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II Chronicles 34                    Spring Cleaning                April 17, 2016

 

We think maybe spring is here. We hope. Which means it is time most of us see to our annual spring cleaning. I read an article not long ago that said spring cleaning is actually good for us. After being cooped up all winter, it’s healthy to rid ourselves of clutter and you never know what you might find. As we were preparing to move last spring I was doing some cleaning and I found a whole box of old letters from back in the 1980’s – that was my era of weddings, graduations, children, some heartache as well. There was a lot of goodwill and hope in those letters. From just a little bit of cleaning I stumbled upon a gold mine of goodness. 

According to the story today in II Chronicles good king Josiah cleaned the temple and out of it came a new covenant with God. So, I guess we can never tell what might happen when we start cleaning. We might find all kinds of hope?

Garrison Keillor, in his weekly radio show, “The Prairie Home Companion,” talks about the mythical town, Lake Wobegone. In one episode he tells the story of a woman who got caught up in the annual spring ritual. He says:

 

One fine Saturday morning, Diane thought she smelled something like burned marshmallows. Never known for her housekeeping, Diane nonetheless was struck by the feeling that things has gone too far and if they went one inch further, her family would slip right over the edge and end up living in a plywood container at the town dump, sleep on old mattresses and eat out of large plastic bags.

Ordinarily a bather, she showered out of urgency, and pulled on her jeans and a sweatshirt - the one with "One Tough Mother" - printed on the front. She yanked the covers off Ed. "Out of the sack," she said; he said, "Huh?" And then she went down to the kitchen at fast walk. It was marshmallows alright. Little Eddie was frying them with wieners. Linda started to explain that it wasn't her fault and that Paul had said mean things to her. Diane stuck a finger in her face: "Upstairs. Sheets off the beds, rugs off the floor, curtains off the windows. Bring it down here - everything. Five minutes. Go!" She snatched Paul as he was trying to sneak out the door. "Get a broom and bucket and the sponge mop. I'm going to show you how to wash floors. Go. Now." Eddie looked at his wieners; his lower lip curled, and a tear ran down his cheek; something told him there'd be no wieners and marshmallows for breakfast.

When Ed appeared, she had washed and dried the dishes and the swept the kitchen floor. She poured him a cup of coffee and put a list in front of him, including: storm windows, take our mattresses and carpets, basement and garage, rake lawn. "What's the big rush all of a sudden," he said. She was more than ready to tell him. She had a good sharp speech on being tired of living in a pig sty.

She drove them all morning like a dog drives sheep and when she detected a lack of motion in their sectors, she was there, in two seconds, to bark at their heels and turn them in the right direction. She clapped her hands like a coach. "Come on! Let's go! Move it!" She fixed peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. They ate standing up. The children looked at her as if she was crazy.

"Help me beat the rugs." she said to Paul. They hung them over the clothesline. She got a strip of molding out of the garage, snapped it over her knees and handed him one. "Beat," she said. He gave the carpet two light taps and little puffs of dust came out. "No, like this," she said, and she started to whack it hard. Dust flew. He watched his mother in amazement. Diane is small, but she laid into that carpet as if it was the cause of all her trouble. In the carpet was not only filth and squalor, but also ignorance, sloth, corruption, lack of ambition, everything that is dull and lifeless and corrosive to the spirit. She beat it senseless and moved onto the next, beating in the name of Christ and the Apostles, in memory of generations of women who devoted themselves to scrubbing and scouring and purifying; world heroic women who took up arms against the dull, slug-footed, lazy lumps and lie-about who were all too ready to accept filth as a way of life. She walloped the carpets with all her might, clobbering them up one side and down the other and the boy gradually caught on. "There," she said. "Good work. You're a good rug beater." She caught her breath, then hauled the rugs inside the house.

Inside. Inside, it smelled of rich lemony polish and floor wax, and beneath that was the smell of outdoor air, faint blossoms and green and beneath that was another aroma, so plain but so sweet, the smell of clean. Not soap or detergent, simply clean. The smell took Diane by surprise, her nostrils full of dust. She stood in the middle of the living room taking deeps breaths. Ed was finishing raking the side lawn. She opened the window. When she leaned out, she smelled roses, the smell of wild pink roses, and she called out the window to Ed and said, "Come back in and smell the house."

