Thursday, October 8, 2015

When a people turn

And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.

(2 Kings 23:21-23 ESV)

Today's reading from 2 Kings caught my attention. And though I continued on in reading the letter to the Corinthian church and reading the gospel of Matthew, I kept coming back to these two verses.

It was approximately 620BC. We have the benefit of hindsight but Josiah didn't, nor did Hilkiah, the high priest.  But if you do a google search on King Josiah timeline, you get a pretty good snapshot of what's happening for Israel.

In just a few decades after Josiah, Jerusalem is laid out flat.

What struck me about these verses is their brutal reality. I think that there are plenty good leaders, but what separates the good from the great is being that man or woman that says "Hey, let's take a look at what's really happening in (our organization, our institution, our team, our ministry team, our community, etc)"  And it takes courage--courage that seems to course through their veins revealing their willingness to be honest about problems, failures, struggles, dysfunction and own them.

That is courage to me, and I respect that. I think when we get honest with ourselves and others is when we can really begin to affect change--albeit slowly at times.

These verses declare that the Passover (a central climactic event in the history of the people of Israel and their relationship with God as deliverer and Savior) had NOT be celebrated for over 400 years. Even if it had been celebrated, Josiah, who became King at 8 years old, has no memory of it, and apparently nor does the High Priest.  Is that a problem?  I would think so.  So he gets all brutal reality when they find this Book of the Covenant in the Temple.

First, this is the Passover. In the history of Israel, this event is a pretty, significant event, and was one that was to be celebrated as a remembrance of God's deliverance and Saving power. It marks the beginning of Israel's freedom in God.

And it hadn't been celebrated for approximately 400 years, at least with regularity, as a people.  I imagine there were many homes and villages who did celebrate the Passover, but as far as Jerusalem being the symbolic center of faith in God, YHWH, the Passover had simply faded away with time and the distractions of running a nation.

Imagine with me how this might play out in our culture, today.  One that immediately comes to mind is the Pledge of Allegiance.  It is not my intent to argue the validity of saying the Pledge or not saying the Pledge, including "under God" or not including "under God"--that argument has plenty of blogs and articles devoted to both sides. What I think is interesting is that we need to see how something that defines our national identity is being transformed, or changed, or debated.

I wonder if the homes that celebrated Passover were horrified at the leadership of Judah (Israel split into two kingdoms in 900BC: Northern Kingdom was Israel, and Southern Kingdom was Judah) forgetting to celebrate Passover.

It would be like the United States government forgetting to celebrate the Fourth of July. How would that feel? Ok, so now you get what I mean about how the people may have felt!

So do you think there were people in Judah "up in arms" about the failure of their leadership regarding Passover, the central symbolic identity of the nation of Israel as a covenant people with God? I imagine so.

Imagine how it felt to be the High Priest? Like, man, that's YOUR JOB to make sure we don't forget this super important spiritual stuff! Can you hear the conversation in your head:

Hilkiah: "So Josiah, we, um, found this book today..." 
Bet that conversation went real well. 

So here comes Josiah. He finds this book with the help of his High Priest, who perhaps had some version of OCD and just had to get that Temple organized (complete fictionalizing here--so don't quote that has historical fact!). The interesting part is that Josiah determines to do something about it, and he is reputed to be the King who helped re-instate the Deuteuronomic code in 622BC at 18 years old. 18 years old!

So, to avoid a political debate about the state of our nation in the U.S., an 18 year old stood up and re-oriented a people to turn back to who they were. Their real identity. And in order to get back to that place, Josiah had to tell them the truth about where they currently were. Hilkiah didn't get fired apparently, but Josiah did start re-orienting an entire nation. And he started with himself and his area of influence.

How many of us want to declare that change is needed in our world? We all do. We all see that change is required, but what we often don't want to see is that ANY change has to start with us. We have to get unerringly and courageously honest with ourselves about our lives, our stuff, our triggers, our hangups, our bad habits, our forgetting.

And when we do that, we can move forward, equipped to turn the world upside down. That's what Josiah did. Now, here's the reality. Look again at that timeline. Did Josiah's determination to get honest with himself stop problems? No, it didn't.  Though he is credited with re-instating the key spiritual tenets of the Jewish faith for the nation, he still had to rely upon the people to turn around. He couldn't make them.

And the story goes that the people didn't turn, or perhaps the realization was needed for them to see that in their own sinful humanity, they couldn't. They couldn't make themselves right enough, or okay enough, or spiritual enough. But let's not jump to a place of safety and deliverance just yet.

Let's sit in the brutal reality of these verses. The people had turned away from celebrating their own deliverance from slavery.

What ways do we today turn away from celebrating or remembering ours?  And what could it take to help us get brutally honest with ourselves, and the people on our teams, in our families, in our marriages, with our kids? What could it take to get off the "blame train" or "it's not my fault" ride, or even "I'm above all of this" isolation?

What could could it mean to really dive deep into our shame, and come out stronger?

I know, I know. I hear you. It's hard. But, I've found that what's harder is not being true to who I am and who God has made me to be in Christ.

I'll leave you with this quote from Brene Brown:

“So much of what we hear today about courage is inflated and empty rhetoric that camouflages personal fears about one’s likability, ratings, and ability to maintain a level of comfort and status. We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret—people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up. I feel so lucky to have spent the past couple of years working with some true bada***s, from teachers and parents to CEOs, filmmakers, veterans, human-resource professionals, school counselors, and therapists. We’ll explore what they have in common as we move through the book, but here’s a teaser: They’re curious about the emotional world and they face discomfort straight-on.”
Brené Brown, Rising Strong