by Revd Philip Barringer
2 Chronicles Chapter 31
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace, mercy and peace to you through our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.
As we come to the end of our series looking at the story of Hezekiah and how he restored and reformed worship in the Temple, I hope you have enjoyed this journey into what may have seemed ancient and unfamiliar territory and have been able to recognise some of the parallels that have been drawn between then and now.
Hezekiah is remembered as a reformer of worship and Chronicles’ verdict is that Hezekiah did ‘what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.’ and that ‘In everything that he undertook… he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.’ It recognises that our overriding priority is to worship the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and spirit. But Hezekiah’s reforms are not just ‘spiritual’, they include structural and practical change and reorganisation, and I want to look at three ways in which Hezekiah’s reforms remobilised the people of God in mission and ministry.
1. People are appointed to minister according to their gifts and calling.
What really stands out is just how many names are listed as being involved in the ministry. It is something that the whole community engaged in, and everyone had a part to play. They includes ‘overseers’, ‘ministers’, ‘assistants’, ‘singers and musicians’, ‘giving officers’, ‘activists’, ‘treasurers’, ‘cleaners’ etc…
We too need people with practical gifts doing practical things, we need financial people doing finance stuff, we need techy people doing techy stuff, we need community activists engaging with our communities and we need creative people being creative, so that each member of the Rivers Team is able to live out their Christian vocation, exercising their gifts and operating within their passions to engage in the mission of God in a way that uniquely fits the unique person God created them to be. So, I want to encourage everyone to reflect on these questions:
What is it I am passionate about?
What things bring me to life and energise me?
What do I do best?
and then to consider what that might tell you about your own gifts and calling? And to think about how you might harness this to serve the Lord?
2. Ministry is for all not a chosen few.
It is not just the number that stands out, it is also the diversity, we are told “They included all the little ones, the wives, and the sons and daughters of the whole community listed in these records…”
We know from the story of Samuel that it had been the practice in Israel for very young children to ‘minister before the Lord’, ‘to hear the word of Lord’ and speak it out, this is something that is rediscovered in Hezekiah’s time. Over the period of lockdown, I think we have rediscovered this too, as we have been blessed in our online services by some of the very youngest members of the Rivers Team contributing to our worship alongside some of the oldest.
We need to be intentional about building on this as we start to move back to in person services. I believe we should be expecting the Lord to honour his promise to pour out the Holy Spirit on all people, for our sons and daughters to prophesy, for our old to dream dreams and our young to see visions, and in our worship and in our structures, we need to make space for this to happen.
3. The community unites and acts together to accomplish a common vision.
Hezekiah’s collaborative approach is a mark of spiritual leadership. Throughout Chronicles, Kings who consulted in making decisions are compared favourably against those with a more autocratic style. As a Team Ministry we have come a long way on this journey, but we need to be asking, how can we work better and more collaboratively as a team. This is a two-way street, requiring leaders to consult and to delegate, and the whole community of faith to engage in taking collective responsibility. As we look to develop an ‘oversight’ model of ministry for our clergy, this pattern is one we need to be increasingly exploring.
Throughout the account of Hezekiah there is unity of purpose and shared vision for the mission and ministry, and as we seek to reshape our Team to be more effective in our shared ministry of the gospel, we need to come together around a common vision, one that we all own – although it is neither mine or yours, it’s God’s that we have discerned – and move towards it as one.
Over the last 12 months the PCC, Wardens and I have been prayerfully seeking to discern this and consider how to structure ourselves to align with that. I shared some principles for this in a keynote address at the AGM, and over the summer we will be engaging in a wider conversation this.
My prayer is that as a Christian community we will share a similar experience to the people of Judah in Hezekiah’s reign who saw that ‘the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry it out… following the word of the LORD’ and be able to rejoice together ‘at what God brought about for his people’. A people that are renewed, released, and rejuvenated and mobilised by the Lord, so that we can write a new and exciting chapter in the Chronicles of the Rivers Team and have a lasting impact in our communities and beyond, to the Glory of Gad, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
With love and blessings, Rev. Philip