Six year ago, I wrote a post called “The Sunday Thing.” The post was triggered by a post written by another blogger which also caused me to think about a passage in Isaiah. You know, God told the Israelites to offer sacrifices, burn incense, hold feasts and festivals, pray, etc. But, according to the prophet Isaiah, God saw those things as an abomination at times. Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever wondered if God thinks of the things we do as abominations – even when we think we’re obeying him? How do we ensure that the things that we do are not unpleasing to God?
It is very important for believers to meet together. That is clear from Scripture. However, is it possible for us to put so much emphasis on one gathering of the church (say, Sunday morning, for instance) that we forget God’s purpose for the church?
Rick at “The Blind Beggar” examines this question in his article “We Aren’t About Weekends“. Most of his information comes from an article in Leadership Journal written by Bob Roberts. Consider this snippet:
If my church is primarily about the Sunday event, then doing kingdom work is secondary and actually unnecessary. If the Sunday event and church programming is primary, then I’ll spend all my time, money, and energy [on] what happens inside the church.
I think Rick (and Bob, of course) is onto something here. Do we focus our time, energy, and resources only on those who are already part of the kingdom of God? Or do we go “out of the camp” in order to engage those around us – in order to be salt and light to the world? (By the way, I realize that the answer to this question is both/and not either/or. However, is it possible that we can lose our focus?)
If we examine the money/time/effort/resources spent on preparing the location for the event, acquiring those who perform during the event, rehearsing for the event, and setting the schedule for the event, we might find that the event is much more important to us than we first thought. Is this what Jesus taught us? Is this what Jesus said was important?
Could it be that the “Sunday Morning Event” could become for us what the sacrifice became for the Israelites?
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations- I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:11-17 ESV)
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. (Hosea 6:6-7 ESV)
How do we ensure that our gatherings become more than ritual? How do we make sure that our lives as the church become more than a Sunday morning event? How do we gather so that our meetings are not simply rituals that are unpleasing to God?