Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Monday, January 19, 2009

Isaiah - not just about doing things right.

Sometimes I wonder if our work in Cambodia is too much oriented towards social works.

But last weekend's sermon in church on Isaiah 1 was something of an encouragement as well as a strong reminder of our need as Christians to go beyond just being a Sunday worshiper, or playing mind games with doctrinal / theological issues.

Isaiah ministered to Judah at a time when she was prosperous and outwardly religious. Not unlike Singaporean Christianity. But she came under some very seriously heavy condemnation by the flamboyantly vocal prophet. Did all the things right but missed out on doing the right things.

1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 "The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-- I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

Aren't our churches mostly like that nowadays? We got all the things right, down to the technology for the sound system, musical instruments...even the settings for the air conditioning (errm...perhaps not quite!). Yes ...and the festival celebrations. All nicely slotted into the church calendar. The offering bag is never empty...and there is always extra for that church building fund, or extension that we always wanted.

Done all the things right. And yet.... have we done the right things?

Isaiah was somewhat of an enigmatic character. We don't really know too much about him. His intimate and intuitive understanding of geopolitical events, and his ability to move comfortably among the ruling elite suggest that he is somehow related to the aristocracy. Yet despite his social status, he identified totally with the common man, and saw right through the sham of Judah's religious life.

The solution Isaiah offered, was to :

Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Yep. Isaiah was right. We need to go beyond the ritualistic worship and sacrifices within the temple, which we tend to be so good at...and start having more of a social conscience...more love and compassion for the marginalized, oppressed and defenseless. The world is becoming an increasingly difficult place to live in. Singapore will have its share of difficulties with the economic recession, the IR coming on board, organ trading, euthanasia etc...and we will need all the love, conviction and resolve as a church to make sure that justice is served, and that the defenseless and oppressed are protected.

Our church priorities currently tend too much towards a centripetal distribution of if God's blessings are meant primarily for us to keep. We need to see ourselves more as centrifugal dispensers of God's blessings. I believe that's how it's supposed to work.

See previous postings on alms and tithing :

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