Today’s readings are a call to right worship, to righteousness, or right relationship with God and others. Worship of God, properly understood and properly performed, does not allow singing and praying and invoking God’s name in church and then cursing at someone in the parking lot, or even sending a tersely-written email the moment we get home. More than that, right worship requires hesed, the Hebrew word that means something like love in action. Worshipping our God means putting our faith into practice and loving as we are loved by God.
Solomon, the architect of the Temple, is dedicating the Temple in our first reading this morning. He stands before the altar in the presence of the entire community and prays that God would watch over the temple and forgive the sins of the community. Now that they have a place to worship God rightly, the challenge for the community would be to honor that worship in day to day living, which as the scriptures tell us, sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.
Which leads to the conflict with the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel reading. They take the disciples of Jesus (and Jesus himself) to task for not following every prescribed ritual that is basically a human precept and minor tradition. Yet they support people creating loopholes in order to violate the fourth commandment of the decalogue and dishonor their parents. And I’m sure our Lord could have given them many more examples. The point is that, if they want to honor traditions, they need to worship rightly, putting their faith into action.
So this is a lesson we need to heed as well. We can get caught up in the practice of our worship and never practice our faith if we’re not careful. We must always remember that the true worship of God merely begins here in church; it plays out in the way we live our lives, the interactions we have with family, friends, community members, shopkeepers, coworkers, and so many more. If we are not making the love of God present everywhere we go, are we really worshipping at all?