Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nehemiah 8, continued (3 Epiphany, Year C)

Nehemiah 8:10

Let's continue with our exposition of this Sunday's lesson, Nehemiah 8:1-10. For my preceding post on this passage, click here.

For this post, I would like to zoom in on 8:10, "...Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Ezra has read the Torah and the community has received the Word with some measure of grief because their offenses have been revealed (cf. 2 Kings 22:11). At 8:10, Ezra and Nehemiah exhort everyone to get over their sadness and to get on with celebrating the era of redemption that has come upon them. Their relationship with God is in the process of being re-affirmed. Now is a time of sacred banquet, a time of wedding, a time of coronation.

The reference to the "Joy of the Lord" reverberates strongly with Isaiah 61:10 (written by the same group that is supporting Ezra's mission). 61:10 proclaims, "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord... He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness."

Here is the same mood of joy that permeates Psalm 21:1-6, a royal psalm celebrating the blessing that comes from God's presence and God's decision to channel beauty and salvation to earth through human royalty.

Thanks be to the God in whom Nehemiah and Ezra exhort us to take joy and to find our strength. "In his presence are splendour and majesty, in his sanctuary strength and joy" (1 Chronicles 15:27). Put aside grief about the past and self-preoccupation; God's sovereign plans are what's important, and they are cause for gladness and deep peace.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, my first visit to this lovely corner of the world created by a fondly remembered couple on the hill. Phyllis Spiegel, class of '04 here.
I have been reading the posts this week and have found my place of resonance with the idea of interpretation (for which you provided the launching pad.) I love the idea that when we have become estranged from Torah that there are those who will interpret (point in case this site as a gift unwrapped in my life this week.) We live in an age where computer code is ordinary and the classical languages are incomprehensible. Seems an apt time indeed to speak to that time when the gulf is felt between our lives as people of God and Torah. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book The Language of Sin asks, if we fail to understand the nature of sin and loose the language of sin how will we make sense of the world? I am prompted to ask, if we loose the understanding and the gift of Torah, how will we understand God's covenantal love?
Time to shore up the platforms, turn to the front of the book and speak up.

Sat Jan 20, 08:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Phyllis, How wonderful to have you visit the blog. Thank you so much for your insightful words! Please feel free to comment anytime. If you would like me to post an excerpt from your sermon, please email it to me. Thanks! ---Stephen

Sat Jan 20, 09:34:00 PM GMT-5  

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