Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Displacement activities

I think blogging is a displacement activity. I've got tons to do, but here I am...

I do feel that it's a good displacement activity, however. Over the next few minutes the jumble of thoughts in my brain about a number of sessions I have to plan for at church will begin to get ordered. Blogging enables us to think through our fingers, see words taking shape on the screen which in turn helps our thoughts to take shape.

I'm pondering Micah 6:8 - one of the OT's catchier verses - and yet its very familiarity makes it difficult to bring into focus. Doing justice, loving mercy/kindness, walking humbly with God - of course, any Christian will want to do that. Next...

The context is that God's people are having a moan that God's ignoring them. Rather more importantly, God is suggesting that they have abandoned him and he wants to give his case against them an airing in front of reliable and venerable witnesses - so he chooses the mountains as a jury and outlines his case: his people disregard him despite the fact that he is the one responsible for their life as a free nation. He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. He led them safely through the wilderness. He protected them from bullies. He generously gave them a good land. Now they disregard him.

Having heard the case against them, God's people ask what they can do (verse 6). They suggest the usual ritual activities taken to extremes in a bid to show that they want their relationship with God to be right. The prosecution - in the form of the prophet - tells them that they know what to do (verse 8).

What emerges here is really a debate about worship. The people think ritual is what matters; providing they get the ritual right, they'll be ok. So we'll sing the right hymns or new songs; we'll follow the Prayer Book or Common worship; we'll have a beautifully constructed hymn-prayer sandwich or a gloriously Spirit-fuelled free-flowing time of singing and silences.

The prophet says worship is about relationship and the lifestyle that flows from it.

Ritual can be contained to an hour here and there. We can give the ritual our fullest attention, wear our nicest clothes, bring treasured possessions as gifts. But for the rest of the time, we live how we want to. Relationship is not something we turn on and off. It is a 24/7 thing. More than that, it changes us. We'll want to be like the God who invites us into this relationship. If God rescues, leads, protects and generously gives, then we'll want to be like that. This is what doing justice and loving kindness will look like.

This means worship is a choice about shopping and politics. Our world is full of people who need rescuing - from debt, extreme poverty, hunger, illness; protecting - from tyranny, the effects of poverty, injustice, unfair trade, the shifting forces of nature; leading into a better future; and being given a shot at life in all its fullness.

So walking humbly with our God means we might become people who do such rescuing, protecting, leading and giving.

That's the simple bit. The tougher bit is what will my life be like if I live this way? And more importantly, what will the world be like if all God's people live this way?

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