The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. Hezekiah king ofJudahprovided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep and goats for the assembly, and the officials provided them with a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep and goats. A great number of priests consecrated themselves. The entire assembly ofJudahrejoiced, along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled fromIsrael, including the aliens who had come fromIsraeland those who lived inJudah. There was great joy inJerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king ofIsraelthere had been nothing like this inJerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.
When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns ofJudah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and in Ephraim and Manasseh. After they had destroyed all of them, the Israelites returned to their own towns and to their own property. 2 Chronicles 30:23-31:1
The word community gets thrown around a lot, but often it means other things: cooperation, organization, group, clique, etc. Community is more than all of these combined and yet we think we can achieve it on Facebook or Twitter. Community is deeper than a profile picture and more work than clicking a “like” button. Community costs us something. Community spurs us to action and to change. Community is where God places the stones together to build Himself a house. The people ofIsraelhad lost their identity as God’s people and lost their sense of community, but Hezekiah brought it back.
When we gather together with others in community, it requires things of us that organizations and clubs and online groups will never ask of us. ForIsrael, it required action against the false gods and those who worshipped them. The community that Hezekiah rebirthed in the celebration of the Passover motivated the Israelites to change the world around them. When we are part of a community of believers, we should be motivated to change our little corner of the world. This requires more than showing up on Sundays. Community calls us to engage with one another, to love one another and to share that love with our neighbors.
The trap that so many of us fall into, as individuals and as congregations, is to isolate ourselves from the world. We become less of a community and more of club. We set-up guidelines and rules and boundaries to “protect” ourselves from the influences of the world, but what we really do is slowly eliminate the impact we have on the world. We have to do better than that if we want to see salvation come in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, and our children need to be involved all along the way.
Real community sends us out. Real community equips us for mission field. Real community empowers us with confidence, because we know we are not alone in the work of the Kingdom. I want my children to experience real community, and we are fortunate to be part of a church that lives and breathes community, but it has to be encouraged at home. We need to make sure they are engaged in the lives of others at church. We need to provide opportunities for them to serve. We need to be engaged in the life and ministry of our community.
Lord, help me to stay rooted in the community of believers and engaged in the ministry you have called them to. Help me to find ways for my children to be engaged in that community and empowered by that community to serve our neighbors. Let us not just celebrate our salvation, but go out and share that salvation with the rest of the world. Amen.