In these days of information overload and Wikipedia, it seems incredible that, in the past, so much control was exerted by withholding information.
Sacred texts were carefully controlled by religious authorities, considered too dangerous to be delivered into the hands of the masses.
And so, all through history, we find revolts and reformations based around release of the word.
Withholding scripture became a means of retaining power. When that power was breached reformation occurred.
The sacred text that Josiah discovered, probably carefully concealed by his predecessors, certainly gave him impetus to reclaim tradition and recover truths once shared and practiced.
It might be useful to consider something of the context and chronology behind today’s text.
Around 715 BCE, King Hezekiah became king of Judah. Hezekiah was a very pious king and began a series of religious reforms.
He was succeeded around 687 BCE by his son Manasseh, who reigned for 45 years and was described as one of the worst kings- some reputation, given the awful acts of many kings of that era. Manasseh was succeeded, briefly, by his son Amon who was murdered just two years into his reign before Josiah took over in BCE 640.
Josiah, by all accounts, sought to continue his great grandfather, Hezekiah’s reforms and organised repairing the temple. It was during this work that the scroll, probably hidden for safe keeping during Manasseh’s reign, was found. This led to Josiah’s reforms.
At the start of Advent,a time of new beginnings, we might want to ask ourselves:
- As a community of faith, what is it that allows us to keep losing sight of the Word?
- How might we continue to”shake off the dust”and rediscover that word for today, gradually uncovering the treasure and embarking on a journey of discovery?
- Why do we allow that reforming word so often to slip into obscurity instead of being constantly reformed and renewed by its message?
- Having rediscovered the word, how do we contextualize it for our community?
- How do we encourage different generations, building on their experience and tradition, to see the words in a new light for these times?
- How do we make way for the power of the word to affect everyday life?
There is no danger, today, of the word being hidden. But it’s accessibility does not seem to enhance our observance. The power is still there, waiting to be released, to emerge from the walls we build around it and bring about change.
There is no doubt that the kind of reformation that could be accomplished if we heeded the Word of God is needed now more than ever.
As we make every day choices that affect economy, politics and issues of equality and justice, how might the power of the Word direct our choices and effect change that makes a difference for all God’s children?
As we look forward to celebrating the Incarnation, how might we give flesh to the reform that God seeks to accomplish?
This Advent calls for us to be bold, to blow the dust off the Word, to release the power and to see in its wake, the creativity of God born for every time and place, disrupting and uprooting the whole people of God.
(These musings were also shared in Spill the Beans)