Welcome back to our Lenten study from the book of Nehemiah. I want to begin by showing you a button that was given to me when I was about 20 years old.
This is not an eye-test sign. The letters are the first letters of a phrase that I never forgot. It means—please be patient- God is not finished with me yet! It’s saying, give me some grace, because I’m still under construction.
It’s been 45 years since I’ve worn that pin and guess what? I’m still under construction and realizing this project is taking longer than the highway construction around Sioux City. It’s been slow, painful, and too often God has had to go back and redo large sections. The good news is, God has never given up on me, and God will never give up on you.
Have you ever wondered why God is so persistent? I think we can learn something about ourselves through this story of Nehemiah rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem.
God called Nehemiah to this difficult task for two reasons. First, the most obvious reason is God loved Jerusalem. God chose it and Jesus wept over it. And when God loves something or someone, God always assembles a construction crew. I could list dozens of Nehemiahs in my life who have been God’s instruments for rebuilding me in Christ. God is in the business of transforming our lives into the image of Jesus Christ because God loves you and wants to make you whole and healthy. We Methodists call that holiness.
But the second reason God called Nehemiah to rebuild the wall is, God was calling people to come home.
Nehemiah 7:6 says: “…….. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived.”
The day the wall was destroyed was the day Judah went into captivity. The wall represented a safe and welcoming place— a home to come back to. After almost 70 years in a foreign land, living as slaves instead of like the sons and daughters of the living God, they were invited to return home.
Do you know why God has never given up on you and never will? For the same two reasons: God loves you and always will. The second reason God doesn’t give up on you is because God wants to use you to call people to come home. God wants to use you, your family, and your church to be a safely walled sanctuary for a world that is living in exile from the shelter of God’s love and protection.
So God is willing to spend years rebuilding you to make you a safe and secure place for someone to run to for shelter. There is a wonderful scripture in the Psalms that says:
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower;The righteous run to it and are safe.” Pr 18:10
All of us who have found our way home to God, are here because someone provided a strong tower for you to run into.
One of my favorite stories of the church is of a group called Moravians who were fleeing persecution. A landholder in Germany, Count Zinzendorf, heard of their plight and offered them refuge in a town called Herrnhut.
Three hundred Moravian Christians accepted his invitation. But the first five years were wracked by dissension, bickering, and backbiting.
Count Zinzendorf reprimanded them, but then covenanted with them to pray and labor for revival. On May 12, 1727, revival came. The Moravians came aglow with new life and power. The dissension vanished and unbelievers soon came running to them.
Zinzendorf later recalled, “The whole place represented truly a visible habitation of God among men.” That little community formed a prayer vigil which prayed constantly, 24 hours a day, for the next 100 years. It ignited one of the greatest missionary movements since the early church.
The reason this is of interest to us is because one group of those Moravian missionaries encountered a disillusioned young man named John Wesley sailing home to England from a disastrous ministry in Georgia. The Moravians impacted John Wesley’s life, which lead to his own “heart warming experience”, which created a movement from which we Methodists found a home. They were Wesley’s walled city.
My prayer for you and your church in this Lenten season, is for your walls to be rebuilt. Because someone needs a safe place to come home to.
Some years ago in my church in Watertown a man came walking in on a Sunday morning. We didn’t know it, but this was going to be his last day. He woke up prepared to take his own life, but he felt like he needed to give God one last chance. So he got in his car and pulled out onto the interstate with no destination in mind. He spotted a car ahead of him with “church” looking people, so he followed them into our parking lot, right into our church. By God’s design there was someone at the church who was prepared for this moment when this prodigal walked in the door and not only welcomed him but took an interest in him.
That morning that broken man experienced the presence of God in worship and he came home.
God seeks to build your life - and your church…into a strong tower where the righteous (and the broken) run into it and are safe!
Would you pray with me?
God, you have been a builder and a rebuilder even before the universe was formed. Thank you for being so patient with us, but in this moment we pray that we would be willing participants in your reconstruction work on our own hearts and within our own churches. Forgive us for holding so tightly to our broken walls and our petty rubble, that we miss the calling to be your strong tower for those who you are calling to come home. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen