I haven’t talked with you about Nehemiah for awhile. But I have been thinking about him. I’m working on a book (You can see the Foreword and first chapter at greatwork.pressbooks.com.) In the process of writing and editing, Nancy read the draft. And she said, “Do you want these chapters to sound like this?”
The first of the two chapters is supposed to be that way. The second, however, was a chapter I already knew was the weakest chapter in the book. It had started as a sermon. I pulled it in as a chapter. I tweaked it a bit, but even as I did it, I knew that I was being lazy (or energy -efficient, if you prefer.) And I would have left it that way if someone who cared deeply hadn’t asked her question.
So I started looking at the passage in Nehemiah again. I started doing some more reading, some additional reflection. And then I went back to talking with Nehemiah. (That’s how I’m writing, as conversation with Nehemiah. Read the first chapter. You’ll understand.)
Because I went back, I saw this happen:
As the sun came over the shoulder of the Mount of Olives, Ezra climbed up the steps onto the platform carrying the scrolls. He stood in the middle of the line of leaders. And he started to read.
The crowd fell silent as he started: ‘Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echa'”
I wouldn’t have seen Ezra standout outside the Water Gate into Jerusalem. I wouldn’t have seen the connection between geography and story, between these words written by Moses, repeated by a teacher of the law talking with Jesus.
Because I asked for help, because I listened, because I went back and read again and looked again, I saw it new.
Read stories again.