Monday, March 29, 2010

Purifying the temple with Nehemiah and Jesus

The trouble with the new blogger editing suite is that I can't find the spell checker. So if there are spelling infelicities in this it's down to me not being able to spell. Ah well.

We've had a good weekend. It's been lovely having our grand daughter staying with us for the past week - we went for a walk in Knole Park on Saturday which was full of deer and beginning to emerge from the winter with buds and leaves breaking out all over.

And yesterday evening we finished Nehemiah (hallelujah!). It's been a challenges 12 weeks. I think some good things have come from our wrestling with this text, but I can't escape the feeling that Nehemiah was the world's first spin doctor (as David Clines suggests in a fascinating essay on the book) and that it would be great to have Sanballat's autobiography on the same events!

But yesterday we pondered what we might learn from the two cleansings of the temple - one in Nehemiah 13, the other in the gospels; one by the outsider Jesus, the other by the insider Nehemiah. And we wondered what these events might have to teach us regarding creating missional communities (the subject of our journey through Nehemiah).

My reflection was that Nehemiah and Jesus, while superficially poles apart, are on the same continuum, with Jesus (as you'd expect) fulfilling and completing what Nehemiah was involved in progressing. In particular I drew two conclusions about being a missional community from all this.

The first is that to be a missional community we need to have a firm centre. A key lesson from Nehemiah is that at the heart of the community he was seeking to build was a covenant, the scriptures and prayer. These are the key to knowing who we are; these give shape to the values and lifestyle that creates the community that can truly be a city within a city.

The second is that a missional community needs to have fuzzy edges: We learn this from Jesus and the way he allowed any and everyone who wanted to to attach themselves to the band of disciples, to listen in and ask questions, to come along for the journey to see what it was all about.

It is in this way that Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4 (key Old Testament prophecies about the calling of God's people); Isaiah 61; Acts 3:17-21; Ephesians 3:5-7 (see the temple imagery in 2:20-21) will be fulfilled in little groups of Jesus followers; groups where people are moving from the edge to the centre, drawn by the possibility of becoming aware of who they are in Jesus and through that of discovering life in all its fulness.

It seems to me that that’s mission, that’s our calling; this is what it means to be a missional people.And if this is what Nehemiah has taught us, then it's been twelve weeks well spent - especially if we have actually learned it!


alimac said...

It's been a very good 12 weeks, it's been fascinating getting your take on nehemiah.

Where my thinking was on this was nehemiah was a guy who went and got involved and didn't stay in his comfortable position of influence. He made mistakes (for this now read things i didn't/ don't fully understand like his exclusivity) and he tried to bring the people back to God by replicating the past but his heart was in the right place.

I too wonder what others who were there at the time would say about him but most of all I look forward to seeing the church putting our learning into practice.

simon said...

That's really helpful Ali. Thanks. I agree that Nehemiah is a model for all of us in getting off his backside and doing something, and for the most part doing well.