Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Renewal, then and now.

The lesson from 2 Chronicles 29-30 today is both quite apposite and very instructive. Apposite to our circumstances because it tells the truth about spiritual life: it often goes through periods of decay. Instructive, because it gives the reader a fine example of what leaders and laity alike must do in response to such decay.

When Hezekiah calls the people back to the observance of Passover, there is a tacit admission that things had become so slack, so faithless that not even the essential elements of the observance of the Law were being carried out at the Temple. For ‘time out of mind,’ the Temple had become a sort of spiritual emporium, where all sorts of different cults and divinities were honored—not the Holy Place wherein God’s Name dwelt.

The priests were not able to observe the Passover at the right time because most of them were too lazy to be bothered to prepare adequately. I am reminded here of the growing number of clergy in my own tradition who seem content to reduce a Sacred Calling to a fee-for-service arrangement, gradually allowing congregations to become more concerned about how to make money off renting out church property than the offering of the Sacred Mysteries in the “beauty of holiness” to a spiritually-starved generation. The parallels are too many to be ignored.

Hezekiah, a good man and a rare exception to the usual trend of kings and leaders, adapts and cajoles and encourages. He restores the Temple to true worship. He re-orders the priorities of the state and religious apparatus. He does not reward incompetence or take slovenliness as “the new normal.” Overcoming one obstacle after another, he perseveres so that this peculiar, out-of-season Passover may finally be observed. The result is a sudden remembrance of what the People of God had forsaken. A renewal of conscience occurs.

Dark days are ahead in Jerusalem’s history, and this will not be the last time the Hebrews will turn their backs to God. We, too, are witnessing a season in the American Church not unlike that found in Chronicles. It is up to the leaders of this generation to recall the people to faithfulness and holiness of life. It is up to us all to set our eyes not on the lowered expectations of a corrupt and dissolute era, but on Christ Jesus, the bishop of our souls, not counting the cost but pressing on ahead toward the glory that shall be.

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