Poverty Relief and Liturgical Splendour as Worship

Matthew 25 says that those who give food to ‘the least of these my brothers’ when they are hungry, drink when they are thirsty, welcome when they are strangers, clothing when they are naked, and visit when they are sick or in prison, these are the ones who so have served and worshipped Christ; on the other hand, worship of Yahweh as described in the Old Testament is full of gold and incense such that we cannot say simply, ‘Christ has fulfilled it, so it is no longer necessary.’

What do we do? Both. Jesus himself implies as much (Mt 23.23). We especially who live in America have the resources to give enough for both, even with a bad economy, even with the FDIC failing, even indeed with all help from Babylon or Egypt departed.

It is obvious that we must do the first:

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgement goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love [or mercy] and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hos 6.4–6)

If ‘the least of these my brothers’ refers to the most downtrodden of Christ’s family, the Church, these people are indeed part of Christ, lest we neglect them. In this way we certainly will be neglecting Christ himself – refusing to worship him! – if we do not serve ‘the least of these’.

But our respect for God in the liturgy is crucial as well, for God rebukes Judah in Malachi for devoting animals with defects to him as the gifts of their worship. It is not just about the heart independent of all else: right form is immensely important, as I have written before, though now we seek to deduce ways to express Christ’s fulfilment of the Old Testament, of the covenants of Abraham and Moses, in our worship as a Church.

If the problem is lack of money given to do both, we need to repent.


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