Has God ever met a church sevice he didn't like?
In one of Bono's rare public appearances, I remembering hearing him say something close to the following: Pop music tells you that everything is okay. Rock music is here to tell you that it isn't.
I sometimes wonder if the Church has been listening to too much pop music. The northern kingdom of ancient Israel was certainly a fan of the Justin Bieber's of its day. The people gathered these ear-ticklers close to their assemblies, where soft, middle-of-the-road music was played and where they were told that everything was okay. Meanwhile, renegade shepherds like Amos were playing hard rock.
Of course the cry of the nation was "Turn it down". They didn't want to hear what an honest prophet had to say. They had their comfortable religion, complete with orderly ceremonies, sacrifice, worship, thanksgiving, prayer. All good things that YHWH was surely pleased with, no? Allow me to paraphrase his response:
I'm repulsed by what you consider worship. Your religious services make me sick to my stomach. You appear to do everything I have asked, yet I reject all of it. I can't stand the sight of your worshipping and praying. Your religious songs make my ears bleed. I just can't listen to them anymore. (Amos 5:21-23)
What kind of God would say such things?
One who cares, and cares deeply. But would he say such things to us, the Church? Surely not to the church! We are founded on the new covenant in Christ, after all, therefore whatever happened to Israel is not instructive for our own life as the people of God.
It would be comforting if it were true, but Paul will not entertain such an easy split:
Now these things happened to them (the Israelites) as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor. 10:11-12)
If that's not enough, consider Jesus's own words to a young church in Laodecia:
"I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."
It is a hard truth for us religious to swallow, but God isn't overly concerned with our Sunday services. Even if we tick all the right boxes as the Israelites did, we cannot presume on God's pleasure. He is not so superficial as to be impressed by our shows of piety and praise. He does not want a good-sounding worship team followed by a well structured sermon that says all the right things.
Amos tells us what he does want:
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
He wants justice. He wants a community that embodies that righteousness of God. Against such things there is no order of services. This is life we're talking about. God calls people into the church not to join a religious order with various religious functions. He calls people in so that they may be formed into the image of the person who is truly human - Jesus of Nazareth. And being formed into that image, they reflect the justice of God to those who need to see it - in work, in families, in friendships, in sport, in every aspect of human life.
...what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?