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Posts Tagged ‘Ezra and Nehemiah’


Ancient Jerusalem

Isaiah 44: Remember This

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We have spent nearly a month reflecting with Ezra and Nehemiah, discovering the blessings that can rise from disaster and loss, considering the benefit of rebuilding a relationship that appears forever gone. Today we examine how the action of one we believe to be our enemy can bring us opportunities for transformation and rebirth.

The prophet Isaiah brings us the familiar words of the Lord.

“Israel, remember this;
    remember that you are my servant.
I created you to be my servant,
    and I will never forget you.
I have swept your sins away like a cloud.
    Come back to me; I am the one who saves you.”

A people who suffers exile because they had turned away from God, hear that the Lord still longs for their return. And the people respond.

Shout for joy, you heavens!
    Shout, deep places of the earth!
Shout for joy, mountains, and every tree of the forest!
The Lord has shown his greatness
    by saving his people Israel.

The Lord then tells the people that their enemy Cyrus will be the instrument of their liberation.

I say to Cyrus, “You are the one who will rule for me;
    you will do what I want you to do:
    you will order that Jerusalem be rebuilt
    and that the foundations of the Temple be laid.”

When we remember the stories of old, do we also remember the ironies they hold? When we think about the stories of our future, do we open our hearts to the ironies that await us? When we reflect on the story we live in the present, do we remember that God is always with us, calling us home to rebuild what we believe is lost.

These verses are taken from The Good News Bible. When we explore multiple translations of these words, we find new ways to remember.

To learn more about the story of Ezra and Nehemiah, click on the image of Jerusalem above or visit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ezra-nehemiah/ 

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Ezra 3: Joy and Worship – A Reprise from November 2014

Thursday, October 5, 2017

We move further into scripture looking for stories of joy that continue to surprise us. To explore other stories, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Ezra.

After the Babylonian captivity and exile, after the scattering of the twelve tribes to the corners of the known earth, after the loss of hope that those who go out weeping will return rejoicing . . . the faithful receive word that they are to return to Jerusalem.  Two leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, the priest and the administrator, lead the faithful in a journey of reunion and transformation. As with all people who remain open to the power of the Spirit and the healing of God’s presence, these returning exiles gather to worship Yahweh once again. And they know great joy in abundance.

Ezra 3:12: Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.

James Tissot: Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue 

Can we imagine the sound of joy that might rise to the skies if we were to thank God for all that we have and all that we are? Can we fathom the power we already hold in our minds and hands if we give all our great and petty worries over to Christ? Can we picture the compassion and healing that we might experience and then share with the world if we open our hearts to the Spirit that already dwells within?

God says: You are rightly focused on the daily task of survival but imagine if you were to trust me more and your own resources less? Do you see how much you have already gained? Can you imagine how much you are yet to receive? My servant Paul reminds my followers in Corinth that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”. (1 Corinthians 2:9) And this is so. Today you read about how the faithful returned to me and celebrated with liturgy. Do you know how much it means to me when you join my Son, our Spirit and me in beautiful liturgies of Word and Eucharist? Do you know that I have wonderful plans for you? Plans for joy and not for woe? When you doubt, open scripture to see how many times I have already rescued my people. Open your lives and remember how often I have already saved you. Will I not love you even more as our relationship deepens? Will I not bring you even more joy? Have I not already told you that all of this is so?

As we consider today’s Noontime, let us also consider how we might approach liturgies with a new energy. If we do not belong to a worship community, let us explore the possibility of finding or creating one. And if we long to find union that lasts, let us commit to entering fully into our worship community with a new expectation of finding great joy.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For a better understanding of these Books, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015roots and branches

Malachi 4 (Malachi 3:19-24)

Roots and Branches

Destruction is a familiar theme in the Old Testament; restoration is a theme in the New.  We seem always to be looking for the phoenix life – one in which our past is obliterated when we rise from the ashes of our former selves.  In today’s Noontime the wicked will be like ashes under the feet of the righteous.  This place which Malachi describes does not appear to offer resurrection; evidently there are actions from which there is no turning back.  The New Testament Jesus calls all of us – even those who seem to be lost in total perdition.  In today’s reading we hear that neither root nor branch will survive the coming fire.  There will be no source of renewal and no bearing of fruit for some.  We might wonder who these wicked are . . . and why they deserve this end.

This prophecy was written after the restoration and re-dedication of the Temple by Ezra and Nehemiah.  Evidently the people had not learned much from their suffering in exile.  These people sound a good deal like us.   “Unlike such early prophecies as Amos and Hosea, the late prophetic book of Malachi is not simply the voice of the observant masses against a corrupt priesthood, though it readily indicts the priesthood for its failures.  It identifies itself with Levitical priestly circles and believes deeply in the temple, true worship, and the payment of tithes as means for obtaining the blessing of the land”.  (Mays 1428-1429)  Malachi saw the corruption and witnessed truth to the power structure.  Clearly, he was ignored.  The Temple fell to final ruin in the Roman-Jewish conflict around the year 70 C.E.  We might wonder how history would have resulted differently if the temple hierarchy had acted positively in response to this prophecy.  We might wonder if we are like the temple priests whom Malachi describes to us today.

tree_vision1Psalm 119, sometimes entitled The Glories of God’s Law, is a long one but we cannot let it discourage us from exploring its verses.  One weekend several years ago I used it for a self-imposed three-day retreat on my porch at home.  Every few hours I went to the corner settee to sit awhile and look at the beauty of nature before me, and then I read and reflected on a portion of this Psalm.  I interspersed this with yoga, reflective music, and reading Thomas Merton, Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, and Henri Nouwen.  By the end of the weekend, after immersing myself in God’s Law, I had come to better understand an obstacle in my path.  By the end of that weekend I had learned how to rise from ashes so that I might not be trampled underfoot.  By the end of the weekend I had learned again how to put down roots . . . and how to lift up branches in order to bear fruit out of suffering.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1428-1429. Print.

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 9, 2011.  

For more reflections on this prophecy, enter the word Malachi in the blog search bar and explore. 

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