Preachers joke about sacred cows in the church today. These are topics or objects that are sure to spur contention if you mess around with them. Most times, as the name implies, these are things that shouldn’t be as important as they are. King Hezekiah took on sacred cows.
Actually, they were sacred poles, places of worship the people used to honor foreign gods. Literally, idols.
For a while, it was common for preachers to say to not make any changes in a new church for the first year. That made sense to a lot of people. Churches didn’t mind it too much either.
The struggle is what you let continue can be all the more difficult to adjust later. That’s what makes Hezekiah one of Israel’s greatest kings. He took a radical approach–radical to us, perhaps. In the first year, in the first month of his reign, he started shifting the culture of the people.
His transformation began with worship in God’s house.
He instructed the priests to sanctify the house of the Lord. For some time, they had been negligent in their duties. Their practices helped lead the people to forsake the Lord. Hezekiah recognized their unfaithfulness.
If that was going to change, it would begin in worship.
He wouldn’t use this language, but Hezekiah was preparing for revival, transformation. I use those terms interchangeably. That’s what his reforms brought. It was a new season for the people of God.
That inspires a lot of us right now because we’re hopeful the pandemic is coming to a finish. A new season is coming for us, too.
Sure, we understand there are precautions that need to remain, but we’re getting antsy. Little by little more people are getting vaccinated. Some are even starting to return to in-person worship.
Think of how many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t wait to go back to normal!” It feels like the time is coming soon.
It’s been my concern all along that our churches would go back to normal the first chance they got.
Like no-new-people-coming-to-faith normal? What about what’s-in-it-for-me normal? Should we mention the-way-we’ve-always-done-it-and-can’t-understand-why-we’re-not-growing normal? Oh, and what about young-people-leaving-the-church normal? People-not-feeling-like-they-belong-normal?
Then there’s my favorite: can’t-get-the-church-to-pray normal.
Are we okay with all that?
Hezekiah’s example reminds me where transformation begins. It is not with new programs or pet projects. Committees can’t bring change. And we cannot fundraise our way to revival.
Transformation begins with our willingness to faithfully worship God. And this is not about music or liturgy! That is such an outdated bone of contention.
Faithful worship stems from openness to God.
Are we open to God changing our minds? our hearts? our methods? Are we open to God expanding the boundaries of who is included in our worship?
If we are, transformation can happen. If not, it’s back to normal.