In Psalm 81, Asaph, King David’s appointed worship leader invites Israel to be happy and shout to God who makes them strong. In the first five verses he reminds them that worship is mandatory, a commandment given to Joseph’s descendants when God led them out from the land of Egypt.

Asaph’s voice shifts in verse six. For the remainder of the psalm he sounds like an aggrieved lover who can’t understand the hard head and stubborn ways of his beloved. That voice is God’s. “Israel, if you would only pay attention to me!” God cries. “But, my people, Israel, you refused to listen and you would have nothing to do with me!”

In Luke 14, Jesus tells the parable of the great banquet. When the day arrives, the host’s invited guests make excuses. Work and family preoccupy them. Furious, the host commands his servant to bring in the city’s poor, crippled, blind and lame – all of them – that his house may be filled.

Those excuses ring true for us today. Our lives are saturated with demands on our time and attention: aging parents, children, illness, school, careers, money, shelter, church work. Worship often seems “a royal waste of time.” Nurturing a relationship feels like too much, even one that promises to make us strong enough to bear the wait and weight of unanswered prayers.

Perhaps when we understand the command to worship as God’s invitation to come and be fed “with the finest bread and the best honey” we’ll be ready to pay attention. God invites us – the poor, crippled, blind and lame – to a table he’s prepared in the presence of the noisy demands that deafen us.

O Bread of Life, we cannot share what we haven’t received. Please teach us how to pay attention so that we may recognize and pass along your invitation to eat of your word and be strong. In Jesus’ name. Amen

By Renee James