I read the first version of this chapter and my first thought is, "Ouch"...that is a little too close for comfort. I think of all the ways I take shelter in the stuff of my life. I think of the way I listen to the wisdom of the world...rather than scripture. I think of the times I rely on my plans rather than trying to listen for the still speaking voice of God. Many Mainline Protestants would prefer not to think of this tension. Most of our churches still proclaim the Gospel of Enlightenment that tends to think our thoughts are God's thoughts...rather than hear the wisdom of Isaiah coming up in chapter 55:8, "My thoughts are NOT your thoughts and my ways are not your ways."
Yet, it is not as though God shuts and locks the door on the People of God in this chapter. In verse 15, we are reminded that it is in returning to God we find our rest. I think this is why people find familiar worship so comforting. Like a cozy pair of well-worn slippers, worship has a steady rhythm and people know what to expect. Opening hymn? Check. Lord's Prayer? Check. Sermon that drones on and on? Check and check!
Worship is important within the faith because it helps remind us what is central to full life: God. We worship a lot of things in this society. To get a glimpse, flip through the latest issue of People magazine when waiting in the grocery line next time you are there. We worship people who lose weight and the latest diet craze. We worship celebrities - especially male athletes. We worship those who are wealthy. I don't claim to know what God thinks about all the idols we have made. I know in Exodus 32 the People of God convince themselves that the calf represents God. In the midst of their fear and anxiety that Moses was gone too long, they think the calf will provide some kind of reassurance. Like Isaiah 30, I see a lot of myself in that passage. We can convince ourselves that our wealth and athletics and body images are about God rather than us. Think back to how many times football players reference God.
Worship can comfort and challenge us in good ways to examine our lives. And yet, I do get concerned about that line between being comfortable and complacent. It is a thin, easily passed over line and we are so astute (see Enlightenment above) that we can even convince ourselves that we are no where near that line, that our prayer life, volunteering, worship and such is still as vital and vibrant as ever.
On the last post, I asked about your dreams. One of the things dreams can do is stretch us and tell us about our deepest desires. This is why we don't often share our dreams with others, lest they tell us we are foolish and we fear they may be right! We can also make idols of our dreams that if we don't achieve them exactly as we have in mind, we are mad at God. I encourage you over the coming days to think prayerfully about your dreams and about the idols in your life. Are there similarities between the two? Bring that to worship and be honest about that in the presence of God and the People of God at worship. That might actually be a faithful way to worship this Sunday and allow us to get a glimpse of the traces of God's grace.
Blessings and peace!