Formed by Worship

As the 12 tribes of Israel were given their portions of the new promised land in Joshua 19, one has to wonder if they ever argued about whether or not it was fair.  Human nature says they would have.  And the Levites might have had a little more to complain about.  

They didn't get any land of their own at all!  They were given room throughout the lands of the other tribes, but their inheritance was God himself.  But why?  Surely one reason was because the Levites, being the tribe of priests, were intended to represent God throughout all twelve tribes, so their lifestyles would be formed by worship.

This week, Minister of Outreach Lisa Woicik shared some of her personal story of feeling odd amongst her peers as she was raised in a particularly strict religious heritage.   According to Lisa her heritage unfortunately ended up becoming more self-serving than God-serving, and amounted to relatively empty religiosity instead of genuine worship.

The Levites' oddity amongst the tribes ran the risk of doing the same (and, spoiler alert, that's exactly what happened once Israel became too comfortable in the land.  You can read about the devolution of their faith in the books of Samuel, Kings, and most of the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah).  But the point was to help the people form their lives around the heart of God's Law -- to love the LORD your God with your whole self, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  

The prophet Isaiah was told to loudly proclaim the importance of intention in religious practice.  Isaiah 58: 6 "Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice..."  

Empty religious behaviors have caused a lot of pain to a lot of people, maybe even you.  But the good news is that "church hurt" need not be the end of your story.  God doesn't require perfection in our religion.  Rather, God expects us to accept God's love, respond with our love, and then express that love to the world around us through trust, obedience, and joy.  Sounds like a good way to spend a weekend.  


For reflection:
- Have you ever experienced religious behaviors that had the wrong intention?  Find someone to talk about it with.
- What is one way this week you can respond to God's love for you, in two ways: in a loving act back to God, and in a loving act to a neighbor or someone in this world we share?
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