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From the Rector

From the Rector

October 2021

A Theological Reflection on Worship During and After a Crisis   

In the book of 2nd Chronicles, King Hezekiah comes to power at a time of social disruption and national catastrophe. To make matters worse, the people, in a state of spiritual drift, had previously abandoned the temple worship that God required.

Hezekiah repents and turns the people’s hearts back to God. He reinstates the celebration of the Passover, but with so many crises all at once, there are many irregularities in the way they do it. They celebrate at the wrong time and in the wrong way: they merge this festival of rescue with a completely different ceremony of atonement, and most seriously of all, many of the people involved are ritually unclean.

At the time, every aspect of every ceremony was meticulously prescribed by God in the law. Getting it wrong invited judgment, and participating in worship when unclean was a deadly offence. Yet the bible records that the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people (2 Chron. 30:20).

We learn from this extreme example, that even under a strict covenant of the law, God is far more interested in a heart of worship than the details of how we do it.

Obviously much of what we have been doing as a church has been quite unusual too. Our traditions are nowhere near as important as the cultic rules of the temple, but many of them have meaning and purpose to us, and they’ve all been wrecked.  Nonetheless, there have been some amazing moments of worship, conversion, healing, mourning, and joy together in the last 18 months. We learn from this that sometimes you work with what you have, and God, in His mercy, shows up anyway. If you have a story of God showing up through your disrupted and unusual new ways of worship, I’d love to hear about it.

The account in 2nd Chronicles moves on. Hezekiah is succeeded by two evil kings who take the people away from God again. But when Josiah becomes king, just a young boy, he leads another revival. Interestingly chapter 35 records that he went to great lengths to get the Passover celebration right and do it all by the book this time. Indeed “none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah” (2. Chron. 35:18). But when we look at the detail, we see that Josiah also repeats some of Hezekiah’s weird ‘temporary’ stuff as well: as in Hezekiah’s time, the priests are running around all over the place and they merge the Passover festival with atonement sacrifices too.

We learn from this portion of 2nd Chronicles that sometimes temporary measures become the new normal. It is possible that even though we never would have chosen to do half of what we’ve been doing these past 18 months, and we keep trying to get back to what we know, some of it will stick around because it’s actually better. As I said in the first month of this horrific season, sometimes catastrophe can be creative.

This leads us to one more point. Ultimately the purpose of the Passover festival was to point to Jesus: a greater spotless Passover lamb who would rescue us from our slavery to sin. So too was the idea of atonement: one ultimate sacrifice who would bear our iniquities and restore our relationship with God. How creative is it that, in the midst of catastrophe, somehow these two great theological threads got mixed up, and these clumsy emergency measures ended up pointing even more clearly to Jesus? Perhaps God knows what He’s doing!

Yours in Christ,
Rev’d Alex