Vicar’s May Letter

Dear friends,

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.”

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.”

These words, referring to the worship practices of ‘God’s people’, express some seriously negative thoughts about what was going on. Surprisingly perhaps, these are God’s thoughts on worship offered to him by the Jews a short time before the exile of Israel into Assyria in 722BC. God was speaking through the prophet Amos (see Amos 5:21-24). God also rejects the offerings of his people. So what was God so angry about? Well, the last verse of this section tells us clearly:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

God doesn’t want insincere worship from people who are not living as he would want them to, people who are not seeking to bring about justice, people who are not treating others fairly. Why? Because justice and righteousness in the treatment of other people are the key evidences of a right relationship to God. Always have been. Always will be.

This theme flows through the whole book of Amos, and, indeed, through much of the Old Testament. God wants his people to make a difference in the world and be an example to those around. But this is not just an Old Testament principle. Jesus, in his teaching about judgment through the parable of the sheep and goats, says “You that are accursed, depart from me … …  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” When asked about the greatest commandments, Jesus replies that the first is to love God with all that we have, and the second is to love our neighbours as ourselves. (And we know from the parable of the Good Samaritan that when Jesus talks about our neighbours, he isn’t just talking about those who are near to us and similar to us.)

How does God judge us and our worship today? Could it be that our worship is offensive to God in the way that the worship of the Jews was all those years ago?  Well, hopefully not, but we do need to look at the way we live our lives in the light of what we believe. We make so many decisions every day that impact others around us directly or indirectly, and we should seek to make good decisions, decisions that help in some small way to bring about justice and righteousness, decisions that help in some small way to bring about God’s Kingdom.

Christian Aid week (10-16 May) provides opportunities to give our time and money to help others, opportunities to pray for those who are facing injustice in different situations around the world. Please give generously, through your Christian Aid envelope, through your local Church, or directly (online via www.christianaid.org.uk or by calling 020 7523 2225). Please consider offering one hour to help with collections (contact Ann Ladd on 01594 822735). Thank you.

God Bless,

Mike

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