“We are a church community in pilgrimage experiencing some frailty and brokenness seeking to be attentive to God. How does this passage speak into CAP’s current circumstances?”
This is a question we have asked of the Nehemiah story each week throughout this series. In life groups and on Sunday mornings, we have attempted to hear God’s voice through this story, and to discern how God is at work in restoring and transforming us. As our series comes to a close today, we take our lead from God’s people at the end of Nehemiah who express their thanks to God for all that He has done by engaging in joyful celebration.
After seeing the God of heaven’s amazing work in helping them build the walls, we saw in chapter 8 that the people worshiped Him, and then in chapter 9 they confessed their sins. The natural extension of this development is to move from work and worship to ethical commitments. The people make an important covenant by agreeing to keep God’s law and maintain His laws for His house.
With the wall complete another sort of building commences. God’s community gathers together with Ezra and Nehemiah communicating God’s truth through His Word. It has a powerful impact on the people but the wrong impact. Rather than being joyful in their worship they grieve and are in tears. Nehemiah encourages them to eat, drink, celebrate and share because these are the qualities that characterize a people that follow God.
Like waves on the seashore that reflect relentless persistence, another form of criticism is directed at Nehemiah. Only this time it is gossip where people are talking, making accusations, dreaming up stories, and threatening the work of God. Much to learn in this chapter about how to gossip if you are interested in such a thing, along with how to respond to gossip.
This week we come to the fourth chapter in Nehemiah. Jerusalem’s opponents are loud and strong. Fear threatens to overcome the workers and halt the building of the wall. Will God’s people give up or choose hope and courage? Once again, Nehemiah provides a model for us as he turns to God and fans the flame of active faith in the community.
The building commences! After many months of prayer and preparation the work on the wall begins. Reading 3:1-32 may seem uninteresting to us but it teaches us a lot about names, work, community, and mission among other things. Ironically this seemingly boring chapter gives us a formula for success and, again, provides CAP church with a thoughtful reflection on our rebuilding project.
Nehemiah has arrived in Jerusalem and gets up close and personal with the ruins of the city by going through it late at night by the light of the moon. After a careful assessment of the needs he meets with the people, tells them about his experience with God and the King, and the people want to start the rebuilding. But as is often the case when God’s people want to do God’s work the enemy, epitomized in Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, rear their heads and try to fight God’s power with political power.
Last week we commenced our 9 week series entitled, Nehemiah: A Study in Community Building. Nehemiah got the word that Jerusalem was in ruins and its people were in distress. He prays to God and among other things makes himself available to contribute to the strengthening of the community. But because he has a regular job he needs to get permission from his boss before he can set out. Today’s message ‘Confirmation by Others’ explores his interaction with the King and emphasizes where real power lies and how God uses people to accomplish His purposes.
Today is the first day of our series on Nehemiah: A Study in Community Building. We will look together at chapter 1:1-11- Surveying the Scene. It is a chapter of anguish where Nehemiah gets a glimpse of what is going on in God’s community, expresses deep emotion in response, and brings his anguish to God in prayer. Please be a part of this 9-week study by going to www.capchurch.ca/whats-happening/ where you can pick up a Study Guide for the entire series including personal and group studies. If you would like to join a small group and participate in the series that way speak to Kim Pierrot.
If you are a fan of the Mitford books by Jan Karon, you will recognize the title of my sermon as one of Father Tim’s favourite sayings. For this lovable Episcopalian priest, “The Prayer that Never Fails” is what Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane as he faces death: “thy will be done.” This morning, as we conclude our 3-part series on prayer, I suggest there are all kinds of prayers we can take right out of the pages of Scripture—and that they, too, can be “Prayers that Never Fail.” To that end, we will focus on the powerful prayer that comes from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3. What if we made Paul’s prayer our prayer this week, this year? What might change as we committed to pray this prayer for our co-workers, our kids, our church, our world?