Relationship, relationship, relationship…

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Scripture: 2 Kings 15:8 In the thirty-eighth year of King Azariah of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. 9 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his ancestors had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 10 Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against him, and struck him down in public and killed him, and reigned in place of him. 11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah are written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel. 12 This was the promise of the LORD that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it happened.

Observation: After the stories of kings David and Solomon in 1 Kings, a time of unity and prosperity in both the north (Israel) and south (Judah), 2 Kings describes the sad decline of both. Kings came and went in fairly quick succession producing chaos and instability – and creating the environment in which both kingdoms were eventually conquered. It reads like a train wreck in slow motion.

Application: This just in: the American church is in decline. There, I said it. DECLINE. I don’t mean every individual congregation. I mean, taken together, the body of Christ in the United States is in some trouble. Especially the tribe I belong to – the ELCA Lutheran church. For every thriving congregation there are hundreds in a slow death spiral. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

One of the challenges chronicled in 2 Kings is the refusal of people living in that place and time to acknowledge reality. Instead of repenting of their unfaithfulness to God and allowing God to right the ship, they depended on human political and military strategies instead. To no avail. Why? Because their problem was not primarily tactical, but relational. King David reacted to adversity very differently. Read this from today’s passage in Psalm 144:

7 Stretch out your hand from on high; set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters,
from the hand of aliens, 8 whose mouths speak lies, and whose right hands are false.

When David was in trouble his first instinct was to go to the Lord – not to his military generals or his political advisers for tactical advise. When I look around the church today I often see tactical responses to relational problems – relationship problems between God’s people and the Lord himself, between God’s people and the communities in which we are embedded, between God’s people and ourselves.

What would it look like for the church to see our present decline primarily through the lens of relationship?

Prayer: Lord, give us grace that we might to focus on relationship, relationship, relationship. Amen.

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