Good morning friends! I hope you had a happy easter and were blessed by our services or however else you chose to worship this year. A special thanks to all who attended the sunrise service. It's always so special to watch the dawn turn to sun. Today we continue our journey through Nehemiah, and much like the sunrise is a symbol of a new beginning, today's reading continues to mark the new beginning of the recommitment to the covenant. I hope you enjoy!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about God?
What does this teach me about what was happening at the time? In other words, what is this in response to "in the news?"
What, if anything, feels applicable to today? What does it challenge me to do?
- My Thoughts -
Don't worry, you're not going crazy. The middle part of this reading is a word for word copy from Ezra 2. I had to pause the recording myself because I was convinced I had already read this before. My thoughts are in response to question 2 posed above as I'm led to wonder what was happening at the time that made the people feel the need to write this down twice with such detail as is shown. But this is also a group of people that just returned from exile, where they were separated from their families and taken to different "camps" to perform tasks fit to their skill level and age. In other words, after a few generations they would lose any connection to their family line. If you can't tell by now in the Old Testament with the heavy emphasis on "son of this person, who is son of that person, who is the grandson of this great person", one's family connection is really important. So, when they return they make a point to say that we will not only help find and re-establish where all the remaining family members from the exile are, but we will keep two copies to help prevent this erasure from ever happening again.
With technology there's been a huge market for discovering our own family tree's with sites like ancestry or 23 and me, etc. I haven't done anything with these but I know my mom and dad have and it helped them discover that my father is not polish like he had always thought but rather Swedish! Without going into personal details too much, my father had a tenuous relationship with his father. None of us have really considered him our grandfather as he left the family when my dad was 17. But thanks to recent discoveries, that man was not my dad's father, and instead some random soldier from Sweden was. It's a somewhat embarrassing story, but it gave some justification for why his "father" was so cruel to him, and also a sense of liberation to know that he doesn't share that man's genes. 70 years later he found a little bit of freedom and peace in his family thanks to access to good records. I wonder if for the Israelites if anything like this happened to them too.
Have you ever done one of those systems to find your family lines? What discoveries have you made?
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 205 - Canticle of Light and Darkness. Again, I really find the advent hymns to be super appropriate for these post exilic people as they long for that light of the Messiah. As you join in the song/canticle today I hope you find yourself standing on a dusty road in Jerusalem rebuilding the temple alongside your own ancestors of the faith.
Alright I can't find a recording of this anywhere so I invite you to join in the words:
We look for light but find darkness, for brightness, but walk in gloom.
We grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight
If only I say "Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night"
even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
Blessed be your name, Oh God, forever. You reveal deep and mysterious things;
you are light and in you is no darkness. Our darkness is passing away and already the true light is shining.