Spring cleaning is good for us. We need the ritual of cleansing. There is something about it that frees us from what ails us. It’s a good thing.

 

Spring cleaning is good for kingdoms too, it seems. In the 18th year of his reign, good king Josiah smelled something stale in the Temple. He smelled the dull, life-less, lie-about faith of his people. Good king Josiah was struck by the feeling that things had gone too far and if they went one inch further, his people would slip right over the edge.

Good king Josiah earned his name because unlike so many other Hebrew kings, Josiah was sincere; he cared about his people and God. No doubt they didn't think too much of his passion to clear the Temple of idols at the time. It was only after his death, that they could see he was right.

So they started calling him “good,” postmortem.

Well, the good king set his mind to clean up the Temple. He hired goldsmiths, carpenters, stone layers and other domestic engineers and they began to work. Things were moving along on schedule. Then, by surprise, Hilkiah, finds the book of the law. We don't know where and we don't know how. It only says, he found it. Scholars seem to agree that what he found was chapters 12-26 of the book of Deuteronomy, maybe even written by hand of Moses himself.

 

When Josiah grasps the authenticity of the book, he is beside himself. The good king tore his coat. His people were not living as they were supposed to be according to the book. Josiah knew it was time to do something. He talked to the people and together they made a new covenant with God. So, in the 18th year of his reign, good king Josiah cleaned the Temple and found something more than a little dust, he found faith and the people were saved. Spring cleaning is good for kingdoms too.

 

But here is the strange part: How in the world did they misplace that book to begin with? I mean the Hebrews misplacing the law of Moses would be like the United States misplacing the Declaration of Independence. Can't you just see them in Washington D.C. "Now, where did we put that anyway?" I mean how could they put it away and forget about it? How does one lose the law of God? We can understand losing our high school diploma or misplacing our birth certificate, but this book was written by Moses; it was their law, the center of their life. How does one misplace such a thing? We don’t know.

That’s the strange part of the story.

 

Of course, we do know what it is like to lose track of our faith, don't we? That’s the truth; we misplace our faith now and then. My guess is about everybody here can say where their Bible is at home, but we may have more trouble saying how often we read it or even how often our Bible fits into our life. I guess, in this way, we know how we misplace faith, don’t we?

I am not saying this to make any of us feel guilty.

It can be easy to get away from faith. We can forget to say our prayers. We can stop going to Church School. We stay home a few Sundays and before we know it, it has been a year since the last time we came to church and then we have this funny, strange feeling about starting to go again. We have been away so long, we don't know how to start. Then, we start to rationalize why we haven’t gone and before we know it, we join the ranks of the dispossessed.

Maybe that is what happened to king Josiah's people. It was a slow, gradual drifting away from faith until one day they realized, they were no longer faithful. That we can understand. Drifting away from what is good and what is needful.

 

I recall a difficult time in my life, when I was dealing with a fair amount of loss. It was hard and I didn’t always feel faithful. One way I helped myself contend with this loss was to memorize scriptures. Why? Was it because I am a really holy person? No. I wish that were true, but that’s not it. I was doing it for a couple reasons. First reason, I figured if I was memorizing scriptures, I wouldn’t be thinking so much about the things that were bothering me. Not a very holy reason. But, the second reason is a little different. I guess I was hoping that by memorizing the scriptures somehow they would change me. You know?

It was been an act of faith, really. I was hoping God would move into my life and into my soul and change me into the kind of person who could say what Psalm 34 says, “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” and I would really believe that. Or I could say what Paul says in Philippians 4, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I hoped for those things to become part of my mind, and change who I was.

I actually think it did change me. But, I also know when I stop reading God’s Word, other things change me back.

 

There is Midrash story of a time when a young rabbinic scholar asked his teacher about the passage in the Bible which says, “Let the Word of rest ON your heart.” The student said, “Wouldn’t it make more sense if the passage said, “Let the Word of God rest IN your heart”? The teacher said, “No, not really. When we let the Word of God rest upon our heart, when our hearts breaks the Word can fall in and heal us from the inside out.”

 

So, as you are doing some spring cleaning this year and you find your Bible. Do something besides dust around it. Pick it up and read it. Cause there’s all kinds of hope in those letters. And, who knows, maybe the Word will change us from the inside out.

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY. FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.