Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, 2 Kings 22:1-13, 1 Corinthians 11:2 (3-16) 17-22, Matthew 9:1-8
Josiah was only eight years old when he became king of Judah, but he was the best king to come along in a while. He tried his best to restore the honor of The Lord to his kingdom. During a restoration project at the Temple, the high priest found the book of the law (probably Deuteronomy) and had it delivered to the king. Josiah was outraged to discover his people had not been following the Lord’s commands for quite some time, and immediately set about making things right.
Whether the book had been lost for a long time or simply rediscovered is up for debate, but one thing is clear: by the time of Josiah’s reign, the Jewish people had strayed from the core of what defined them. From the time they insisted on being ruled by kings as were their neighbors, they began more and more to resemble those neighbors in so many ways – including the gods they worshipped – that they could comfortably neglect and eventually forget to do what God had commanded. They still identified fiercely as a people … but what did that really mean?
Being a Christian today is not nearly as well-defined as being a Jew of Josiah’s time, and that may be all the more reason to take a valuable lesson from today’s scripture.
It’s easy for the Gospel to get buried under everything we’ve borrowed from our neighbors. Sometimes it’s obscured by well-intended effort, such as trying to make the faith more “relevant” by assuming the trappings of culture instead of meetings its emptiness head-on. Other times it may take a renovation – of our church community or personal spiritual life – to understand we’ve inherited a Gospel clad in a fortress of bias, tradition, superstition, and ignorance. So much so that not only can’t outsiders find a way in, our central message – assuming we can find it – can’t find its way out.
The Gospel is sufficient on its own. We study a lifetime to understand it, but there’s nothing we can do to improve on it. Grace defines us as a people, yet it cannot be defined. God’s love contains us, but trying to contain it thwarts love. We can domesticate the Gospel and settle for being nominally Christian but otherwise unidentifiable as followers of Christ, or we can let it work its radical change upon us to be seen by all who would seek it.
Comfort: The Gospel speaks for itself…
Challenge: … but if we are to hear, we must be committed to changing.
Prayer: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.. (Psalm 42:1)
Discussion: As you mature in your faith, what aspects of Christian culture do you find more or less important?
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