I’m always interested when the Psalm response in the lectionary consists of some verses from a long psalm that fit a specific purpose directly without any extraneous “sidebars” of intervening verses. Today my antenna was up because the stated title of Psalm 50 in the book Ancient Songs Sung Anew was “God Calls the World to Listen.” Since I had spent yesterday presenting to two different groups on the topic of “The Art of Sacred Listening” I was, you might say, “all ears” for the message. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are the salient points.
Hear me, my people, I am your God…I do not fault you for your offerings; your holocausts are clear. But I ask for no more heifers to be brought from flocks and farms. I need no more goats offered up from all your herds. Do you not realize I have all these and more? I’ve made my case; here’s what I want, a sacrifice of thankfulness in all that honors me. (vs. 8-10a, 23)
I have this vision of someone sitting on an over-stuffed recliner chair (a Lazy Boy?) surrounded by all kinds of material gifts – but all alone with the stuff – looking very sad. Perhaps we might interpret God as saying to us in our own time and place something like this: “I know you’re doing your duty – coming to church with items for the food pantry and your weekly envelope – but it seems lately that it is just that – a duty! I don’t need your duty! I want your heart!”
I’m not suggesting that we stop supporting the place where we worship, nor do I think God would want that. I do think, however, that this might be a good time to go to a deeper place to see if we are being transformed by our participation in the worship services, awakened to love of those who worship with us. If so, it seems that our only response would be one of consistent gratitude and heartfelt joy. And God would be happy too.