August 2018

Starting Over Most times we go looking for a text from Scripture. Isn’t there something about a “threefold cord” somewhere? (There is: Ecclesiastes 4:12) But sometimes a text seems to seek us out. That happened to me recently. Two Old Testament books I had not visited for some time showed up on my doorstep. Ezra and Nehemiah tell about the Jews who were taken into exile under a Babylonian king. They are encouraged to return to their homeland under a Persian king who conquered the Babylonians. When I think of those persons coming back to the wreck and ruin of their homeland after an absence of decades, scenes like those of the victims of the Oklahoma hurricanes or the California wildfires come to mind: ashes, partial foundations, the occasional lucky find of a family keepsake. What else could the people do but rebuild? Well I suppose there were options. They could sit down in the ruins, weep, and waste away. They could make a lazy compromise with the people who occupied nearby territory, giving up their core values to secure help. They could grumble and wish they had never returned to face the ominous task before them. But instead, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people buckled down and rebuilt, first the Temple and then the Wall around the city. In their story, we can find the stuff of our story. The drama of our individual, family, and congregational stories is that we must constantly find a way to start over again and make the most of it. We find ourselves (by sickness, by change in work, by the collapse of an institution) faced with the challenge of dawdling in a memory or heading out for a new experience. It’s always late August and we should be getting back to school. But will we? I invite you to join me the Sundays in September and October. We will be worshipping in a renovated sanctuary; the clutter and dust of the last few months will be gone. There in that consecrated holy space we will ask the God who orchestrated the reform and renewal under Ezra and Nehemiah to orchestrate reform and renewal among us too. – Pastor...

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