Monday, May 30, 2011

"I Hate All Your Show": Reflections on Worship

 21"I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
   I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
   I will not look upon them.
23Take away from me the noise of your songs;
   to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24But let justice roll down like waters,
   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:21-24

Often times when a particularly convicting passage of scripture is presented to us our first response as recovering sin addicts is to think of someone else.  I find myself doing this all the time.  "Yes," I muse to myself.  "I know of someone who would benefit greatly from reading this passage.  'X' should be convicted by this truth."  I then proceed to go on my own merry, self-righteous way feeling that God is very lucky to have me on His side.
The problem here, of course, is not necessarily that 'X' would not benefit from such convictions, but rather that I often allow myself to be blind to the fact that I am the one who needs to be convicted.  Even if on the surface it seems I am innocent of a particular sin, if I look deeper, allow the Spirit to dig into my deepest motivations and thoughts, I will see with absolute certainty, that there is no sin I am not guilty of.  
Take the passage above as an example.  As a fairly conservative Christian of the Reformed Presbyterian persuasion (frozen chosen we are often, unfortunately called) I might be prone to look at other denominations, particularly the Pentecostals (Pente-crazy as my Pentecostal friend calls herself), and immediately prescribe this verse to them.  I note the emotionalism of their worship, the effects used to create mood and tone (fog machines anyone), and label it a show rather than true worship.  After all, I think, it is often the most emotional worshipers I would see the following Friday or Saturday night participating in extreme versions of partying like it's 1999 (Or May 21, 2011, wait...).  I saw this occasionally in college and of course now as an adult I see it even more.  Clearly these are the types of people Amos would have been talking about, those who put on a show at Church and then going about and living every day as if they had no relationship with their savior whatever. (On a side note, Pentecostals would not be the only denomination my self-righteous judgment would reach but for the sake of time and space I won't list them all.)  The problem with this is not that others are not guilty of sin themselves, but rather that I am guilty as well.  
Often I joke about being an unofficial politician.  Not only am I good at convincing others of my own innocence and perfection, but I can even deceive myself into believing this lie.  My version of this "show" as Jon Foreman calls it, is being a biblical, spiritual nerd.  I know the Bible well, I pride myself on obedience to parents, and on the fact that I avoid 'R' rated movies, and that I don't go partying like those other "sinners" do (Trivia question: who do I sound like?  Hint).  But this is all deception.  My outsides might look good but on the inside sin is embedded deep!  On the hidden underbelly of my motivations are pride, a desire to be worshiped by others for my "good deeds", and a feeling of false superiority.  Yet very often I can barely see it, I am blind because I've had great practice lying to myself and others for a good 25 years... I can't even save myself and must cry out with Paul "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).
But his cry does not end there.  He continues on with the hope I must cling to myself, that I have a great savior in Christ, who makes the blind see.  "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  (Romans 7:25)  Because of His sacrifice, I can see through to my own sin and be rid of my own show and fall to my knees before Him with the promise of a righteousness that is not my own and a justification I do not deserve.
May I continue to Hate All My Show, and overflow with justice and mercy.

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