Sunday, February 21, 2010


What one does outside the temple is worship

Thinking this morning of a statement on the Hebrew word hesed by Bishop McKenna:

"The Hebrew word hesed, meaning ‘compassion,’ means coming to the rescue of the poor, the outcast, the alien, the slave, the powerless, hearing the cries of those in misery, giving love that is faithful, sustaining, enduring. . . . This urgent command shoots right to the heart of every individual and to the community.  What one does outside the temple is worship, and nothing done inside the temple can undo or change that attitude or practice."

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

All over the world today, worshipers will gather.  Most of the energy of church clergy and lay leadership over the week will have been directed toward having a well-managed, inspiring, memorable, entertaining time together.  I hope all have a great time that brings folks together in songs of praise and makes the Word of God clear.  I also hope it becomes clear that what happens in the cult ("The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Ritual behavior would include but not necessarily be limited to prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for cult to be enacted, to be practiced") is not the center of worship, is not the apex of Christian practice, is not even the primary means of grace.

God forbid that any pastor or local church leader think that what happens on Sunday morning is either the most important thing that happens in the life of a local faith community or somehow the act of worship.

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

I used to repeat the phrase "We gather to worship; we depart to serve."  I liked it because it represented the importance of doing something useful coming out of worship.  But I now realize it's just not a valid statement.  Worship doesn't end with the benediction and recessional.  It doesn't conclude when we walk out the door.  Worship is a life.

Worship is a life.  Specifically, it is a life of hesed--reflecting God's compassion and seeing God's presence in all we encounter 24/7.

This morning, as I thought of Bishop McKenna's statement on hesed,  I also remembered the words of a Don Francisco song that struck me enough when I was in college to stick with me all these years:
"...I don't care if your sacrifice of praise
is loud enough to raise the dead.
The thing I need to ask you,
is have you done the things I said?
Do  you love your wife?
For her and for your children
are you laying down your life?
What about the others?
Are you living as a servant
to your sisters and your brothers?
Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
Do the widow and the orphan stand alone?"

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

Jesus seemed to get that.  Jesus seemed to reflect that in what he did, what he taught, how he lived.  It seems that Jesus' very intentional journey toward Jerusalem to die included this recognition and was somehow tied up with it.  As Jesus' follower, it seems like I should consider that very carefully as I prepare to go to "worship" today.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

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