There have been times when God gets fed up with the worship of those who claim to be his people. Historically, it has had less to do with procedure than it has been with the behavior of those who worship.
Amos 5 is an example that I ran across again this week.
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I am not pleased by your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings or your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard the offerings of your fattened animals. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
It has always been an easier task to do church than to be church. Throughout history we’ve spent more time fussing over procedures than any other single thing. Folks have fought over the number of cups during communion, what monies collected can be spent on, what kind of songs to sing in the assemblies, harps or no harps, communion at the beginning, middle or end of the assemblies, Sunday night or no Sunday night, what kind of clothes to wear, if a building could be owned to assemble in, if a kitchen could be in that building, if a multipurpose room could look like a gym… And multiple other things that I have neither the time nor inclination to mention.
Amos asks, in the midst of all the controversies, “Is justice being evenly distributed?” “Is what is right truly the guiding principle that springs from you?” Not your ability to gain justice, but the ability of the weakest and most vulnerable of all?
God, in describing himself to Moses, states that he is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the father on the children and on the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
God wants this world to recognize his standards; singing songs, praying prayers while ignoring the vulnerable among us causes him to repudiate our worship.