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Posts Tagged ‘worship’

WHY GOD REJECTS RELIGIOUS RITUALS

October 29, 2009 3 comments

Our church is in the process of reading the book of Jeremiah as a part of our Old Testament Reading Plan this year. One of the most shocking statements that Jeremiah makes is that God can’t stand His people’s worship in the temple. All the ceremonies and sacrifices do nothing but frustrate and infuriate God. Why is this? It must be because of some flaw in their procedure, right? Their problem surely stems from having inadvertently overlooked some technicality, whether it’s that they’re offering the sacrifices at the wrong time or at the wrong place or in the wrong way, right?

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Wrong. God’s negative response to their worship really has nothing to do with their worship, per se. The problem is not that they’re doing stuff wrong while they’re at the temple; rather, it’s all that they’re doing wrong when they’re not at the temple that’s the problem. Stuff like injustice, oppression, deception, slander, adultery, murder, idolatry, and even human sacrifice. You name it, they’ve done it.

And, in spite of their blatant immorality, they think they have nothing to worry about. After all, they are God’s people! They have the ultimate ace in the hole–the temple of God. The temple–the very place where God dwells on earth–is the center of their city, just a few minutes’ walk from their homes. Of all the people on earth, they are the only ones who worship God the way he’s asked to be worshipped. No other group is observing Passover or Pentecost or offering sacrifices daily, but they are! They have nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. Terribly wrong. Just read Jeremiah’s temple sermon in chapter 7. In this sermon Jeremiah informs them that the temple is no safe haven for sinners. He tells them that religious rituals don’t cause God to accept disobedience; instead, disobedience causes God to reject religious rituals.

Perhaps Jeremiah’s audience isn’t the only one that could benefit from his challenging insights. Maybe it would do us modern church-goers good, the next time we’re filing out of pews and exiting the parking lot after an hour’s worth of religious expression, to recall Jeremiah’s sermon and remember that formality is only as good as morality.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?

– Jeremiah 7:9-11

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SERIOUS CELEBRATION

October 9, 2009 2 comments

This past Sunday night I spoke about Isaiah’s prophetic call from Isaiah 6. One lesson I drew from Isaiah’s vision was that worship is a serious celebration. Isaiah saw two things very clearly through the smoke that filled God’s trembling temple. Isaiah saw God’s holiness and his own unholiness. This particular worship service was frightening and potentially hazardous for even the least casual, most reverent participant. And it’s a wake-up call for regular worshippers like us who likely approach the worship of the Most High God with a bit too much familiarity.

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Annie Dillard creatively captures the proper stance of human worshippers of God. “Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” she asks.

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.