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Don’t Criticize Our Worship!

Read Amos 7:9-17

A bit more on the plumb line text from Amos…

God shows Amos that he is “setting a plumb line in the midst” of the people. And it’s clear that the people won’t measure up. Destruction is imminent … but where will it be centered? “The high places”, “the sanctuaries”, that’s where (v. 9).

When it comes to worship, the people of God have, throughout the scriptures, always had the propensity to drift. Specifically, we tend to want to incorporate what we think are attractive additions to God’s prescriptions- either things we dream up, or things we pick up from the culture around us. Golden calves. Unauthorized fire. The high places. But why would we go beyond what God has called for? Almost always, it’s because we want to enjoy His worship more.

In today’s text, the high priest Amaziah has had enough of Amos. Amaziah is the leader of the worship program at Bethel – a brand of worship enjoyed by the wealthy Samarians, which incorporates some of the most attractive, diverse, intercultural elements of the neighboring religions. This bumpkin Amos has already declared Bethel’s worship offensive to the very God it claims to honor. Now, he has the gall to say that the sanctuary building will actually be ruined? Who would say such a thing about a fine, successful, religious man, his organization, his services, and his facility? So, Amaziah rallies the political support of the King, and then tells Amos to go home to Judah, and never return*.

It is almost impossible to speak prophetic correction into someone’s worship experience: there is so much self there. Worship can be very emotional. The use of the arts helps us express that emotion. When it comes to one’s heart and art, it gets very subjective, very personal. To say to someone “your worship is wrong” can, and does, elicit a violent reaction.

But Jesus is coming! In Luke 18:8, Jesus asked cryptically: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The very fact that Jesus asked that question should make us cautious and reflective about our faith practices as we await His return. Are we willing to hear Amos-like challenges to the way we express ourselves to God? Or are we so confident in what we’re doing (after all, I picked this church because I really like the worship!) that we, too, would be dismissive of corrective criticism?

Because we need it! We need a plumb line for our worship more than ever. Because, like lemmings to the sea, our contemporary church has let the influences of our secular culture not only infect, but even set the agenda for our gatherings. They are now far less for God, and far more for people – often for unbelieving people. We do this in the name of “evangelism”, which is often simply a pseudo-spiritual redefinition of business development and procuring market share. Most church leaders have given little-to-no thought about the actual divine prescriptions for their people’s worship. Oh, that Amos would come to us today … and that we would not just send him away, but would hear his voice, repent, and do what is needed to be found pleasing Him in our worship when He returns!

(You…you want me to go now?…)

– EO

*(By the way, Amos could have said, “Okay, sorry, I went too far, I’ll just go.” Instead, Amos tells Amaziah that his wife will become a prostitute, his kids will be killed, his country will be taken over, his people Israel will be exiled, and he himself will die. Talk about doubling down!)

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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology, Worship

 

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Sixth Day of Christmastide ’13

Number 6“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

Zealous. Fervent. Enthusiastic. Excited. Ardent. Emotionally involved. The Word says that these are to be characteristics of Jesus’ disciples, and we shouldn’t lose them.

I think we would all agree that being excited is great. New gifts are initially exciting. A new friendship, new job, first day of school, opening day of the new movie release … exciting stuff is usually new stuff. 

I’ve been a part of “exciting” churches. They are usually exciting because there’s a new engaging speaker in the pulpit, or a new facility, or the buzz of lots of new people attending (growth). All of those exciting places are no longer exciting. Most have leveled off to a consistent “normal” … others have become, frankly, dreary. That’s because churches are eerily the same as the rest of our lives – normal day bleeds into normal day. 99% of our lives is the “same old same old.”

Can you imagine "Christmas for People Who Don't Like Christmas?"

Can you imagine “Christmas for People Who Don’t Like Christmas?”

So, like the world, churches try to “spice things up.” A new hire. A new building. New music. A new program. A new sermon series. New service times. A new logo. But, it’s amazing … in a world that has more change-to-excite than ever, there is more boredom than ever. And we blindly think that these contemporary means to re-titillate ourselves actually work … are are appropriate in the church.

It has dawned on me this year that I find Christmastide exciting! Every year! And it’s not because it’s new and different. It’s because it’s old and the same! For several weeks each year, our world eases into a set of rich traditions, full of meaning, and most everyone says these are the best days of the year, and … well, why can’t it be Christmas all year ’round?

As a spiritual orphan, I’m coming to an important realization. If I was to become a part of a new family, the first thing I would want to do is become acquainted with and immersed in that family’s traditions. That’s what would give me identity, and make my new family-life exciting. But, if that family has abandoned all of its own traditions, and is ceaselessly trying new things to amuse itself, there would never be any experience of family to which to connect.

Christmas traditionsSo, bring on the music. The pine. The ornaments. The lights. Those cookies. The stockings. The movies. All the red and green. The train under tree. The family gathering. The hymns. The liturgies. The readings. The eucharist. The kisses of peace. The presence of Christ among His people gathered.

I’m excited just thinking about it!

 

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