Blog for Day 89—Good King Hezekiah—“Re-Attending to God” 2 Kings 18:1 – 21:26
March 30, 2021, 9:09 AM

Blog for Day 89—Good King Hezekiah—“Re-Attending to God” 2 Kings 18:1 – 21:26

Commandment #1: I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before me.

Reading about kings, we have learned how hard it seems to be to continue on the pathways of God. Power, wealth, personal relationships—they all seem to conspire against a strong dependence on the LORD. That makes sense, really. When we are put into positions of high decision making, when people bow every time they meet us, when our world consists of those who wait for us to speak until they act, and they then do whatever we tell them to do—I know I say this over and over again, but it is corrupting to the human soul to have such power over other people, and while some rulers can navigate this well, most rulers, then and now, have great difficulty.

Blissfully for us, Hezekiah (Yahweh is my strength)  is a king who can navigate this responsibility well. On our chart of kings, you will see him under Judah’s line, and he is one of only five kings who begins his reign as “good” and who ends it as “good”.

Just yesterday we read about that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken over by the Assyrians, and that the people were scattered from their homes, while others from surrounding nations resettled into the land of Israel. The ominous ending said that practices of worshipping foreign gods continued from that time through the generations that followed (2 Kings 17: 41)

Hezekiah, by contrast, was the great street sweeper of the LORD, the Roomba of the foreign gods, removing all the high places of pagan worship, even destroying the bronze serpent that Moses had made because people had begun to worship that statue as a god. That must have taken guts on the part of Hezekiah! Imagine that the one surviving artifact of the exodus, beyond the Ark of the Covenant, was this physical reminder of God’s care for his people. I completely understand how it became its own object of worship, the elevation of a thing, rather than praising of the God who saves, who may feel invisible to God’s people.

Physical presence really matters to us, doesn’t it? I’m going to wade out into troubled waters again as I use an example of the childhood church that you may have grown up attending. Perhaps your children were baptized there, your parents were buried from that church. While I have not had a lifetime church, I clearly remember Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Carmel, NY, which is downstate. That church has imprinted itself on my heart because it is where my faith was formed, where all seven of my brothers and sisters and I spent time every week as a family, which is not easy to do with a group that large! However, my father developed a “laser gaze” that clearly put us in our places when we began squirming or giggling too much. It always worked.

In any case, I have spoken to people about the changes in our churches, the closing of some, and the combination of others. My heart breaks when I hear people say that they can no longer attend church because the building has changed. Truly breaks. I understand completely why people feel that way—it’s not the same. It’s not MY family church. I don’t like the new (or old) pastor. My question is always—but then where will you worship? In what place will God have your full attention? Where is a holy space in your life for community and growth? Where will  God feed you on a regular basis with his word, his sacraments?

What Hezekiah realized is that our attachment to physical things that remind us of God can actually distract us from God when those things become more important than worshipping God. That’s why he destroyed the serpent. The idea of the serpent was from God, the crafting of it was commanded by God, but it became an object of worship on its own rather than something that pointed the way to the greater glory of God. Look beyond the snake, people! A holy God who saves is right there!!!

So back to our churches. Why then do we make decisions about our places of worship that actually prevent us from spending time in community with others? Why, when there are changes in church, or even an entire ‘church change’, do we place more emphasis on the physical space than on the divine, astonishing, faithful presence of God in ALL Christian churches, even churches that we did not attend as a child, even the church across town that was not our family’s church, even when contemporary music surprises us or a new prayer practice jolts us? Years ago, I found a quote that I have kept on my refrigerator since then: “A building is not the answer anymore. This is not a real-estate problem. It is a faith problem.”

Hezekiah knew that the people’s faith was becoming watered down by the alternate practices, foreign gods, and empty idols,—the serpent on a stick was pointing the way to Someone, to the God who saved them, but the people stopped at the level of the physical presence of a bronze snake, and it hijacked their connection to the God. King Hezekiah knew this, and destroyed the idol that stood in the way of the people worshiping, as the commandment tells us, the LORD, our God.

This week we need to be sure that we are looking beyond our own idols, beyond the practices that we ‘must’ have, beyond the changes that the pandemic has caused, beyond the buildings, beyond the incense, the vestments, the singing that we can’t do, and we need to walk the way of the Greeks in our daily Holy Week gospel for today from John 12. The Greeks had come to Jerusalem, probably to witness the spectacle of the week of the Passover celebrations. Like any city during a festival, Jerusalem came alive with vendors and people. But the Greeks, who were not among the ‘chosen people’, who were not Jews, knew what they needed, knew what they wanted: “Sir,” they said to Philip, one of the disciples, “we wish to see Jesus.”

That breaks my heart too, but in a different way. The Greeks who approached Philip were outsiders, people who were watching from the margins. Imagine their bravery and their desire to see someone that they believed could change their lives. My heart breaks with compassion because their request is so risky, and so honest.

And so we, too, come to this place this Holy Week. We, too, should be saying “We wish to see Jesus” with all the bravery, and curiosity and desire in our hearts. But first, we must journey to the cross. May our hearts be broken open.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

                                                                                       



Comments

03-30-2021 at 7:49 PM
Billy
Well said.
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