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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 28, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Nehemiah 8:1–3, 5–6, 8–10

All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (NRSV)

Reflection
This time of year can be challenging. It gets dark early, it’s so cold outside, all the festive holidays are behind us, and I have already broken all my new year’s resolutions. I started the year out with all the best intentions, and then reality sets in. After the high of all the Christmas services and volunteer opportunities, I can fall into a drought. It is easy to get frustrated with myself for the things I am not doing.

I relate to how the people gathered listening to Ezra read the book of Law. Look at all the things they aren’t doing correctly; they are frustrated, they weep, they mourn. It is easy to get lost in a sense of despair when confronted with all the hardships in the world around us.

But this passage reminds us to find strength in God’s joy. Do what you can to impact the world around you, no matter how small it may seem. We will all stumble and get distracted, but God challenges us to give thanks for all that we have and to share those gifts with those around us.

Prayer
God, help me to find strength in your joy. Help me to find your joy even when my faith is faltering, when you feel far away. Help me to remember that though I am weak, you, God, are strong. Amen.

Written by Katie Patterson, Director of Urban Youth Mission

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