Grace and peace to you from God, who comes to us in peace. Amen.
This is the season for pulling out boxes and discovering things we might have forgotten. In our household, Katie and Heather are so excited to pull out our Advent decorations this week. “Oh, remember this? Remember this?” I love it too. Trinkets and art projects that we’ve acquired over the years, things we haven’t seen for at least a year, maybe longer. There’s a joy in re-discovering, reconnecting, remembering.
I’ve had a similar experience with old friends -- friends I haven’t seen for a long time and -- just like those Advent and Christmas decorations -- it’s not that they’re not important, but those good, old friendships can get packed away on the shelf, as work and distance and the hectic-ness of life crowds out those treasures. We had that experience again of recovering, reconnecting and remembering how important some of our friendships are over this Thanksgiving weekend. We spent a day and a night with some old college friends, who live up in Los Angeles. They have kids the same age as our kids, and we had never even met them! And it was so good to be together, and such a good reminder how important those friendships are. Heather and I, as we debrief together in the car after such experiences will often ponder, why don’t we make more intentional effort to keep those friendships out of the attic and more central?
Our text this morning from 2 Kings talks about King Josiah re-discovering the covenant, the Scripture. He gathers all the people together -- “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 soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.”
One of the things I love when we pull out old stuff, is when we discover again, “Hey, everyone, c’mere! This is really great stuff!” Old letters from family, old videos or recordings we made, even just a few years back. I had that experience again this year with 50th Anniversary video we worked so hard on back in 2011 -- not even that long ago, and already a relic, right? “Hey, everyone, c’mere! This is really great stuff!”
That’s King Josiah in this text! The monarchy has drifted away from the Covenant. I think that’s an important distinction: they just drifted. There was never an abrupt decision to cut off our connections with old college friends, or I’m going to put this anniversary video on the shelf and never think about it again. It’s more of a drifting away. There’s not usually a moment of saying I’m done with this church, I’m done with this bible, I’m done with this people, I’m done with this God -- it’s more of a drifting away. [pause]
But here’s a picture of a king leading...by pulling off the shelf, rediscovering, remembering, reconnecting the treasured scripts and scrolls that matter. He is re-centering himself and inviting all God’s people to re-center and remember this covenant, this story.
What a great way to start Advent, to start a whole new year: re-centering on the texts, the scripts and scrolls that matter!
You know, there are a lot of scripts and scrolls out there that don’t matter. However there are a lot of scripts and scrolls out there that can so easily pull our attention away from this one. For example, the scripts and scrolls of these high holy days of advertising: “You’re not happy.” That’s line 1.
Line 2: “...unless you have [fill in the blank].” Line 3: “Then you will be truly happy.”
That is the whole script of advertising and consumerism, and we keep falling for it again and again! At least I do.
But the euphoria wears off pretty quickly, and I’m so ready to hear again that I’m not happy. I’m so ready to rehearse the script again, the script that doesn’t matter.
King Josiah calls his people and us, sisters and brothers in Christ, to gather around a different script, a different scripture. One that involves work -- not just taking, not just consuming, but giving and taking. When we re-connect and remember and recover a friendship, guess what? That relationship will take work, both giving and taking. Sharing joys and sharing sorrows. Being honest and vulnerable. Real relationship is tough, right? Community is tough, right?
But this is script that gives life, a God who does not abandon us, who comes to be with us amid all the darkness, and the fear, and the cold of this world. Who re-covenants with us, despite the fact that we’ve said we’d do this before...
This scene in 2 Kings must be a bit comical for God. God’s seen this before -- Joshua (as for me and my house...): couldn’t do it. Judges: couldn’t do it. David, Solomon: couldn’t do it.
You and me (uh-oh), all the times we said we’d change our ways: couldn’t do it.
And yet, God waits for us. God loves us anyway. God longs for us to recommit, to give it another go: “Try it again, sweetheart.” A parent’s love for their child never really runs out, even while it’s stretched and strained. Here we go again. New year. Advent. Clean slate. Standing before God together, and gathering around the covenantal book.
| Touching the Torah cover appropriately is a symbolic way to show respect and |
affection for the Torah and the Jewish teachings it contains and represents. (kbia.org)
We didn’t make this practice up, it’s an ancient Jewish practice. And many will touch the scroll even with a kiss. That bodily act of reverence, like many other bodily acts of reverence, I think can direct, our hearts and minds and souls to the right place too. To a full devotion.
Today we re-commit. We re-connect. We remember all that God has done for us. We continue to give thanks. And we entrust ourselves to a God who sticks, especially in the loosest of times; a God who gets close, especially when things are flying apart. Sisters and brothers in Christ, we have a God who is faithful and just, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That is the source of our peace. God in Christ Jesus is the source of our peace. This is the script we rediscover, we pull down from the shelf, and we proclaim again this day. “Hey, everyone, c’mere! This is really great stuff!” AMEN.