Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
Isaiah 58:1-12 (NRSV)
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
My whole life I have heard the following statement in some form: “When we were kids, we were at the church every time the doors were open.” Sound familiar? If you were a preacher’s kid, this may very well be the truth. However, for most of us, it’s at least a slight exaggeration.
Notice how we say we are “going to church” each Sunday instead of saying we are “going to worship God” each Sunday. Worship is more than a church building. It’s more than a call to worship, music, giving our tithe, and singing the Doxology. Worship is more than responsive readings, the Apostle’s Creed, a twenty minute sermon, a hymn of invitation, and a benediction. It is more than all these things and yet, sometimes worship includes all these things.
Worship is the one time each week when all of our attention is supposed to be on God. Everything we do when we come to worship should enhance our worship of God. Worship is praise for God, not us. We sometimes get caught up in the rituals of worship and forget why we are in the church building in the first place. We are not to act sanctimonious just because we attend a worship service, give our tithe, or volunteer our time. Acts of piety are not going to get us to heaven. Good deeds mean nothing if we don’t reach out to others in faith. God wants us to love others and be generous, just, and helpful because we love God, not because we think we should. Our service to others becomes a form of worship, if we do it the way God intended—deeply, sincerely, and honestly.
Almighty God, we love you so much. We pray that the lives we lead will bring honor to you. We know that we are nothing without you and we give you all the praise and glory for everything you bring to our lives. Hear our prayer, God. Amen.
Go with God.