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St.John the Evangelist Anglican Church,  Smiths Falls 3rd November, 2020  
Text: Nehemiah 6:3, ”I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you.”  

Introduction   “Stana or Istanna” is the word we were told to use whilst on guard duty in our camp in the Canal Zone in Egypt. It is Arabic for Halt! or Wait! With the present pandemic on everyone's mind it is a word we would like to say to stop the virus!   Nehemiah, however, had no intention of stopping his important work. Nobody likes to be told to stop what they are doing! This incident in the story of how the Jewish people resisted opposition to their practise of the faith, is very timely in our present situation. We also need to be encouraged even when we are stopped from worshipping as we were used to and have to wait for things to get back to normal.  

1.    Persistence in the Church! “I am doing a great work!”   Nehemiah was literally rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. Worship in the Temple was impossible - it was in ruins. Religious leadership was lacking. The culture and normal life of the people was disrupted to a point of disappearing altogether. Nehemiah gathered around him helpers who would take responsibility for building back up the broken walls of the city. Christians have strong emotional ties to Jerusalem. Jesus came to the city, taught there and died there. We talk about the new Jerusalem, thinking of the Church and liken the city as the equivalent of the Kingdom of Heaven! We want the Church to continue.  

2.    Persistence in the Faith!   We are not to stop believing in God and His Son Jesus Christ. Let's learn from Nehemiah. We are still called to rebuild, so to speak, the walls of the new Jerusalem by reaching out to others. We must put first things first. We are called not to guard the walls of the church, that is our faith, but to keep on building and rebuilding it to the glory of God.   How can we do this in a spiritual lock down. We are to persist in prayer. Pray for the clergy! Remember from the old service of Evening Prayer, “Endue thy ministers with righteousness,” and then pray that all clergy may be helped to live the right way. Pray for the people of the Church - “Make thy chosen people joyful.” Pray for the members of this congregation so that they may be happy in the faith and find complete joy in Jesus. Read the Bible, it has much to teach us and help in times like this.  

3.    Persistence in the Pandemic!   As believers we are taught that God will bring healing and help to the nations of this world. Let us remember that God still wishes to save his people and gave them laws to obey. Today there are sensible restrictions to be followed. Think of Nehemiah refusing to be diverted from his work. Let us be resolute by standing firm not only in the faith but in the advice health professionals give us to avoid passing the virus to others.    Psalm 46, verse 6 in the old Prayer Book says of the city of God, “God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.”  May the Lord of all continue to bless and keep us safe always.                                                                                 

The Rev’d Canon Brian A. Burrows