Advent Devotionals - December 6th

“Out of Sion hath God appeared: in perfect beauty. Gather my saints together unto me:
those that have made a covenant with me with sacrifice.”

These words are a good exercise in context. Read by themselves, they sound comforting: Our
beautiful God calling His covenant people to Himself.

They come, though, from Psalm 50, and they are sobering words of judgment. “The Mighty
One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth…calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: gather to me my faithful ones…for God himself is judge.” (Psalm 50:1, 4, 5)

So what is the Lord’s judgment? “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you.” (Psalm 50:8)
It wasn’t that they were failing to offer worship to God as prescribed. It was that they were
doing so in a way that missed the whole point of worship. They were going through the motions
and still expecting God to give them what they wanted. What God wanted, though, was for them to “offer…a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High.” He didn’t
want a perfect ritual, He wanted their hearts.

Healthy worship always begins in the heart. It begins with an attitude of thanksgiving, an
acknowledgement that everything we have and everything we are is a gift graciously given by
God. It begins in the humble acknowledgment that we are creatures who are meant to depend
upon our Creator. And humble gratitude pours forth into worshipful praise of our loving God for our “creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for [His] immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ” (Prayer Book, 25).

When we step back and consider all that God has given us, humble thanks cannot help but pour forth.

But that begs a question. Why do you worship?

Do you worship to give God your humble thanks for all that He has given you? Or do you
worship to get something from God? In our consumer culture, sometimes we make the mistake
of thinking that worship is a time in which God gives us something. We evaluate our time
together by the standard of what it gives us, rather than what it gives God. That doesn’t mean
that worship services should be boring or poorly offered, but it does mean that we need to take
care that our attitude and the orientation of our hearts is rightly ordered.

But it doesn’t stop there. It also leads us to “perform your vows to the Most High.” Thankful
worship leads to faithful obedience. As the General Thanksgiving continues, may we “with truly
thankful hearts…show forth [God’s] praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives” (Prayer
Book, 25).

That’s a powerful thing to consider! Worship produces obedience. Put another way, we obey
what we love. If we love God, we will worship Him and it will produce obedience in our lives.
That leads to another question. What do your patterns of obedience reveal about what you love?

The way we live shows what we really love. If we truly seek to love the Lord above all else, it
will show forth in a life of holiness and love. When our lives show something different, perhaps
we need to spend some time looking into our hearts to see where our love is disordered and
where we are pursuing something other than God.

This psalm is sobering, but it is also hopeful. As it comes to a close, the psalmist declares that
“the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies [God]; to the one who orders his way
rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:23). God delights in our thankful hearts and
faithful lives, and when we walk in grateful obedience, we can rest in God’s care and provision,
His saving work in our lives.

Fr. Karl Dietze

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