The “What” of Worship

Daily Devotion for Monday, July 20, 2020 from Jonathan Moelker

Amos 5:21-24
21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
    and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

If we were asked to judge how well another church worships, what criteria would we use?
We could consider how well their choir sings, or how well their pastor preaches.  We could count the number of people in their services and see how many arrive late or leave early.  We could even look to how well formatted their bulletins are.
And yet, these things do not create worship.  The words of Amos remind us that we could have the best music, the best preaching, we could have a beautiful sanctuary and a congregation which always sings in key and we could still not be worshiping at all.  Amos lived in a time when many people could not afford to put food on the table working in the fields to make wine for the landowners.  And the landowners were the most religious people!  When they went to the temple, they would bring the best sacrifices, the fattest livestock, even as their neighbors were starving.
I love our worship services at NHPC.  I think we have a fantastic choir, congregation, and great pastors.  But that is not what gives our worship value.  Our sanctuary is not what gives our worship value either.  The way that we treat each other, that is what gives value to our worship.  The way we consider ourselves agents of God, the limbs of the body of Christ, that is what gives value to our worship.  As much as I am grateful for the skill of our church members and leaders, who make every service beautiful, I am even more grateful for the hearts of each person who is a part of our church.
This passage from Amos, originally written as a condemnation of the religion of the elite, brings me comfort today.  As much as Covid-19 has cut short our ability to do worship in our usual way, it has not limited our ability to worship.  Many things have become more difficult during the last few months, from going to the grocery store to visiting family, but we remain securely the body of Christ.

We are hungry for fellowship. 
We miss the feeling of being together.
Spur us on to seek you.
Energize us for justice. 
Refill our desire for righteousness.
Shape our hearts so that our every action is worship.
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