20 June 2015

Nehemiah 8:1-18

"They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (v.8)

Psalm: Psalm 27



For a moment in this reading we gain a glimpse into another time and place, a strange time and a strange place: such ceremony and awe, such wonder and awareness of God, and all around a book!

The story of restoration and discovery that lies behind this brief glimpse helps us a little to understand why the Jewish leader Ezra might say, "This day is holy to the Lord your God". The wonder here though is deeper than a particular story or glimpse of history. Such a revelation of God's will is fundamental to the faith of Israel and the hopes of these people. The reaching out of Israel to find and know God is met by God's reaching out and giving of self. Through times of slavery and rescue, exile and restoration, of faithlessness met by a faithful god's love; the gift is given. And the nature of that gift is Law, of how we might live well and in relationship with our creator. How strange that must seem to us!

But we hear these words through postmodern ears that question tradition and law. We also hear them through Christian ears that are shaped by St Paul's teaching - a man who viewed the Law as he had experienced it.

For a moment though we can allow this glimpse to remind us of a deep longing that remains in the human heart and mind. It is a longing for clarity and direction, of knowing what matters, and what the point of it all is. While we may express it differently, the longing is the same deep human longing. For the Christian, the Law is not simply expressed in a book to be revered and studied, to be given sense by the scholar or the preacher.

It is a living word made flesh and blood in Jesus who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), who helped us to make sense of our creator in the person of Jesus - the revealed and present expression of divinity in the midst of our world.

To Ponder

  • What places are holy and special to you? Why?
  • What has helped you make sense of God's words in Scripture?
  • What do you think is the point of it all?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.