The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully.
2 Chronicles 30:23
‘It’s cold, and it’s long, the sermon, and it’s not very inviting,’ – an outsider’s view of church in the 21st century. Nick Spencer’s research, carried out in 2002, demonstrated that, for many, church was seen as ‘dull, didactic, authoritarian, incomprehensible, uncomfortable and inflexible.’ But, on the whole we know that much of this is perception based on very little experience, and that many churches are warm, friendly and open. And for some they provide more community and neighbourliness than many other ‘institutions’, including ‘the family’.
Hezekiah decided to celebrate Passover in the restored and reconsecrated temple. He held the festival a month late, because the priests and people hadn’t been ready before. He invited everyone in Judah and he also sent invitations to the people of Israel – the northern kingdom, now ruled by Assyria. Many who came were not sure what was going on and hadn’t prepared themselves properly, that is, in accordance with the Law of Moses. There were non-Jews, ‘aliens’ from Judah and Israel, perhaps one or two Assyrians. But there were no exclusions and Hezekiah simply prayed that the Lord would accept their hazy but honest worship. There was a lot of feasting, singing, music and praise. Hezekiah ‘ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests’, and they gave generously bringing tithes of their goods, ‘piling them in heaps’. ‘And so, he prospered.’
So maybe we have to bend the rules a bit – consciously widen the appeal, use music of all kinds, alternative worship experiences, lots of food, throw open the doors to the suspicious and the critical, and let them wonder what it is all about, where the love comes from, and don’t tell them the full story until they really want to know. Accept the odd Assyrian, and simply pray in our hearts that those who seek – a nice meal and a bit of a chat – will find, in the end, the Lord of the Passover, who still invites all who hunger and thirst to join him.