Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct
oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. – Isaiah 1:12-17
The followers of Yahweh and of Jesus, the incarnation of the divine, need to cling to the words of Isaiah. Over time, the followers of Jesus seem to be a direct reflection of how Isaiah describes Judah. The church seems to be following in the footsteps on Judah, forgetting their purpose and embracing something quite different. Israel and Judah’s purpose was to be a blessing to the other nations around them and to show them that Yahweh was the one true God. Yet, Isaiah accuses them of not knowing or understanding who God is. (Isaiah 1:3). Isaiah calls them the offspring of evildoers, children who are corrupt, forsaken God and being utterly estranged. (Isaiah 1:4). He refers to them as Sodom and Gomorrah, guilty of being overfed, arrogant, unconcerned, not helping the needy and poor, being haughty and detestable. (Isaiah1:10; Ezekiel 16:49-50) Their land was desolate, cities burned and overrun by others.
Isaiah goes on to state that Yahweh finds no delight in their burnt offering, he is fed-up with the fat and well-fed beasts as sacrifices. The sacrifices were in vain, the incense was an abomination, festivals pointless, worship he would hide from.
This is where I have a slight crisis of faith, not of God, but in organized structured religion. This is not a blog post against organized and structured religion, but I think it is time for us to see if we are missing the point. Have we too, like Israel and Judah, lost our understanding of the power of the divine, have we corrupted the message of God for personal profit, are we guilty of being overfed, arrogant, unconcerned, neglecting the poor and needy. Are we prideful? Are we so focused on providing God with burnt offerings and sacrifices? Are we so focused on the pageantry of Sunday, the songs, liturgy, readings, lights, branding and all the other things that go on a Sunday morning? These things are not wrong, but without more, they are meaningless. If we are coming to church to make sure we are “Ok” with God, we are missing the point. You see the church and organized religion are simply a vessel that God partners with to bring life into the world, to show a glimpse of heaven now.
When the organized religion gets in the way of the amazing work of that God desires to do with us in the world, the church is in the wrong. When the organized religion starts telling us who is “in” or “out”, the church has failed us. When the organized religion starts to tell us to feed our desire for power, control, and status, the church has failed us.
Yet, when the organized religion calls us to repent, to turn around to move in a renewed manner that is worth of our calling ourselves followers of Christ, the church has done us a great good. When the church calls us to wash ourselves clean, to remove the evil doing from before our eyes, to cease doing evil, the church has done us a great good. When organized religion calls us to seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless and plead for the widow, not only when it calls us to do these things but it provides amazing manners to go out and change the world, the church has done us a great good.
While I have an occasional crisis of faith in organized structured religion, when it follows in the footsteps of Yahweh and not nations, empires, and companies I am hopefully again that the world can change. Heaven can come to earth, injustice can end, love can win and above all, we can be united against the oppressive powers of this world and light can shine in the darkness.