Thoughts for Wednesday 17th June 2020

Psalm 126; Nehemiah 9:1-8; Luke 6:12-19

 

Wednesday 17 June - Rev. Jerry Eve

 

Our Old Testament reading today would be a good one to ask someone else to recite in Church. It’s full of names nobody is quite sure how to pronounce. This is largely because Hebrew and Aramaic (the two languages used for the original books of Ezra and Nehemiah) do not have direct vowels. I always think, though, that because of this, and if nobody does actually know how to pronounce them, then there is no right and wrong. Even so, some of these names can still be quite challenging as tongue-twisters. The names we have in our New Testament reading are much easier.

 

Our delightful psalm refers to the Negeb (or Negev) which is a desert in southern Israel. The image the psalmist uses of watercourses in the Negeb is a good one; as I’m reminded of Practical Geography lessons at school and of wadis, and how these dry river beds can fill up very quickly indeed. They can be quite dangerous, but here I think the main point is the speed with which this can happen, as the water then enables seeds to become sheaves.

 

Ezra and Nehemiah used to be one book. Sometime in the 13th century AD they then became two books (1st and 2nd Ezra), but it wasn’t until the first editions of Protestant Bibles were published in the 16th century that 2nd Ezra began to be called Nehemiah instead. Together they chart the return, rebuilding and repopulation of Jerusalem after the Exile.

 

Context can be everything in Scripture, and it does always help to read the preceding and succeeding passages. What we note when we do this with our lesson from Luke is that Jesus didn’t so much go up a hill or mountain to pray, but to escape from the ‘rage’ of some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees. Finding himself on the run so-to-speak, it seems to me, he then felt it prudent to organise his followers. When, as well as choosing the twelve apostles, I suspect they were assigned specific roles as well.

 

What then follows is Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Plain’, which is very similar – and bears interesting comparisons with – the more famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew’s Gospel.

 

Finally, I’m interested in the reference in Nehemiah to the 24th day of the month. Not that we’ve to fast in sackcloth and with earth on our heads, but the Church of Scotland at last year’s General Assembly did pledge, as part of an international and ecumenical initiative, to pray for peace in the Middle East on the 24th of every month, using the following prayer.

 

Let us pray:

 

A prayer for peace in the Middle East

 

God of justice, bless those who work for peace through justice. Strengthen their resolve in the face of seemingly endless violence. Guide the leaders of the people of the Middle East to know your will and to support a just peace for all of your children.

 

God of love, lifting up the holy land for all humankind, breathe love and compassion into our prayers with a desire for nothing other than peace: peace in our hearts, peace for all creation, and especially peace in the land that is called holy.

God of hope, we lift up the city of Jerusalem, distracted and divided, yet still filled with promise as all the cities of the world. Come again into our cities, places of worship, Upper Rooms and Gethsemanes, that we may be given sight to recognize you.

God of mercy, even as we long to understand that which is often beyond our comprehension, we lay before you the hearts, minds and bodies of all those suffering from conflict in Palestine and Israel and from the ongoing occupation. Shower upon all the people of the Holy Land the spirit of justice and reconciliation.

God of the nations, give to all our people the blessings of well-being, freedom, and harmony, and, above all things, give us faith in you that we may be strengthened to care for all those in need until the coming of your son, our Saviour and Lord,

Amen.

 


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