Emmitsburg Council of Churches


A Selection of Readings from the
Book of Nehemiah 2:16-18; 3:1-3, 8, 12-13

The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work. 2:17 Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace." 2:18 I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us start building!" So they committed themselves to the common good.

3:1 Then the high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set up its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 3:2 And the men of Jericho built next to him. And next to them Zaccur son of Imri built. 3:3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

3:8 Next to them Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.

3:12 Next to him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters. 3:13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate; they rebuilt it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God!!

Cradle to Cradle

I was recently handed a book entitled, Cradle to Cradle. In this writing, Architect, Engineer and authors, McDonough and Braungart seek to address the Environmental, Economic and Social Equity challenges of our Age. The writing is literally a Manifesto of possibilities that could bring about an amazing transformation in our Post Industrial Society -- both domestically and abroad.

Imagine a world in which Industry would take the lead to develop products that are not only built to last, but also built to be deconstructed and "mined" for their basic elements. McDonough and Braungart refer to this concept as a kind of recycling or reconstituting of products and winding up with their basic elements or materials, which they call "NUTRIENTS."

Putting it simply, the design concept is that nothing is wasted, everything can be recycled and reused in new products . . . Hence, the elimination of waste, which equates with greater profitability, especially in a world of increasing scarcity.

Now imagine that this new profitable business philosophy is coupled with value toward its ecological and Human components. Justice and Integrity are intrinsic to the new business/corporate mind set and therefore, people will want to purchase the product. McDonough and Braungart sum up their ecologically intelligent design concept with a Triangular model: With the three angles being made up of the elements of "Equity" (Justice); Ecology and Economy.

Within the model, McDonough and Braungart point out that BALANCE is the goal. There needs to be what we might call an Equilibrium of the Three Principles: Ecology, Economics and Equity.

If you move too closely to any angular point, then you get caught up in an "ISM" such as environmentalism, or capitalism or socialism. As history has proved, any time we create an "ISM," by its very extreme position precludes that it will lead to a new evil or, at best, a limited help to the larger whole of society. Any position too close to the angle in the triangle causes a the model to break down. No single component can dominate. *Perhaps we can learn much from this point! But let us move on to the Biblical text . . . .

In a different time and place, Nehemiah, the religious and societal reformer, was embracing a similar set of principles as I have described. Nehemiah had received a revelation of the City of Jerusalem being restored, with all of its Walls repaired, its Gates hung and secure and the pools of water used for agriculture and for washing restored and pristine. But holding back progress were the extremes of family factions, tribal rivalries, political sabotage or unhealthy alliances and economic contentions all vying for power and selfish aims. All destructive while operating in their own elements.

But Nehemiah had a unifying vision to restore the House of God! Nehemiah saw that the people's strength was in coming together and returning to Worship and Praise the God of Israel in the TEMPLE OF THE LORD!! Instead of every clan and tribe fending for themselves in a walless city, Nehemiah foresaw that unity and working together cooperatively would bring health and wholeness to the people once again

This scenario can resonate with us as we consider our responsibilities in our communities where there are Principles and Practitioners of: Economic Gain or Exploitation, Environmental Destruction or Restoration, or where the Dignity of our Human Family is Upheld and Cherished or Discriminated Against or Cast Out. How can we rebuild these Walls and Gates so that ultimately, the House of God will, once again be Filled with Praise and Shouts of Exultation???

As I read this long description in Nehemiah's account of the rebuilding effort, I was inspired by the many different people involved. "The High Priest Eliashib" and the priests who served under him; Uzziel, one of the Goldsmiths, made repairs. Next to him Hananiah, one of the Perfumers, made repairs; *Shallum, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters!

All these people were inspired by Nehemiah's Vision and set out to do the work. They worked hard, they got their hands dirty . . . note their professions, they were not people used to "Dirty Jobs." Nevertheless, they completed their sections of the wall, they rehung the gates in their sector they reestablished the strength of the city. More importantly, they were moving to return to worship of Yahweh, the Lord, the God of Israel and their was a spirit of excitement in their midst. They were united in a common vision and it included everyone. Yes, there was hard work to do . . . but nobody shied away from the sweat nor the grime of rebuilding the wall, instead everyone pitched in without hesitation!

Maybe we can all take inspiration from Nehemiah's leadership. Maybe with the Lord's Help and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we too, will be able to sign up ourselves for God's service, "Yes Lord, send me." Or, "Me and my family will begin (right away) to rebuild the walls of faith and worship into our homelife." Or, "Yes Lord, I'm going to begin to speak with my wife or husband with words of kindness and support, I'm going to forgive and forget the past and begin to rebuild the walls of faithfulness, unity and love in my marriage and family." I don't know what your broken walls or unhinged doors might be, I would not dare to imagine what goes on behind closed doors in your household, I only know that if we heed Nehemiah's call for returning to God and getting to work on our brokeness, that this will be when we begin to see God in our lives.

When we confess that we have become complacent with the collapsed walls, which once stood proudly and beautifully around us, the walls of faith, the walls of love, the walls of humility and charity, when these walls are restored, then will come the time when God will be truly worshiped and praised. In our actions God will get the glory!

Of course there are other elements of brokeness that we might address with our own two hands, and even our children (Daughters and Sons!) can help. We have an earth that is physically showing us it's brokeness. We are all cringing as the price of oil rises daily. We should be appalled when we still see people litter the sides of our country roads and city streets. There's so much we can do!! And, many of us are in businesses that can think stategically to reform the way we do business. We can literally create the model that McDonough and Braungart describe in their book. THIS WORK IS NOTHING LESS THAN ROUSING OURSELVES TO REFORM SOCIETY AROUND US and it is crumbling. But as you get to work, do not lose the center. God is at the center. There is that other holy triangle of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to keep us informed about what we're doing and why we're doing it!

Finally, you and I are God's people, we are the perfumers, the goldsmiths, the daughters of the nobles. With the encouragement and the guidance of God . . . we can go to work together. We can be about Building an Equilibrium of Economy, Ecology and Justice in the world while giving all the glory to the Lord. Glory be to Jesus, his Kingdom come and will be done. Amen


Read more writings of Pastor Jon