This is a summary of my sermon from Sunday August 11th (Proper 14 Year C) at Grace Anglican Church.
Israel is finished, Judah’s a remnant, and now even they are lapsing into the same problems. The reading from Isaiah 1:10-20 boils down to this simple accusation: Lip Service! The worship at the Temple is being done “by the book” God admits, but their lives during the rest of the week aren’t matching up.
The Convicting Truth:
Israel & Judah aren’t unique; Psalm 50 also describes the same problem, written a couple centuries earlier. There, too, the accusation comes down to lip service – the required sacrifices of worship are performed, but they’re empty and meaningless. God is angry at them, but not because they’ve got the worship wrong, but because of something deeper.
Solutions are Hinted at:
Both Isaiah & Psalm 50 include pleas & warning from God to the transgressors. Isaiah calls for repentance & holy living (especially given in terms of social justice). Psalm 50 identifies thanksgiving as necessary for a true sacrifice.
A third hint of a solution to this problem with lip service comes up in the epistle reading: Hebrews 11 describes the hope & vision that comes from faith.
Jesus is the perfect solution
Ultimately these solutions aren’t enough for us; we need a sacrifice not only pure in praise and thanks but also that can undo the wrongs that we’ve already done. Jesus provided that! Drawing heavily from Hebrews, our Eucharistic prayers describe “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.” That one perfect act of worship by Jesus makes all the difference, breaking across even the barriers of time to take away the power and effect of sin.
So invest in faith!
As Hebrews 11 described it, living out our faith is an adventure. Jesus didn’t just show up on earth, die for our sins, resurrect, and leave; he lived out a full life all the way up to it. And Luke 12 calls us to do the same. Invest in heavenly treasure (practicing generosity & justice now). Doing so enables us to be prepared; we’re not here to cash out at the last minute! God won’t turn away those who repent at the end of their lives, but that is not the calling of the Christian life.
And thus the Collect of the Day is such an appropriate prayer for us:
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord; amen.