Friday of the Week of Advent II
The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken; he has called the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory…
“Gather before me my loyal followers, those who have made a covenant
with me and sealed it with a sacrifice” …
“Consider this well, you who forget God, lest I rend you
and there be none to deliver you.
Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me; but to those who
keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50
The Lord God makes it plain: Our God, the God of gods and the god of all creation, desires hearts and lives, not empty show, meaningless ritual or pointless, self-centered “chancel-prancing” as pastors call it. Yes, God has established, from the beginning, liturgies and ceremonies for worship. He instructed that the patriarchs offer sacrifices of grain and animals and he laid out extensive ceremonies for the Temple, even as the Lord Jesus himself participated in synagogue worship and instituted the Lord’s Supper. God commands that there be tithes and offerings and explains that they are to be “first-fruits.” But God does not command the offerings of flesh and grain and money because he needs such things. Why would the God of the universe need such things? They are to be part of the life of faith, as God’s created children respond and return to him a portion of what they have and are. They are part of our sacrifice, worship and devotion, and God desires that they be of the heart and life — not an outward show, not empty action. In the next psalm, 51, the cry of the believer is, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
For many Jews at the time of Jesus, making the proper sacrifice meant making a trip to Jerusalem at the prescribed time, on the right day, often purchasing the sacrifice on the Temple grounds, then handing it to the priest and walking away. This fulfilled the Law’s commands, but it was not at all the sacrifice desired by God. In this psalm, the Lord God does not accuse the people because of their sacrifices, because they were, truly, “going through the motions.” What God desires are sacrifices of thanksgiving, born of grateful hearts and lives lived according to his statutes and commandments. This is our response to the gift of salvation given us freely, in Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.
Advent Action: Every time you wash your hands today, pray the above prayer.