Why do humans who say they love God repeatedly misunderstand what it means to worship God and to live a life that honors him? Before the exile, Amos warned about misdirected worship. After the exile, Zechariah noted the same problems remained. Even today, we still find so many who bear the name of Christ acting in the same way. Since these two sermons have a similar theme, I am sharing them together.

Amos (5:18-24) warned about the disruptive nature of the coming Day of the Lord. Today, we are living through one of those disruptive times with the COVID pandemic and racial protests. If we worshiped God the way he wants us too, we would be the salt and light that Jesus called us to be within the midst of this disruptive time. But unfortunately, we often do not understand what true worship means. God, through Amos, told the Israelites their worship didn’t pass three important “tests”: the smell test (God wouldn’t smell their sacrifices), the vision test (God couldn’t see their offerings), and the hearing test (God hated their music). Instead, as Martin Luther King Jr. so often emphasized, the worship God desires is for justice to roll on incessantly like the never-ending lapping of waves on the seashore and for righteousness to flow out from us like an unending river.

A little over 200 years later, as the second temple neared completion, some Israelites came to Zechariah inquiring whether they should continue the fast of remembrance for the destruction of Solomon’s temple. God, through Zechariah (7:4-10), asked if the fast was ever about him at all, or if it was about the loss of their own privileged position within the culture, the destruction of their political capital and collective power, and the embarrassment they felt at “pagans” getting the better of “God’s people.” Zechariah emphasized that true Godly fasting isn’t about simply denying personal desires or denying yourself to honor God. Fasting should be a denial of yourself for the sake of giving yourself for the other, whether that other is your neighbor or your enemy. Zechariah called the people to a fast from deeds of injustice, from acts of selfishness, from structures of oppression, and from plots of evil.

So both Amos and Zechariah emphasized true worship of God is found in active care and compassion for our fellow human beings. To love God we must love humans. The Good News of Jesus as the Christ is not an individualistic call to personal salvation, some type of a “get into heaven free” card for the end of life unrelated to daily living. Christian witness is not about proving the “rightness” of your beliefs through demeaning, confrontational or plain hateful social media posts. Advancing the Kingdom of God doesn’t depend on power politics that aggressively advance your agenda and demonize your opponents. If Jesus is the Christ, he is seated at the right hand of God ruling over all of creation. His followers are called to live and die as he did. Kingdom citizenship requires daily denial of ourselves in order that we might live for others. We are called to struggle against the injustices we encounter–not real or perceived offenses against ourselves or our personal rights (see Paul’s life!)–but injustice against others. We are called to defend the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor–in a word, to seek justice for our neighbor, especially our marginalized neighbor. We don’t worship in anticipation of the future. We worship through living in the present, so God’s will might be done on earth as it already is in heaven.

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The Worship God Despises; the Worship God Desires (Amos 5:18-24)

The Worship God Despises; the Worship God Desires (link to sermon)

A Call to Godly Fasting (Zech 7:8-10)

A Call to Godly Fasting (link to sermon)

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