Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, Sunday 6th September 2020
A good week. The extra lockdown restrictions on our side of Kirklees were lifted on Wednesday, which coincided with us looking after our granddaughter for two days. So a visit to the Lindley Children’s Bookshop, and then the day after a trip to Hebden Bridge, also out of extra restrictions. The look an a four-year-old’s face, eyes and mouth wide open, when she realises that there is a shop that sells nothing but sweets. Child heaven.
In church there is now a service on Sundays with restricted numbers, which we did not attend instead watching the YouTube service. There is a new service called Reboot and Rebuild, based on the book of Nehemiah
Bev, leading the service, talked about people feeling down, depressed and disturbed and needing hope in the time of coronavirus, and about the rebuilding that needs to be done. This was illustrated by two children and a game of Jenga. The first to complete a tower three blocks per layer was declared the winner. It was pointed out that the winning speed was because of preparation, the blocks already being in threes. We need to prepare to repair.
Good news, there have been three engagements this last week, congratulations to them all.
Vicat Mike, back from a time of illness and rest, was back and preaching. It is really good to have him back. The sermon was from Nehemiah chapter 2.
Nehemiah is a book of history written in a time of exile. The Babylonians had captured Jerusalem and the people taken into exile. Nehemiah was born in Babylon, but that is not where the story takes place, but in Persia where Nehemiah is the cup-bearer to the king, an important position. Babylon had fallen to Persia during that time.of exile. The theologian Tom Wright has suggested that the church is in a time of exile because of this pandemic. (My thoughts: I am already looking at the pandemic and how long it will last, I am writing a blog that I hope to publish this Wednesday.)
“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.Nehemiah 2:17b-18
Many people are lamenting. “How can we worship God when we can’t get into church?” they we asking at Easter and Pentecost, and are still asking now. Nehemiah does three things in chapters 1 and 2.
1. Nehemiah prays
When news comes about the state of Jerusalem Nehemiah is heartbroken He turns to God. Much of Chapter 1 is Nehemiah’s prayer, he prats fervently, confesses the sins of himself and his country, reminds God of the promise to Moses, when the people return to God, God will return them to their land. Then asks for success.
It was not immediate. The report and prater were in November, the King notices that Nehemiah is looking depressed in March or April. The King said, “Tell me what you want,” The Bible said Nehemiah said, “then I prayed.”
2. Nehemiah plans
Nehemiah has not been idle in the six months since he was told about the state of Jerusalem, he has been planning and knows what he will need. When the King asks him what he needs, he knows that he will need a letter of passage and a permit from the King to get through, he is aware of the political situation. He also knows what wood he will need to rebuild and who can supply it and where he is. Nehemiah is ready with an answer. Nehemiah has done his homework. Then when he arrives in Jerusalem he assesses the ruins with his own eyes.
Without planning vision evaporates. We have plans here at Holy Trinity. Five years ago Vicar Mike introduced a plan to the church. It had 42 points, things we were aiming for, and we have achieved or are well into over 30 of them.
3, Nehemiah persuades
Nehemiah had vision. Vision cuts through the inertia of the status quo. Nehemiah’s vision was completely relational, he did not say I an doing this or we will do this but we will do this. He identifies with the people. He said this is our issue, this in God’s issue and God will do it.
Where God is leading there is always opposition. Three people are named here as opposing Nehemiah, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab, people keep cropping up in the story. Opposition can come from without from within. We need to pray for the country and for the church. We are in this together. We live in a world of uncertainty and fear. Let us start rebuilding.