For James Lee Burke, I make an exception to the paperback only rule. (Paperbacks are lighter, so if you fall asleep, they don’t hurt you when they fall over. They travel well on airplanes, and you can leave them behind when you finish them, and not feel bad. Yes, I have heard about Kindle. No, I don’t think it meets my needs. I like to pass books along.)
I was on the “mail it to me the day it comes out” list at Amazon for his newest book, a Hackberry Holland mystery set in the wilds of Texas. I hit page 2 and came across this:
“The sheriff had arrived at an age when he no longer speculated on the validity of a madman’s visions or, in general, the foibles of human behavior. Instead, Hackberry Holland’s greatest fear was his fellow man’s propensity to act collectively, in militaristic lockstep, under the banner of God and country. Mobs did not rush across town to do good deeds, and in Hackberry’s view, there was no more odious taint on any social or political endeavor than universal approval. . . “
His books transcend the banality of modern mysteries.
This book is Feast Day of Fools, and I’ll tell you more about it when I’ve finished.
It’s been about 11 years that I have done the daily readings in The Lectionary. What started out as a discipline, an offering, has become a blessing, and provides me with food for thought. Many times, I have to talk over the things I read with someone who knows a lot more than I do, or find a commentary (God bless the Internet for all its religious resources!) which gives insight.
As I was reading today’s old testament reading from the book of Second Kings, I came to the end, where it says never before and never after was there a human king who worshipped and followed the Lord with all his heart. If you are interested, read the whole story of Josiah, which spans a couple days. He was ignorant of the law, but a book was found while they were building, and it was a book of the law. Once he knew the law, he tore his clothing, repented profoundly, and he scoured the land of all idols, everything that related to any god but the one true God.
What if there were a Josiah now? In the United States, he would be bound by all the national laws which prohibit religious discrimination, and he wouldn’t get very far. In a country like Afghanistan, he would do what the Taliban did – eliminate all images, all modern music, make sure that women kept covered, regulate all the interactions between people, mostly eliminate anything that distracts us from our focus on God.
For me, it is a troubling thought, and it all goes back to God having given us free will, and the freedom to make bad choices, to know what is right and to choose to do other.
But how can we be moral, and make moral choices, if the morality is imposed from without?
2 Kings 23:4-25
4 The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens.
6He brought out the image of* Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron, burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. 7He broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes that were in the house of the Lord, where the women did weaving for Asherah. 8He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba; he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on the left at the gate of the city.
9The priests of the high places, however, did not come up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but ate unleavened bread among their kindred. 10He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. 11He removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts;* then he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12The altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, he pulled down from there and broke in pieces, and threw the rubble into the Wadi Kidron.
13The king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 14He broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the sacred poles,* and covered the sites with human bones.
15 Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin—he pulled down that altar along with the high place. He burned the high place, crushing it to dust; he also burned the sacred pole.* 16As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them on the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed,* when Jeroboam stood by the altar at the festival; he turned and looked up at the tomb of the man of God who had predicted these things.
17Then he said, ‘What is that monument that I see?’ The people of the city told him, ‘It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.’ 18He said, ‘Let him rest; let no one move his bones.’ So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19Moreover, Josiah removed all the shrines of the high places that were in the towns of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger; he did to them just as he had done at Bethel. 20He slaughtered on the altars all the priests of the high places who were there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
21 The king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the passover to the Lord your God as prescribed in this book of the covenant.’ 22No such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, even during all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah; 23but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.
24 Moreover, Josiah did away with the mediums, wizards, teraphim,* idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of the Lord. 25Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.