action what God has begun speaking to us about. We plan to focus our celebration gatherings, LIFEGroups, adult Discipleship Communities, and student ministries on the theme of Justice and Mercy.

I hope I'm ready for this and I pray that I will never be the same!

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