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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, March 27, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Amos 1:1; 5:21–24

The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 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. (NRSV)

At one time in my life I did not attend church regularly. I would tell myself that what I did on Sundays mornings was less important than what I did the remainder of the week. So even before I knew of these words by the prophet Amos, I was using their logic in a self-serving way to rationalize and even justify my absence from church. I could not deny the need for social justice, but I could easily identify perceived faults in the church. Eventually, however, I realized that something was missing, and that the something was church or, more precisely, worship.

Now that I once again worship regularly, does this mean that, to use the popular phrase, I have flip-flopped in my thinking about the importance of church and of worship? The answer is obviously yes—but only if I emphasize the purpose and consequences of worship over the elements of worship. The challenges for me are to sing with meaning, to listen with intent, and to pray with conviction. Only then can I be renewed and guided to carry my faith out into the world and to act with justice and compassion as this passage commands. If I am truly in worship and not simply at worship, I can better fulfill the promise I make each Sunday morning when I sing following the Offering—“living what we pray and sing.”

Lord God, thank you for your many blessings. So that I may be a better servant, let me listen that I may know; let me look that I may see; let me act that I may do. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Written by Larry Thomas, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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