By Rev Rainer Schack

April 2, 2006

Isaiah 58:6-10 (CEV):

I will tell you what it really means to worship the Lord.

·        Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly.

·        Free those who are abused!

·        Share your food with everyone who is hungry;

·        Share your home with the poor and homeless.

·        Give clothes to those in need;

·        Don’t turn away your relatives.

Then your light will shine like the dawning sun, and you will quickly be healed.

Your honesty will protect you as you advance, and the glory of the Lord will defend you from behind.

When you beg the Lord for help, he will answer, “Here I am!”

Don’t mistreat others of falsely accuse them or say something cruel.

Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless.

Then your light will shine in the dark;

Your darkest hour will be like the midday sun.

Friends,

A few weeks ago we invited Mark Pierson from Urban Seed to reflect with us on worship.

We talked about our Sunday morning worship services and how we can make sure that our services are relevant and help us to connect with “God”.

While worship services are there to nurture and encourage us on our faith journey,

They also challenge us to look beyond our own personal and church community needs.

During worship we offer ourselves with our joys and sorrows to God.

We draw strength, comfort and encouragement from God,

But we also allow God to set us free from our personal concerns,

so that we are free from ourselves to care for what God cares about,

that we are passionate about what God is passionate about.

Bono, the lead singer of the Rock Band U2, in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, relates the following story: He says:

“A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it. I have a family, please look after them. I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.

Get involved in what God is doing – because it’s already blessed.

Well, God, as I said [this is Bono speaking], is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what he’s calling us to do.” (page 7).

God reminds us through the prophet Isaiah that worship is more than praying,

singing songs, studying the Bible, and telling people about God.

“I will tell you what it really means to worship the Lord,” Isaiah says,

·        Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly.

·        Free those who are abused!

·        Share your food with everyone who is hungry;

·        Share your home with the poor and homeless.

·        Give clothes to those in need;

·        Don’t turn away your relatives.

Isaiah says that we worship God when we do something for those who suffer injustice and/or poverty in this world.

We worship God when we raise our voice on behalf of those who are imprisoned unfairly. (Did you ever consider it to be worship to speak up for the unjust treatment of Hicks and Habib in Guatanamo Bay?)

We worship God when we free those who are abused. (Did you ever consider it to be worship to speak up for those who are abused because of their ethnic background, their religion, their gender or sexuality?)

We worship God when we share food with those who are hungry! (Did you ever consider it to be worship to feed someone who is hungry, particularly someone who has not enough money to buy food for him/herself?

We worship God when we open our houses to the poor and homeless. (This is a tricky one, isn’t it. Who likes to invite the homeless into their homes?

Isaiah says this is worship too. It definitely reminds us about God’s concern for those who have difficulties finding a home to live in).

We worship God when we give clothes to the needy and care for our relatives. (Isn’t it amazing that the relatives are mentioned last in this list?)

God cares for every single person, but particularly for those who are suffering from poverty, hunger, sickness, violence, and mistreatment of whatever kind.

It is interesting to note that poverty is mentioned more than 2100 times in the Bible!!!

When the Bible talks about God’s will to save people, the Bible does not just talk about a spiritual salvation from sin and hell.

Jesus in his life has shown that salvation includes healing of the sick, feeding the hungry, and associating with those who were considered to be outsiders for various reasons.

This is why I consider it to be an incredibly important part of worship to support the make poverty history campaign.

To make sure that our government uses the tax we are paying not just to boost the army and oursecurity, but to help save lives through the provision of anti viral drugs and medication for malaria,

through the provision of wells and clean drinking water,

through debt relief and interest free loans for small businesses in the two-thirds world.

We encourage you today to sign the petition which Ron & Khanh have prepared which we will present to Nicola Roxon, our Federal Member of Parliament.

In the petition we ask for the Government to raise Australia’s financial aid from 0.28% to 0.5% by 2010 and to 0.7% by 2015.

Can you imagine supporting the poorest of the world by adding your name to this petition to be an act of worship?

Let’s think about our feasibility study for the community hub for a moment.

Could our desire to reach out to the disadvantaged groups within Footscray be considered to be more than charity?

Could it be that from God’s perspective supporting the unemployed, the single mums, the new arrivals from Africa and elsewhere,

could it be that this is worship from God’s perspective?

As we continue to work out what it means to love God with all our hearts, to worship God with our entire lives, let us listen to what Scripture has to say about worship and let us learn from the way Jesus lived his life.

Please continue to pray for God’s guidance with regards to the community hub. Ask the hard and uncomfortable questions, but also help us discern what God is saying to us at Footscray Baptist Church.

Next week, we will meet after the service to reflect on Sally & Amber’s interim report. Please come and share your views, concerns and impressions with us.

May we found to make a difference in people’s lives here at Footscray and beyond.

May our struggle for the disadvantaged and the poor bring joy to the God who rejoices in justice.

This is Isaiah’s promise for our support of the poor & disadvantaged:

“The glory of the Lord will defend you from behind. When you beg the Lord for help, he will answer, “here I am! … Your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the midday sun.” (vv 8-10).