Day 111—Glory Days!—“Faithful Supplier” Nehemiah 8:1 – 10:39
April 21, 2021, 8:21 AM

Day 111—Glory Days!—“Faithful Supplier” Nehemiah 8:1 – 10:39

The Temple is rebuilt. The walls are strong. The people of Israel are now ready for the recommitment needed to show their dedication to the LORD of their salvation. And it begins with the words “In the beginning…”

Ezra stands before the people and holds up the scroll of the Law, the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and he reads all five books out loud over the course of a week for the people to hear, to remember and to learn, beginning with Genesis and ending with the final words of Deuteronomy.  One of the parts I found most inspiring is that it was read aloud with interpretation from the scholars and priests of the time. (8:8). They wanted to people to understand the readings they heard.

After the first day of reading the Law, the people are told to go home and celebrate, to eat, to drink and to be joyful because they have been reclaimed and they have reclaimed what God has given them. They celebrate again the festival of Booths, Sukkot. As they sit in their booths made of branches and they feel the hot sun by day and see the stars overhead at night, they are reminded of the blessings which God has given them in providing them with a permanent home as a people group.

The people of Israel reclaimed their history, their heritage and their overarching narrative as the chosen people of God. They then gathered for a national confession as a people group to confess their sins, and to recommit to the covenant with God, a covenant of the law to remind them again of the promises made by Moses on behalf of their ancestors—promises to keep the Sabbath holy, to tithe their first fruits, including their firstborn sons, their harvested fruits and vegetables, their livestock, among other offerings, in order to worship and pay homage to the LORD who has given them all good things.

As I read today, I wondered what it would be like to have a nation gathered in this way, to gather with praise and thanksgiving, to gather in recommitment, to tell our guiding story again so that we can remember what it means to be loved and cared for by God. In the margin of my bible I wrote this: Church is our “nation”.

What I meant is this: we should be mindful of the blessing, the grace, the gathering of people, the sharing of God’s Word, the sharing of a meal, the confessing—it is all there! While we no longer are a pure ‘nation’ of people, we are a diverse nation, a family group gathered around the same bonfire of inspiration as we read, remember and worship.

I am not referring to our denominations or to our buildings, although the building is a pretty handy place for gathering. I am referring to the amazing choice we have to be part of something powerful that changes us, that changes the world. Yesterday, on our way to Acadia National Park,  we passed a sign for a community church sign that will stay with me: “Come as you are; Dare to change.” That’s what the gathered ‘nation’ (I know this is a charged word—I really am referring to any gathering of Christian people) helps us understand.

I became struck by the similarities in our practices. Like the Israelites of old, we too gather to retell the stories again and again. WE do not take for granted that everyone will read and remember. For our most important celebrations, we spend weeks preparing to tell those stories in Advent and in Lent, and when the celebration days arrive, we explode with joy, with color, with song, with celebration. We re-enact the stories in Nativity Pageants, and through the drama of the Easter Vigil and the beauty of Easter Cantatas.

The reality is this though, that our celebrations should be even more joyful, more important and more people should be gathering because God has given us the Savior, the Messiah.

At the Chrism Mass every year, priests and deacons were given the opportunity to gather together not only to receive the Holy Oil blessed by the Bishop, but also to recommit ourselves publicly to serving God and his people. We confessed, we promised again that we would preach the Gospel (Good News), that we would serve God with our whole selves, and that we would always remember the poor.

My question is this: why do we think of corporate worship as optional, as a burden, as something we do not need to do, when the power of coming together, praying and confessing together, hearing God’s word as his people, is so essential and so powerful as we read in Nehemiah today? I know I was raised in a different era when families, even families with a bazillion children like mine, committed every Sunday to be in worship, and that the practice of worship has stayed with me since then. No, this gathering will never be about perfection or about sinLESSness, but about our recognition of sin-FULL-ness. Come as you are; Dare to change. I know of few groups that can say this and actually encourage it. Alcoholics Anonymous, and other ‘A’ groups can say this with honesty. Church can say this too. But WE, you and I, like the people of ancient Israel, must decide to gather together and accept the challenge.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

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The following is the prayer I said, that all priests say, when they are brought to a new church as the Rector or Priest in charge. This is a prayer of recommitment, and It is the most beautiful prayer of service that I know. I thought you may want to read it for yourself.  I memorized it for my service at St. John’s 11 years ago. Today’s reading has created a desire to recommit myself to God and to God’s people by reciting this prayer every morning from now on:

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer, p. 562-563



Comments

04-21-2021 at 7:46 PM
Billy
These last two books have been very refreshing.. I am an eternal optimist, it’s just who I am. After reading about all the really awful Kings, even the ones who started out good to then only to do really bad things, this is really refreshing.. While I understand what ML is saying about group participation, I get what she/you are saying but I think the overall situation is so different. These are people/a group that has been so removed that they needed to hear (for many the first time) the commandments of GOD. I do love as well that it came with interpretation (much like this blog does for us, the preachers help us too learn).
Be safe and enjoy your Maine adventure.
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