18 Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD!
Why do you want the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, not light;
19 as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
Ouch. We just finished up this past Sunday a special celebration we've been conducting each year, Heritage Day. This year our special focus was our musical heritage, and we celebrated it through many songs, instruments, choirs, etc. This theme in Amos, which occurs more often than simply here, is God's address to us to be careful in thinking that our thank offering, our worship, can somehow appease God, or especially, can make up for or cover up in our communities injustice and lack of righteousness.
Of course, there's the conclusion to Psalm 51 that seems to indicate that when we are repentant, and God has re-established a new heart in us, then indeed our sacrifice of praise is pleasing to God, but prior to that renewal of the Spirit, if we sing to and praise God without concomitant works (and very life) of justice and mercy, the very thing we believe God loves will actually be despised. It is a harsh warning.
I would say it is an especially dangerous temptation for someone like myself who likes and enjoys the energy and flash of festivals and worship, but who doesn't like the conflict and struggle inevitably involved in speaking up for the poor and oppressed. Forgive me, Lord. Make me a part of your great river. Amen.