“ … there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall”
I’ve started, so I’ll finish.
It’s easy enough for Magnuss or John to say that but there are many occasions in real life where the end of the road stretches beyond our sight into the far distance.
We may have a plan; we might have the best team going with the right skills mix but looking at things on the ground it seems as if we’ll never get it done or even get things off the ground to start with. It is even more disheartening when there’s so much rubbish to clear away before we can even think about what the future will look like.
The practical issues are tough enough but the task becomes tougher still when not everyone is on board with the plan. Inevitably some have reservations and others won’t get involved or will dip out (Nehemiah 3:5). Perhaps the greatest threat to any successful vision comes from those who actively oppose what you’re trying to achieve. It’s true that some of that comes from strongly held convictions but, with human nature being what it is, there are often other agendas at play too. Personal or political – you pay your money and you make your choice – the result is the same: the realisation of the vision is in jeopardy.
Nehemiah faced many of the practical and political issues that remain all too common today. Very few changes are all plain sailing; since they change the heartbeat of a community, it’s not unusual for the rhythms of life to be significantly interrupted and for things to grind to a halt unless immediate and decisive action is taken to keep – and to get - things back on track.
When we are being asked, for example, to engage with things that strike at the heart of deeply help convictions of personal security – like the proposed tracking of Covid 19 cases – we can easily see this as the thin end of a very big wedge that threatens our right to free expression. We can respond in a negative fashion because we see it as a step to far or one that isn’t needed at all. Perhaps it’s not so much what is said but how it’s explained.
Nehemiah’s response to the dangers of being swamped by rubble and detail is instructive for us today. He sees things as they are and recognises that rubble is part of rebuilding: the mess is there for a reason. He prays (Nehemiah 4: 4 – 5; 9), firstly recognising the nature of the conflict and then seeking God’s help about the next steps. Finally, he encourages the people to work together for common cause, reminding them why they are working as they are and who it’s really for.
The journey out of Covid 19 is still confusing. What we do know is that it will demand personal sacrifices and close application – perhaps we can see a parallel with Nehemiah’s work day and night. It means that we will be working to a plan that it not of our making but which we believe is for the benefit of us all. It involves a certain amount of rubble clearing – stuff that has to be got out of the way before we can move forward.
What might we as a church do? I think the same principles apply – not to get discouraged by the scale of the task but to work together under God’s leading to achieve His goals.
Yes, we have to make sure that we know what those goals are but when the opportunity arises let’s grasp it with both hands: now is not a time to stand still and over reflect. If we believe that God has spoken and is leading, let’s get on and follow in a fast moving, ever changing environment.
We are rebuilding a fellowship but we’ll also be building a culture in the sense of the way that we “are” church and the way that we “do” church. Inevitably this will mean changes to the way we work both within the church as well as the manner in which we relate to others.
Everyone is loved by God and He welcomes all. He invites us to work together to build not a city but a Kingdom where the values and rule reflect His own nature and character. As Nehemiah reminds us – it is the gracious hand of God and it is “us”, not “me”.