February 26, 2014| 0

The End of Worship (Isaiah 58:4-8)

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Here is a challenging word from the prophet Isaiah. Although written to his contemporaries in Judah some 2,700 years ago, Isaiah's words hit home today and deliver a stinging indictment. Just like the people of Judah, we are called to account for our worship. The criteria are clear—loose the bonds of wickedness, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. The prophet’s summons stings because we do not pay enough attention to those concerns.

These hard words remind me that my participation in worship doesn’t stop at the doors of the church, and my personal devotions are not the end of worship. The end or "goal" of worship goes far beyond singing songs, putting money in the collection plate, and finding inspiration. The end of worship is to serve God and neighbor. Jesus taught the same thing when he answered the question, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” He answered, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” [Matt. 25:37-40]

This summons to care for “the least of these” applies to my business as much as to my so-called “church mission” activities. The glory of the Lord is promised to us in the act of serving “the least of these.” It’s a worthwhile act of worship, therefore, to ask: How does my business serve not just my customers, but the least of my customers? How does my business serve the least of my employees? How does my business serve the least of society’s members?  Then - and only then - our light shall break forth like the dawn.

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2014

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