“Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)
This week’s lesson from Amos reminds us that being religious isn’t always a virtue. It is possible to be religious but to not be committed to the things that matter most to God. In such cases, our religion has lost the spirituality needed in order to pay attention to what God wants. It has become self serving – perhaps just going through the motions or a desire to be seen as a respectable person
I remember once in my first church discussing reaching out to the neighborhood around us. The church was mostly older white people and had been shrinking rapidly. The neighborhood was mostly people of color and people in poverty. There was a cultural divide that kept us from reaching out effectively. The conversations about how to do this meant the people in the church would have to change – not something all of them wanted to do. Finally, one woman snapped, “I don’t know why we are so worried about reaching these people. If they were respectable they would already be here!” I am sure that God was not happy with our religious activities that day!
God is less impressed by good singing in the sanctuary than by lives that are transformed and working for justice in the world. It is not that worship is a bad thing – quite the contrary. Worship helps us identify who we are and how we are connected to the story of God coming to the world in Jesus Christ. But good worship is something that lasts all week. We come and encounter God in worship in ways that help us to see God outside the sanctuary as well. And we come to listen to God in worship in ways that help us to listen for God in our daily lives as well
God’s biggest dreams are not just full sanctuaries but a just world – transformed by God’s people into the dream that God promises will one day come. Take a few moments this week and reflect: How is your daily life making God’s world a better place and how does participating in the life of the church help you do this?