With the blessing of Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, Nehemiah returns to help rebuild and repopulate Jerusalem. Those left in Jerusalem (a majority of the population having been in exile for decades) restore its wall in just fifty-two days. After such a feat, the people gather in the square before the Water Gate to praise the Lord for their blessings. The Water Gate on the east side of the city afforded a space in which both laypeople and clergy could gather to hear the word of God. Note that those included were “all who could hear with understanding.” The people gather in the presence of the book of the law of Moses; they stand and listen for six hours. All remain “attentive” to the reading. This exiled and disparate people hear words that speak of God’s work among them. These words empower.
We as God’s people still respond to the call to assemble and to praise God in times of celebration and tribulation—to be imbued with the power of God through the word. On Sunday mornings our culture offers many alternatives to assembling in Christian community. Folks throw the golf clubs in the trunk and head out for a round of golf. Boats launch into lakes for a day of fishing. Children’s organized sports give no heed to the sabbath. Some folks simply enjoy sleeping late on the weekend.
Christian assembly as a means of receiving the power of word and community still remains effective. And God still desires our attentiveness to God’s law and gathering in community.
God of hope, help me to rise daily to give you the glory for all my many blessings. Amen.