11“The multitude of your sacrifices—

what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.#

1:17Or justice. / Correct the oppressor
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1

2Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!

For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,

but they have rebelled against me.

 

I was on a spinning bike at the Y, minding my own business at 5:45am when Isaiah hit me square in the face,”Your worship stinks!”  Actually, I was thinking that Sunday’s worship went pretty well.  The music was excellent.  I even thought I did alright with the sermon, and the experience of God’s grace being poured out on all us sinners at the Lord’s Table was awesome!  One other highlight was the sending of our adult and youth mission team to rural Appalachia for a 10 day mission trip.  So what beef did Isaiah have with our worship this morning?

I don’t think Isaiah’s words really fit my congregation’s worship Sunday, but I do think that American Christians, including my congregation, need to be smacked by God’s words through Isaiah once in a while.  We need to be shocked out of the worship slumber we sometimes slip into, thinking worship is yet another hour of others performing something that is entertaining, makes us feel good, and lets us sit as spectators.  Through Isaiah, God was judging the degradation of his people’s worship, and through Isaiah today God is still judging his people’s worship.

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  Your incense is detestable to me.  New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.  Your hands are full of blood!  Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1: 13-17).”

It seems that God’s people continued their regular worship gatherings, bringing offerings, celebrating the seasonal worship times, but they were neglecting to care for those in need in their community.  If there is one thing that is very clear in Scripture, it is that God is keenly interested in seeing that the weak, poor, and lonely are cared for.  Maybe the band was really great and the sermon a feast to the ears and mind and the prayers so tastefully done, yet the rich and those in power, including the religious leaders, seemed so pleased with themselves that they were forgetting, no, neglecting the poor.  Isaiah might as well have interpreted God as telling his people, “I don’t give a damn about your worship!”

This weekend I participated in a community outreach day with a different congregation here in Lake Mary with about 150 other people who went to 8-10 different projects in the community. Some did yardwork at a home that helps put children’s lives back together when they are broken; some helped at a local food bank; some helped  at a local school.  And, just like when our mission team enters the poverty of rural Appalachia this week, worship became action.  The love of God got reattached to the love of people, the way it was intended to be.  I am convinced that the worship that fills God with joy is both what we sing in our songs as well as what we do with our hands to help those in need; it is both what we read and hear in Scripture and how we love in our homes, neighborhoods, and places of work; it is both our reception of God’s life-changing grace on Sundays and our offering of God’s life-changing grace to others every other day of the week.

Thanks for the punch in the face Isaiah!  May God be pleased with the worship of our hearts and our lives!