When Your Church Service Doesn't Cut It
One of my least favorite passages in the Bible is from the Hebrew prophet Amos, who really let ancient Israel have it when he declared this message from God to them:
I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals...
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it.I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want. (Amos 5:21-23, MSG)Ouch.
In my faith tradition after we read the Scripture passage in our worship services we will often say, "This is the word of the Lord," and then the congregation will say, "Thanks be to God."
That's a difficult passage to thank God for, am I right?
The reason why this is one of my least favorite passages from the Bible is that it hits me right where I live.
I'm a pastor, you see, and worship gatherings and other assorted church-y stuff are where I spend most of my time and energy. So it's easy to read a passage like that and start to get disillusioned.
But the point of that passage isn't to discourage people from gathering for worship services. It's not to drive people from the Church. Quite the contrary.
The point of this passage is that whatever you are doing as a worshipping community needs to be authentic, humble, heartfelt and true. God wants us to be in community, but God also desires our communities to be focused on the things that matter to God.
So, to put it simply... If the church you attend is all about putting on a show every weekend but lacks substance when it comes to welcoming everyone... it might be missing the point.
If you are part of a faith community where there's a wonderful light show in worship, glitzy kids programs and a coffee shop with real, honest-to-goodness lattes, but there are no women in leadership... it might be missing the point.
And individually, God wants us to focus more on becoming more like Christ than "getting our worship on." Anthony de Mello, the late Christian mystic, once wrote this:
"...God would be much happier, according to Jesus Christ, if you were transformed than if you worshipped. He would be much more pleased by your loving [others] than by your adoration [in church]."May you be filled with a true sense of worship today and every day--the kind that drives you to be the person God dreams for you to be. May you be filled with holy dissatisfaction for anything that is less than that.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.