Sunday, March 07, 2010

True Worship and True Neighborliness

I think I have a vision for what Christian worship should look like, what it should entail, etc.  In my mind, it involves music, preaching, the Lord's Table, Prayer.  But is that what God really desires?  The prophets sometimes thought in very different categories -- most often thinking in the categories of justice and mercy.

I'm nearing the end of Walter Brueggemann's brief but compelling Journey to the Common Good (WJK, 2010).  As he comes to an end of the book, he's reflecting on the Isaiah text and points us to the final ten chapters, what is often called Third Isaiah.  It is written after the exile has ended, and reconstruction has begun.  There is a difference of opinion as to what this should look like -- and who is welcome.  He notes that the vision held out by Third Isaiah differs from that of someone like Ezra, who had in mind a sense of ethnic and religious purity.  For Isaiah the membership in the community is broader -- it involves both the foreigner and the eunuch (Is. 564-7).  

Brueggemann goes on to write that "membership is for the sake of worship."   He goes on to note that "worship is crucial because it is an act of communal imagination that responds to the new sovereign, and it lines out reality in an alternative way" (p. 109).  In Isaiah 58, we read this description of worship that is focused on loosing "the bonds of injustice" and letting the "oppressed go free."  It's about sharing bread with the hungry and housing the homeless.  That's not what we usually think of as worship, and yet this is exactly how this post-exilic prophet imagines it.
Brueggemann writes:

The new worship concerns the construction and practices of neighborliness of the most elemental kind.  The new worship looks advantage and disadvantage square in the face, and urges economic gestures that bind haves and havenots together.  The accent is upon praxis, . . ."  (pp. 110-111).

He then points us on to a statement from Jeremiah 22:15-16, which the Isaiah passage (Isa. 58:6-7) echoes. 

My question arising out of this discussion concerns our own worship.  What if we took to heart the reflections of Isaiah and Jeremiah to heart.  What if, we would accept as true that, as Brueggemann writes, "knowledge of God is acknowledgment of neighbor" (p. 111)?

1 comment:

jerry said...

This is a great post. I just had one of the ‘Doh!’ moments and ran back to correct my own site before publishing my comment. You see my own comment form did not match what I’m about to advice. I get less comment than you, so never noticed any problem. I’ve changed it now anyway so here goes.

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