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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 15, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Nehemiah 8:1–3, 5–6, 8–10

All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (NRSV)

Today’s verses from the book of Nehemiah describe a moving worshipful moment when residents of Jerusalem had returned from exile. All the people were gathered together in the midst of the city to hear a reading, followed by an interpretation of God’s law. It was a public rededication of the heart of the faith they shared, followed by celebrations.

Every January we at Fourth Church share two special worshipful moments. These events parallel what the governor Nehemiah recorded, but in quite different ways. On an early Sunday, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River. Frequently we reaffirm the vows our parents (or we ourselves) made at our baptisms. Depending on the year, there is a sprinkling of water as well.

The second worship service is linked to our Nehemiah reading by the social reforms the governor instituted. When we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday we recall in our Sunday worship Dr. King’s prophetic witness to racial justice, perhaps this year linked to memories of his later activist sibling Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. This Sunday has become a personal high holy day for me.

“Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death;
victory is ours through him who loves us.” (Prayer by Desmond Tutu)

Reflection written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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