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November 12, 2023

Reforming and Reshaping Us

Pastor KJ Kim

2 Kings 2: 3-13; Jeremiah 36: 21-26

Today’s passage, we just read about one of the most dramatic re-form stories in the Hebrew Bible. In today’s passage, King Josiah decided to renovate the temple in Jerusalem to make it look compelling. While the workmen were renovating, they found an old scroll. What I’d like to focus on is how Josiah responds to this scroll, the one seemingly left over at the corner.

King Josiah took the scroll seriously, so seriously that he tore his clothes in repentance. More than that, he instituted a policy of re-forming Israel as God’s covenant people-- reforming, reformulating, and reshaping the Israelites to be God’s faithful people.

However, today’s other passage from the book of Jeremiah tells us the opposite response to the scroll. As the prophet, Jeremiah made his scroll that became the Book of Jeremiah. Guess what? How does the king respond to the scroll? The king, Jehoiakim, took out his penknife and, cut the scroll and threw its pieces into the fireplace to burn them. More than that, the king organized an army to hunt down Jeremiah and Baruch, the scroll-makers, who were seen as enemies of the royal office.

The Bible we have in our hands is the will of God for the people of God—telling us about who we are as children of God, whom we trust, the God of creator and universe, what we are called for
—loving, serving, forgiving, and welcoming—just like the Christ has loved, served, forgiven, and welcomed us. And we trust that the word of God cannot be destroyed by burning or slicing and dicing or ignoring.

The reason we still come to these stories is because we believe that the holy stories in the Bible still speak to the church in our time, being deformed and being re-formed, re-formulated, and re-shaped our institutes according to the good news of the Gospel for the people of God.

Over the last years, the church has been split into many denominations with the issues of salvation, baptism, membership, governance, communion, and many social issues of “pros” and “antis.” Is Jesus really allied with the question of pros- or with antis-? Is Jesus really allied with the binary concept or worldview that we have already embodied---us and them, Black and white, and right and wrong?

I would answer, “Neither. Jesus is not allied with pros and antis.” Jesus is not allied with the binary concept or worldview we have embraced. The good news tells us that Jesus is allied with a neighbor, especially with the vulnerable neighbor, especially with the neighbor who is hungry, especially with the neighbor who has more needs than resources, especially with the neighbor who is often overlooked, undervalued, neglected, discriminated,
and excluded.

Why can we not always repent or change ourselves when we come to the Bible, just like King Josiah tore his clothes in repentance? Our calling is to reform and formulate in order to reshape us and reach out to our neighbors because Jesus is a good neighbor to all people. Amen.

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