Monday, November 28, 2005

The Prophet of Advent - First Monday of Advent B

Read Isaiah 1:10-20

Worship is a big deal in the church (why else would be fight so much about it?) Our hymns/songs have to be peppy enough to get the blood going, but not contemporary enough to boil the blood; scripture should be read, but not too much (and especially not the passages we don't like); the sermon needs to inspire us, but not to the extent that we might seriously change our lives; and the length has to be just right (so it doesn't interfere with fellowship time).

Like the people who worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem, we take great pride in the worship we offer to God. Which is why what God says through Isaiah is so distressing. Our very best efforts, for God and offered to God, are rejected!

Not just rejected - but it seems that this 'road' to God comes to an abrubt end. We stretch out our hands, and God says, 'I cannot see you.' We offer up prayers, and the response is as if God has become deaf to our words.

But as often happens in Isaiah, in the midst of words of judgment, of disappointment, of the consequences we deserve, we also hear the whispers of hope.

For there is another road, Isaiah tells us - that road less travelled. It's the road paved, not with beautiful songs, or pious words, or good intentions - but paved with good actions, with kindness, with voices lifted up on behalf of others.

We cannot pray, God tells us,
if we are not willing to plead for the widow;

we should not sing,
if we are unable to seek justice for others;

we dare not rejoice,
if we cannot rescue the oppressed;

if we do not learn to do good,
worship does us no good.

Once again, speaking through the prophet of Advent, God makes it very clear: if youwant life, live the way I show you.

Prayer

In this season of too many choices, help us to make the one which leads us to you, Advent God. Let us set aside our meanness, and pick up goodness. Let us lift up our voices for the lost, the least, the little, not just sing carols. Let us stop searching for the best sale prices, but look for the justice everyone needs. In Jesus' name. Amen.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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