“Verbs of Vocation and Worship”
Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20; Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40
Pearl: Genuine worship and devotion issues forth in real-life interventions on behalf of vulnerable people.
Function: To move worshippers into a holy discomfort with a piety which lacks righteous action on behalf of vulnerable people.
What does true worship and true devotion look like? This question is prompted by the prophet Isaiah’s tough words to the people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah and its city Jerusalem.
through the prophet Isaiah took the people to task for their lack of righteous
action on behalf of vulnerable people.
called them out for their pious behavior which lacked righteous action.
- God had enough of their sacrifices which no longer pleased God.
- Surprisingly, God had enough of their prayers.
- God was tired of their “solemn”
- What came to my mind were the many solemn assemblies held this past week, one in which I attended, to pray and remember the names of those slaughtered in Texas and Ohio.
was God tired of the people’s sacrifices and prayers and solemn assemblies then
and why would God be tired of them now? “Sacrifices and prayers”…sounds similar
to “thoughts and prayers!” Not only does God become tired of such but many
today are also tired of “thoughts and prayers” without righteous action!
- God doesn’t want pious rituals if they are not combined with actions on behalf of vulnerable people.
- In verse 17 it is written: “…learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
- God called them out for their pious behavior which lacked righteous action.
worship is measured by God in actions on behalf of vulnerable people.
- This message should bring us all some holy discomfort. It does so for me.
worship of any church should be evaluated for its power and efficacy based on
how the people of that church are putting their faith into action for the
welfare of others.
- This is God’s litmus test for true worship and for true devotion.
again to this hard Word from God:
- “When you come to appear before me…trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and calling of convocation—I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates…when you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean…cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
- Jesus said as much when he said to “Be dressed for action and have your lamps
lit; be like those who are waiting for the master to return from the wedding
banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.”
- Jesus was saying that his followers are always at the ready for the work of the kingdom of God. Part of this readiness stems from being about the work of righteous action when he returns one day to the earth. He expects to find his people living and acting on behalf of others and especially on behalf of vulnerable people.
You are called in Christ, your vocation and your worship are to issue forth into righteous action.
- In the Isaiah reading I was struck by all of the verbs: wash, remove; learn; seek; rescue; defend; plead…and then from the words of Jesus: sell; give; make; dress; be ready and alert.
- Thus today’s sermon: “Verbs of Vocation and Worship.” And to be more precise: “Action Verbs of Vocation and Worship.”
As Christ-followers your hearts, which are rooted and grounded in God, break at the things that break the heart of God.
it was very difficult to see children crying on the Thursday evening news after
their parents were arrested at their jobs for deportation that day. Some
children were left with nowhere to turn. Thankfully, God’s people gathered up
some of these children and are watching them with compassion as sanctuary
- With all of the detention centers (200) up and down the eastern seaboard Highland could be of service to some of these families in need.
- Your hearts are moved at the children who go to school hungry and who are depending on the breakfasts and lunches that are provided. These same children also may not have backpacks or clothing appropriate for winter.
- Your hearts are moved by the very lonely and depressed who live all around us.
- Your hearts are moved by the struggles with addiction of those in your family and in your friend’s families.
hearts are naturally moved because your hearts are rooted and grounded in God.
- A God of action. A God of compassion and mercy. A God of justice. A God who did not remain aloof and distant but came among us in Jesus Christ to save us and to set things right.
A wonderful message was posted last week: “Care. Love. Be outraged. Be devastated. Just don’t give up. The world needs good humans today.”—Ellen Degeneres. Right on, Ellen!
As people of faith you are about action. Your faith is about action as good humans.
said, “Be dressed for action.” In faith your eyes are fixed on that which
cannot be seen. Because you believe that things will be made right.
- You do not grow weary in well-doing! Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9—“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”
- Again, Paul wrote it to the church in Thessalonica—“Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right” (2 Thess. 3: 13).
- Evaluate your worship based on action verbs which issue forth in goodness for those who are vulnerable in some way.
your faith in terms of how you keep on keeping on for this or that just cause
because you see something not yet visible but out there in the distance, not fully
shaped or realized, but which you believe and trust will be.
- There are so many needs and righteous causes available to you today. You cannot do them all. No church can do them all. I want this church to bless you in your good causes. You will not all be motivated to do the same things. Do as you are led and if they are just and compassionate causes which bless the heart of God, I am confident that this church’s leadership will bless and encourage you.
- I would like to see all sorts of you doing all sorts of things which benefit vulnerable people.
A colleague shared the following prayer from the Franciscan Mission Service. Please pray it as I pray.
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world. So that we can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
Perhaps this is the kind of prayer needed. Perhaps this is the kind of prayer that God welcomes if this prayer leads to action.
You live with hope. Your hope is in the God who is prosecutor, defender, and judge. The good news is that God longs for our obedience. The jury is still out but we live at the ready for the time that Jesus returns at an unexpected hour. For now you and I still have time to act on faith and to live a life of readiness and action.
Ceaseless action on behalf of vulnerable people is true devotion and true worship for the true believer.