This Easter morning, we join our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world in declaring: “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” But does Jesus’ death and resurrection actually affect our here-and-now lives? In fact, Christ’s death and resurrection speak to the very heart of the gospel and to the life trajectory of those who trust and follow Jesus. His resurrection is the ultimate demonstration of the power of God to make what is dead come alive again. Jesus risen from the dead is the sign of the promise—that forgiveness, wholeness, restoration, redemption for us and for the whole world—is available through the risen Christ. This is not simply a truth to be believed, but to be lived out.
When I think of Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry I am reminded of being a child in the church and waving palm leaves while marching around the sanctuary singing songs that contained the word “Hosanna.” It is one of my favourite stories in the Bible, because it is both a reminder of my need to welcome Jesus into my life as well as a challenge to my often flawed expectations of who he will be in my life.
“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.