Skip to content

An ecclesial gloss on Isaiah 1:10-17

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Rome and Constantinople!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Grand Rapids and Wheaton!
What do I care about the multitude of your Eucharists?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of your broken bread
and piously drunk wine;
I do not delight in your baptisms,
of children, or of adults.
When you come to worship before me,
who asked you to do this?
Stop making the gathering of my people a sham;
bringing eloquent homilies is futile; expository preaching is an abomination to me.
Your Sunday mornings and and your liturgical calendars—
I cannot endure your ecclesial practices when there is idolatry.
Your Christian year and your holy feast days
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.

When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Repent! Change how your are living;
get your idolatry out of my sight;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.


  1. Nick wrote:

    Convenient that “they” are indicted here but you are not, nor the people you like theologically. Nice.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Wow you sure seem to know a lot about me and the people I like. Last time I checked I fit into the group under critique here pretty well.

    But thanks for unreflectively assuming the worst about me.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  3. Through people like Hauerwas and Cavanaugh, I came at a new appreciation for the liturgical church (calendar, eucharist, etc) in terms of politics and ethics.

    So this is a fine reminder that our worship is meaningless if we don’t participate in the divine life, the mission of restoration. Thanks, Halden.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, me too. My church follows the liturgical calendar, lectionary, etc. and its really a wonderful thing.

    In reading Isaiah it was just striking how the Lord is just tearing to shreds all these liturgical forms of worship that he mandated explicitly in Scripture. And yet, I feel like there’s a lot of trepidation (or even scorn) in certain circles these days towards even considering similar critiques of Christian liturgy (which certainly was not mandated by God in the same way as Israel’s liturgy was).

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  5. Brad A. wrote:

    But Yahweh isn’t just tearing these liturgical forms to shreds because he doesn’t like them. Here, like in Amos, he’s saying “Don’t you dare come to ‘worship’ me when you practice injustice and violence as a social way of life.” It’s worship (which no doubt contained some problematic elements, but this doesn’t really receive the emphasis so much) in vain. Instead, “let justice/righteousness roll like a river…” Undoubtedly, that corrupts the worship, but I don’t think “form” is primarily the problem.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  6. No, me neither. And neither does Halden (I presume). But rather, even God’s commanded forms of worship are meaningless in the absence of justice.

    Like Paul said: Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord. This is your spiritual form of worship.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink
  7. Well…re-reading Halden’s comment, I think a better way to understand it is to say: hey, let’s feel free to experiment with the liturgy as long as we remember what real worship is…

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  8. roger flyer wrote:

    Isaiah 58:1-10 SPRINGS to mind in all this, too

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  9. Paul Templeman wrote:

    God Against Religion by Matt Boulton also comes to mind.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  10. WenatcheeTheHatchet wrote:

    “I cannot endure your ecclesial practices when there is idolatry”

    uh, if that line didn’t obviously include Halden’s tradition I don’t know what would. That sums up the passage, really. If anything there are a lot of Christians who would see the passaged as not indicting them because they don’t observe a Christian calendar (probably a neo-pagan assimilation of all those not-really-churches) and (in their minds) have “no liturgy”. The paraphrase-commentary is useful in bringing to light that contemporary groups of believers need to understand the nature of the warning. Looking to Egypt for refuge these dayd might look more like looking to the Republican or Democratic parties to prevail and obtain the justice you seek but that’s another, slightly different way of applying the warnings of prophets for our time.

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site