Summary: If we are to be true worshippers, we need to be bold in seeking to bring the order and priorities that come from a living relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, and rolling them out onto the canvas of our lives. It may be messy and difficult, but we
Sunday Holy Communion at Emmanuel Didsbury
The Life of a Disciple
(the discipleship wheel by Richard Foster)
The Compassionate Life
Aim of the Sermon: True worship rolls out into every area of our lives.
Illustration: The small practice drawing needs to be translated onto the canvas. Our Sunday service helps us put things in order, but that needs to be translated onto the canvas of our lives.
In art classes, we would be taught to plan out the painting or drawing we were about to do. We would draw our ideas in an area a bit larger than a large postage stamp. In this small space we would map out what would be where in our painting, what would take centre-stage, what the focuspoints would be, ordering things in rough. Then it would come to translating this to our big sheet of A1. Now, I could do the postage stamp planning, but when it came to putting it all on the large scale, putting it on the canvas or whatever, I really hesitated. The big picture was easy to mess up. Things were more complicated, had to be more detailed and were generally harder to sort out on the big canvas. I was much happier doing the postage stamp-sized planning and ordering than the real painting. I remember once when David Hockney came to our art lesson, to see if anything had changed since he’d been at the school. While he was there, I definitely wasn’t starting anything big. I was afraid of what he’d think.
What is going on with Amos 5:21-24?
It would be great if you could turn in your bibles to our OT reading (p.783… Amos 5:21-24). Amos has been saying that despite God’s choosing his people, they are going to be judged by Him in a big way. And here we have God rejecting their worship.
“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs…”
What is going on here? God has chosen these people, so why does he threaten judgment? God has laid down these ceremonies and regulations so why does he reject them?
They were holding the feasts, doing the sacrificing, singing the songs. And yet he rejects them.
We’re meeting together, remembering Jesus’ sacrifice, singing the songs. Are we in danger of having our worship rejected by God?
A relationship with God was never about sacrifices,
but was based on obedience.
The people in Amos’ day were rejected along with their worship because “a relationship with God was never about sacrifices, but was based on obedience”, and this was where they fell down. They met together, they did the ceremonies, sang the songs, but there was a need for justice and righteousness to roll on and out like a river, a never failing stream. Their worship wasn’t true worship because it wasn’t linked to active obedience. It wasn’t flowing out in abundance, like living water; it was stagnant.
And this issue was still a live issue in Jesus’ day. In Matt 7:21-24; where Jesus claims the position of God in judging humankind, he says this:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Jesus said that only those who are actively obedient will survive the big flood of judgment and enter the kingdom of heaven.
And again in our gospel reading, Jesus puts the test of faith as seen in attending to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.
The division of private life with public life, and Sunday worship with day-to-day living, is a false one.
You see we’ve created a false division in our lives, between the private and the public, between the Sunday worship and the day-to-day living, and between the spiritual and the physical. It’s a false division, and it’s nothing new, it’s seen in Amos, it’s seen in Matthew’s gospel and it’s seen in 21st century Manchester and in Western Christianity.
Don’t get me wrong, the gospel has always, and will always be, about our desperate need of rescue from God’s wrath; about Jesus paying the price in full, dying in our place on the cross.
But the gospel has always been so much more than that. The gospel is massive. It is not a spiritual, private thing for Sunday’s only. It’s not about saving disembodied souls to float in the sky. And maybe our focus has been so narrow because we are aware of the danger of losing the centrality of the cross, but I think there are also other reasons for our dividing, like those in Amos, our Sundays from our day-to-day living.