On Sunday 7th February Rev Christine Gillespie led the Holy Communion service at Wesley Chapel. We sang ‘Sing Praise to God who reigns above’ before Christine led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. We then heard the conversion of Lydia from Acts 16.13-15 before we sang ‘Speak, O Lord, as we come to you.’ We then heard about the women who accompanied Jesus from Luke 8.1-9 and the continued story of Nehemiah from Nehemiah 2.1-9. We sang, ‘Let every Christian pray’ before Christine preached.
Christine reminded us of how in award ceremonies people give thanks to those who have given them the award and say how they could not have done it without their spouse or the other actors and directors, on whose behalf they are accepting the award. If Nehemiah had received such an award he would have explained how he had been called by God to the great task working alongside other people. He could not have done it at all without the support of King Artexerxes, his boss. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. The king had the ultimate power and authority and had possibly caused the rebuilding of Jerusalem to be stopped. Nehemiah took a risk to show his feelings to the king; he revealed his mournful face when he was serving the king. The king was surprised to see how upset Nehemiah looked and he took note and showed his concern by asking him what was wrong. Nehemiah prayed before he spoke, as he felt afraid with good reason of telling the King what was wrong, but he recognised the opportunity to tell the king. The king listened. Did he feel responsible? It was not his or his ancestor’s fault, as Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians; he was a Persian King who had conquered the Babylonians. The Persians had allowed the exiles to return to their homes. The king probably thought he had already done all he could. Perhaps the king had wondered if he had allowed the city to be rebuilt it might become strong and revolt against Persia. The Queen was sitting next to the king and it was very rare for women to get a mention, so Christine wondered why her presence had been drawn attention to. Maybe the Queen had listened too and helped the king to change his mind.
The king weighed up the cost; it was going to be expensive; Nehemiah requested time for the work and letters so he could have safe passage to Jerusalem. He also requested the materials he would need to complete the task and he would also need officers to accompany him for protection on the journey.
Nehemiah could not have done it without the support of the king. What relevance does this story have for us 2.5000 years later? We are not kings, but we do see distress and hardship for people who are in terrible situations and cannot pull themselves out of the situation. God may call us to something ourselves, as Nehemiah was called to, but very often we are like the king offering support and help. The king helped once he knew what was upsetting Nehemiah.
We have so much information about organisations for neglected children like Action for children and we are encouraged to notice those who need a good role model, especially male role models and to help parents play with children. Organisations like MHA, Methodist Home for Aged, help us notice what happens to families of dementia sufferers and helps us avoid loneliness and depression. All we can shows how us how aid can be spent in marginalised communities and when disasters like earthquakes occur; homes need to be rebuilt and businesses need to be restarted. We are encouraged to find out, understand the need and the high costs. We may find it daunting. Increased aid to refugees will be costly, a cost to our culture and lifestyle; we weigh the cost of taxes to the government. So many tell us of their needs, we weigh it against the needs of others and we are concerned for what is happening to others. We have the opportunity to respond with open handed generosity, or sometimes we feel too overwhelmed by the needs we see. We are the seventh wealthiest country and the way we vote and what we say in conversations. When St Paul’s was being built, you could have spoken to workmen, who had done carving or made a gargoyle, or the wooden screen; all helped build the cathedral. Remember the way the king asked Nehemiah pointed questions and then gave generously; we too ask questions and we can then decide what to give. We can give thanks to those who can help. Sometimes we are called to be informed, or help or support; we just need to be open to what God wants us to do.
We sang ‘Called by Christ to be disciples’. Christine led the prayers of intercessions before she celebrated communion. Worship concluded when we sang ‘An Upper Room did our Lord prepare’.