Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Thought for Tuesday 28 October 2014

“Nehemiah … and Ezra … and the Levites who taught the people [the Book of the Law] said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep’.  For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.  Then they were told, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of The Lord is your strength’.”  Nehemiah 8:9-10 NRSV

The priest Ezra was encouraged to bring forth the Book of the Law of Moses and read to the people, after which time would be a period of teaching and interpretation.  This was a period of reconstruction; Israel had endured a long period of exile because they had forgotten or outright ignored Torah and had dismissed the Covenant of The Lord.  They had convinced themselves they could do life better for themselves.  During this period, however, families were destroyed, the poor were marginalized in society or exploited for the gain of others, and widows and orphans had all but been forgotten.  In short, they lived as if there were no law, no God, no Covenant.  As it is written often in the book of Judges, “each did what was right in his own eyes”.

Having suffered the terrible consequences of their actions and having lost everything (including their identity as the people of The Lord), they were back home, rebuilding the Temple, and rebuilding their collective life as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).  There was one thing still lacking: the Word of The Lord, the words of the Covenant that defined Israel as “a special treasure to [The Lord]” (Exodus 19:5).

Upon hearing these words of life, the people were cut to the heart!  They not only heard within these words their own indictments and judgments, they also heard within those same words the Promise only The Lord can make: “If you will return to Me … then you shall not be moved” (Jeremiah 4:1).  In this moment of repentance, the entire nation had once again discovered its identity and had rediscovered for themselves the faithfulness of The Lord.  They heard, once again, the “gospel” (the Good News) of The Lord!

In many ways the Church has failed the people of The Lord in trying to be all things to all people, attempting to sell a marketable product that is “new and improved” and more “user friendly”, and trying to convince everyone that all is well only because we call ourselves “Christians”.  It can be well with us, of course, and it can be well with the nation if the Church will rediscover herself in the light of the Whole Word, not just the carefully selected words that seem to promise us everything but asks and expects nothing of us.  Because of this epic failure, we have become a nation of exiles who have forgotten or outright ignored the Word and have watched families be destroyed, the poor being exploited for economic or political gain, and widows and orphans completely pushed aside.  The Church (that is, the congregation of the people of The Lord) has lived as if there were no law, no God, no Covenant; and for too many years we have done “what was right in our own eyes”.

We can do better.  Indeed we must because no one else is going to tell our “neighbors” there is a more excellent way.  We are baptized into this Covenant for a reason: to serve The Lord as a “kingdom of priests” ministering to a world overtaken by darkness.  It is long past time to get past the lie that we are “good people” and strive to become excellent ministers of the Gospel.  It is who we are called to be.  It is entirely up to us to determine whether this is who we will choose to be.



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