GNB 52


July 14, 2022


“Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. The people celebrated the festival [as they were instructed by the Word] for seven days. On the eighth day [the Sabbath day], in accordance with the regulations set forth, there was an assembly.” (Nehemiah 8.18)


The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America provides the right to peaceably assemble for any purpose not expressly prohibited by law. The conflict arises not in the right to assemble ourselves but to do so peaceably. When the express purpose is to invoke hate, bitterness, violence, criminal activity, conflict and personal will over the will of others there is rarely peace. And that peace comes out of the heart, mind and soul of the people who have determined the time and place to assemble as well as its purpose. This reflection is not intended to be a constitutional discussion. I merely allude to the truth that in this country, the right for lawful and peaceable assembly is ours. It is also a right which is forsaken far more than it is honored. How often do we consider our actions without considering the consequences of those actions? If our purpose is peace, then how are we to be peacemakers? If our purpose is peace, then are we at peace within ourselves. Do we fall prey to “the end justifies the means”? Have we fully considered what the end might be with the means we have chosen to attain it? Without doubt, we are a fragile people. The world can easily break us and evil will most certainly break out among us. Jesus knew this was true when He addressed the reality of sin as not merely the commission of a sinful act but the consideration of it. To merely think and dwell upon a wrong act elevates the level of accountability to a most serious “crime” against God. That is what sin is: a crime against God.

Does that mean that sin is not “a crime against humanity”? Absolutely not. I am asking us to consider the prioritizing of our thoughts and actions. When a wrong is committed, regardless of the severity and the “justification” for it, it is always a crime against God first. What? You don’t think that way? When Jesus was asked what was the “greatest commandment,” He did not hesitate to declare that it was “to love God fully” and then added “to love your neighbor.” The Ten Commandments are divided into two groups: those which define right relationship with God and those which define right relationship with one another. Interesting that all ten of them speak to the alignment of the self with everything that is not “self.” In so doing, the ten commandments are statements of personal accountability. That is how Jesus can say “just thinking about taking another man’s wife to be your consort is commiting adultery.” We are convicted before God for the larceny in our own hearts. The challenge then comes not only to be personally accountable but under great personal restraint of the heart, mind, soul and body. The number of scriptures which promote the taming of the tongue from The Book of Proverbs to the Letter of James speak directly to the expectation of being intrapersonally under control as well as interpersonally so. Thus, if our command to love one another is premised by and based upon the command and expectation to love God, then the same can be said concerning the command to not sin. Our sin against ourselves and one another is ultimately a reflection of sinning against God. We must assembly our thoughts and actions together in mutual accountability. And no one or nothing knows this better, and us better, than God- Yahweh Elohim.

There is little wonder why Ezra, the priest, and Nehemiah, the lead counsel, assembled the people together. For more than seventy years, the people of Israel had been scattered. They were not together in time, place or thought. It was the effect of the decision of their enemy to disperse the assembly of the faithful. They did not truly “exile” them but enculturated them with the ways of the world of others. The enemy diluted their thinking and eventually their understanding of who they were. Have you heard of “The Lost Tribes of Israel”? Removed from any accountability to their true identity, which was and is of God, they began to determine for themselves who they would become. “They” started to become “them.” After a while, it was difficult to tell the difference between “they and them.” That “us” mentality was surrendered because it did not include God, Yahweh Elohim. That is until the Word of the Lord was spoken in an open reading to the people who had been gathered together. There were no political speeches which were easily tainted by personal agendas under the guise of “what’s best for us.” There were no philosophical or even theological diatribes to offer an interpretation of “what is truth.” There was only the reading of the texts of God’s revelation of Himself in the Word of the Lord. The Word which was inspired and recorded by the Holy Spirit in, through and around the community of faith spoke truth itself. The Holy Spirit spoke “truth in love” itself so that the people could hear it and be challenged by it. After that reading, for seven days, they assembled together for the great restart. Their work would begin anew to be established in right relationship with God and with one another.

Mighty ones of God, followers of the Way, the Truth and the Life, I wonder what would happen if in all our assemblies we read without pontification the Word of the Lord. What would all our assemblies look like if we bound ourselves by the very instruction of God’s revelation of His presence in our midst? Let me say it this way, I know what happens when we don’t. What happens when we don’t is what we have today in front of courthouses, government buildings, parks, streets and back alleys and backrooms. It isn’t about God first and others second. It really is about “me, myself and I.” It is an unholy trinity because it leaves no room for God. It also leaves no room for us with God. That is why it is so important that we hold to the gospel truth of God’s presence, Jesus the Christ, and do not forsake the call to authentic assembly. In doing that, we honor God and love one another. No one can make the point better than God. Let’s let God speak and transform our reality into what He intended all along: peace on earth and goodwill to all.


Father God, how great is Your name in all existence from beginning to end which has no beginning nor end. You have determined to love us into life. You have committed Yourself to love us through this life. You have promised to give us life eternal and in all fullness. We thank You. We commit ourselves to faithful assembly in all we say and do. We abide by Your forgiveness for when we fall short. We acknowledge that not so we may excuse our ill-considered behavior but as a thanksgiving for reconciliation when our efforts to be aligned with Your will don’t match or accomplish the true purpose for which we have been created. Bless us in our determination to be “people of Your Word.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. AMEN.

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