News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
We struggle to know how to worship God when things are tough, or when we cannot glimpse, taste or sense the Holy presence in our daily lives, travails and work. The famous poem “footprints” is one way of talking about the paradox of God’s blessed presence in our lives. Yet this mystery is probably the thing that people most often invoke in their loss or lack of faith, and/or agnosticism.
This chapter of Nehemiah is actually one about a national day of prayer and confession. If you read the verses 1-5 you’ll hear that background. Dressed in the traditional outfit, and taking the customary stance, the people gather to confess the sins of their ancestors. What? They don’t confess their sins. It’s those of their ancestors.
The litany or prayer led by Nehemiah tells the story of the Israelite people. Did you notice the way in which it’s told? Read it again noticing the use of “you” and “they” (for our ancestors). It’s a literary construction of opposition, if you read it aloud it has a certain melodic rhythm to it, almost a give and take….yet is it really a give and take, or is it a give and give? What stories do you recognize? What are unfamiliar? What is the connection between them?
The word “blessed” in Hebrew (BRK or ברוך) means “to make heavy”, as in making someone heavy with gifts that have been bestowed upon them. It’s not about having an easy life, or lots of stuff. It’s a poignant way to look at the prayer of Nehemiah. The people are blessed and they bless the name of the LORD. How have the people of God been laden with blessings by God? What kind of blessings? And for what? How did the people respond?
And for us today, how do we hear this word? We too are rebuilding the church, reclaiming faith in our 21st century. What does it mean to confess the sins of our ancestors? Should we? How has God blessed us, or is God blessing us here at CAPC Oakland? For what?
Questions for Going Deeper