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Today’s first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is from one of the historical books: Nehemiah – usually paired with the Book of Ezra. I must admit that I have little knowledge of this man or his writings but today I find that I could happily spend the day with him if I had nothing else pressing to do! My interest was piqued by a sentence in the reading that seemed like it could be said today when there is so much to lament in our country and the world.

After reading out and explaining the law to the gathered populace (from daybreak to midday!), Ezra, the scribe, was joined by “His Excellency” Nehemiah who exhorted the crowd: Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength! It seems that Nehemiah, a layman, was himself so distressed at the sad state of ruin in Jerusalem that he asked to be permitted to go and rebuild – a request that was granted by the king.

Since it is already 9:22 A.M., long past my normal posting window of time, I will conclude by saying two things. First, I plan to spend some time getting to know Nehemiah and his moment in history, and secondly, I suggest we all try not to spend the day in sadness – no matter the trials – because our strength truly does come, as Nehemiah reminds us, from rejoicing in the Lord, our loving and bountiful God.