Monday, July 20, 2015: 2 Chronicles 29-31; James 4
Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel. 2 For the king and his officials and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the passover in the second month3 (for they could not keep it at its proper time because the priests had not sanctified themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem). 4 The plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. 5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the passover to the Lord the God of Israel, at Jerusalem; for they had not kept it in great numbers as prescribed
23 Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the festival for another seven days; so they kept it for another seven days with gladness. 24 For King Hezekiah of Judah gave the assembly a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep for offerings, and the officials gave the assembly a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep. The priests sanctified themselves in great numbers. 25 The whole assembly of Judah, the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the resident aliens who came out of the land of Israel, and the resident aliens who lived in Judah, rejoiced. 26 There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon son of King David of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 Then the priests and the Levites stood up and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; their prayer came to his holy dwelling in heaven.
2 Chronicles 30:1-5; 23-27
When I was in Orlando working full time at the seminary, I was asked to take on a small downtown church that had known hard times. A former pastor had come and stopped using any liturgical elements at all – no creed, no congregational praying of the Lord’s Prayer, no Eucharist liturgy – none of the elements of worship that were held dear by this congregation. The first Sunday that I was there, we spoke the creed, prayed the Lord’s Prayer, and as we shared together the ancient Eucharist liturgy, many folks were in tears. They had missed their celebration of worship deeply, and to have it returned to them was emotionally charged.
I tell you this because it is probably the closest thing in my own experience to what Israel must have known when the temple was restored and the people could observe once again the festival of Passover. Can even begin to imagine what that would be like? To lose your sacred festival? Your traditions?
We live in the tension of maintaining the traditions of the church and simultaneously finding fresh expressions of worship and preaching. New and Old; Modern and Ancient – both important, both valuable, both necessary for the ongoing life of the church. We can refuse to accept anything new in worship and risk losing generations; we can refuse to acknowledge our tradition and risk losing our sacred memory. I believe we can both embrace the new and honor the ritual – to the glory of God!
Where are you willing to flex for the sake of future generations? I would love to hear your thoughts!