The Heart of Worship

28 Dec

Since my Sunday morning worship experience has changed to drastically it encourages reflection on the heart of worship.  I am truly enjoying my new little church. (Our attendance high point has been 37)  I believe even without the facilities, music, children’s program, etc. of my former appointment, that this little place is capable of transformation worship experiences.  And with that in mind, I reflect on Psalm 50. The beginning of the psalm sets up a cosmic court.  This is a frequent literary device of the Hebrew scriptures.  God is going to ‘bring a case’ against God’s people.  The first verses of this psalm are setting the scene.

1-3 The God of gods—it’s God!—speaks out, shouts, “Earth!”
welcomes the sun in the east,
farewells the disappearing sun in the west.
From the dazzle of Zion,
God blazes into view.
Our God makes his entrance,
he’s not shy in his coming.
Starbursts of fireworks precede him.

4-5 He summons heaven and earth as a jury,
he’s taking his people to court:
“Round up my saints who swore
on the Bible their loyalty to me.”

The whole cosmos attests to the fairness of this court,
that here God is judge.

God’s complaint against the people concerns their worship.  Animal sacrifice was a mainstay of worship for the people of Israel.  And, God complaint about the hollowness of the way the perform this ritual is found in a number of places in the Hebrew scripture.  The people of God are going through the ritual without understanding or meaning and believe it is adequate for praising God.

7-15 “Are you listening, dear people? I’m getting ready to speak;
Israel, I’m about ready to bring you to trial.
This is God, your God,
speaking to you.
I don’t find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?
Every creature in the forest is mine,
the wild animals on all the mountains.
I know every mountain bird by name;
the scampering field mice are my friends.
If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?
All creation and its bounty are mine.
Do you think I feast on venison?
or drink draughts of goats’ blood?
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
I like the image of spreading a banquet of praise for God, a feast of kept promises.  What kind of banquet could we offer God?  What have we been giving God praise for in these last day of 2012?  In this psalm God makes it clear that this is what God wants.
The final verses deals with people who are worst than those who offer animal sacrifice without meaning; they are people who are completely disobedient.

16-21 Next, God calls up the wicked:

“What are you up to, quoting my laws,
talking like we are good friends?
You never answer the door when I call;
you treat my words like garbage.
If you find a thief, you make him your buddy;
adulterers are your friends of choice.
Your mouth drools filth;
lying is a serious art form with you.
You stab your own brother in the back,
rip off your little sister.
I kept a quiet patience while you did these things;
you thought I went along with your game.
I’m calling you on the carpet, now,
laying your wickedness out in plain sight.

22-23 “Time’s up for playing fast and
loose with me.
I’m ready to pass sentence,
and there’s no help in sight!
It’s the praising life that honors me.
As soon as you set your foot on the Way,
I’ll show you my salvation.”

I hope you will find a place in your heart for the final two verses of this psalm.  A life of praising God is the way to go.  Even if you can just praise God for a roof over your head and the ability to walk to the refrigerator and find food.  There are blessings that can be found in each moment; sometimes you have to search hard – but I know you can find them.

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