The thought this week is written by Nick Lear, EBA Regional Minister
As you know, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Old Testament are complementary narratives about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They mark the beginning of the end of the Exile in Babylon. I suspect that you will have preached from them or been referred to them when there is a building project pending or a church has a major decision to make because God has a lot to teach us about faith, faithfulness, courage, perseverance and hope.
I wonder too whether God has something to say to us as churches from those two books as we anticipate the ending of Lockdown 3 (hopefully the last in this dystopian Coronavirus trilogy). The books tell of a planned and gradual return to ‘normality’ and the steps taken to prepare for that by making everyone safe through rebuilding the city walls and then the restoration of the Temple. They also established new ways of doing things – in Nehemiah 8 we read of a whole new ceremony that that included a constant reading of the Book of the Law. Then they rediscovered the Feast of Tabernacles, which they celebrated a couple of weeks later, and in verse 17 we read, “…from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.” The people had to relearn how to be God’s people again – renewing their commitment to him and his ways.
We’re probably all preparing for the phased unlocking of the country, and for resuming activities that have had to go on hold for a long time. We may already be getting questions from our churches asking when we’re going to be back together on Sundays. While at the moment we still need to work within the restrictions of the rules in place for the health of all there is a palpable yearning to be together again. Many of us will have big celebratory services and parties (with a health warning for those who are not naturally huggy), and others will simply breathe a big sigh of relief. And our joy will be very great.
While the longing and yearning and anticipation of being back together again is almost palpable, I wonder whether we have that same longing and yearning and anticipation of being with God and relearning how to be his people in the new environment in which we will be living? Of course he has been with us throughout the past year, but I haven’t yet come across Christians making plans specifically with the sole purpose of spending more time with God when the restrictions end. Ezra and Nehemiah pointed the people to God beyond their achievements. Their priority was to help God’s people reconnect with him and renew their relationship with him, not just to have a party. Just a thought.
For your prayers:
EBA Council is meeting together for the day on Saturday 13th. Please pray as we seek to discern what God wants for us as an Association in the coming years and what he has been saying through the recent survey and listening events.
This week we are praying for Wood Lane Baptist Church in Dagenham Weekly Prayer Focus – Eastern Baptist Association
On Sunday I am participating (pre-recorded) with Hadleigh Baptist Church, and Beth and Graeme will be virtually present with other churches.
The fourth in our series of short Lent reflections ‘Do you treat God like a vending machine?’ is now available on our YouTube channel https://youtu.be/qpbDs5SYgow. (This two minute video explores the Devil telling Jesus to throw himself off the temple because God would catch him) You can also download a copy of the video to use in your own services using this link https://www.dropbox.com/s/emnw0vcp73yoq9q/Lent%204%20Do%20you%20treat%20God%20like%20a%20vending%20machine.mp4?dl=0
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