Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Re-discovering the word. (Narrative Lectionary, Year 2 Advent 1)

2 Kings 22:1-10; 23:1-3
Josiah Reigns over Judah
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law
In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people; let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”
The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord.” Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.” Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.
2 Kings 23:1-3
Josiah’s Reformation
Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.

In these days of information overload and Wikipedia, it seems incredible that, in the past, so much control was exerted by withholding information.
Sacred texts were carefully controlled by religious authorities, considered too dangerous to be delivered into the hands of the masses.
And so, all through history, we find revolts and reformations based around release of the word.
Withholding scripture became a means of retaining power. When that power was breached reformation occurred.
The sacred text that Josiah discovered, probably carefully concealed by his predecessors, certainly gave him impetus to reclaim tradition and recover truths once shared and practiced.
It might be useful to consider something of the context and chronology behind today's text.
Around 715 BCE, King Hezekiah became king of Judah. Hezekiah was a very pious king and began a series of religious reforms.
He was succeeded around 687 BCE by his son Manasseh, who reigned for 45 years and was described as one of the worst kings- some reputation, given the awful acts of many kings of that era. Manasseh was succeeded, briefly, by his son Amon who was murdered just two years into his reign before Josiah took over in BCE 640.
Josiah, by all accounts, sought to continue his great grandfather, Hezekiah's reforms and organised repairing the temple. It was during this work that the scroll, probably hidden for safe keeping during Manasseh's reign, was found. This led to Josiah's reforms.

At the start of Advent,a time of new beginnings, we might want to ask ourselves: 
  • As a community of faith, what is it that allows us to keep losing sight of the Word?
  • How might we continue to"shake off the dust"and rediscover that word for today, gradually uncovering the treasure and embarking on a journey of discovery?
  • Why do we allow that reforming word so often to slip into obscurity instead of being constantly reformed and renewed by its message?
  • Having rediscovered the word, how do we contextualize it for our community?
  • How do we encourage different generations, building on their experience and tradition, to see the words in a new light for these times?
  • How do we make way for the power of the word to affect everyday life?

There is no danger, today, of the word being hidden. But it's accessibility does not seem to enhance our observance. The power is still there, waiting to be released, to emerge from the walls we build around it and bring about change.
There is no doubt that the kind of reformation that could be accomplished if we heeded the Word of God is needed now more than ever.
As we make every day choices that affect economy, politics and issues of equality and justice, how might the power of the Word direct our choices and effect change that makes a difference for all God's children?
As we look forward to celebrating the Incarnation, how might we give flesh to the reform that God seeks to accomplish?
This Advent calls for us to be bold, to blow the dust off the Word, to release the power and to see in its wake, the creativity of God born for every time and place, disrupting and uprooting the whole people of God. 
(Written for Spill the Beans. Also posted at RevGalBlogPals)

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