Year C Epiphany 3 – Nehemiah 8:13, 5-6, 8–10; Psalm 19;
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21
Our readings this week emphasis the building of a new people. The exciting, vivid, action-packed narrative in the Book of Nehemiah heads toward a climax. Against all odds, Jerusalem, the city of God’s covenant people, was rebuilt. The next task is the theme of our texts this week: rebuilding a people fit to live in the rebuilt city.
Ezra, the priest, sits before the people and reads to them out of the Bible. They stand for hours and hours listening to its words. And they weep. Why? We can only conjecture as it is not necessarily stated. Was it nostalgia hearing about the “good old days” under Moses and Joshua? Was it shame as they heard the laws read they broke, leading to their exile? Were they tears of joy because they are reclaiming the promises in the reclaimed place of peace?
Nehemiah instructed the children of covenant not to weep but to help the poor and claim strength in the joy of the Lord. Community building is rebuilding a people to move beyond the tears and worship God with strength.
Psalm 19 emphasises the power of God’s written and living word. It is the key to community building, explaining why Ezra took the time to read scripture.
1 Corinthians 12 instructs a community of God’s people to find strength in their various gifts while discouraging any one individual from feeling superior above others. In God’s community, only Christ is Head. We all have different functions and without each other, we could not operate.
Jesus announced his intention to minister by reading from scripture. He did not read about individual spirituality. He read scripture to provoke a community to look out after its poor, its sick, and its oppressed. He announced Good News. His ministry set about to build a new community where love for neighbour and love for God went hand-in-hand.
Are you trying to understand the things of Scripture? Are you searching for the Way through Life? Realise that community is a basic premise for understanding God.