Happy to be home again
For some of us, life is a wandering journey of good paths and bad.
For some of us, life knocks us off our feet, throws us down the mountain, and leaves us not knowing where we are.
In today's first reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10), God's chosen people are just getting back on their feet after having experienced the worst calamity in their history up to that point: decades of exile and slavery (in what is now Iraq).
And what do they do? There is much fixing up to do and there are celebrations, of course, but one of most important things they do is what is described in today's reading: they all gather together, even children old enough to understand, and they listen to Ezra read and explain the Law of Moses in its entirety.
Some of us might think that this would be boring, but it was quite the contrary: the people are weeping as they hear the words of God's law.
Why do they weep? They are the tears of homecoming.
They know that God's law is at the heart of their identity as God's chosen people.
The LORD also proclaims his word to Jacob,
decrees and laws to Israel.
God has not done this for other nations;
of such laws they know nothing.
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it
as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?
As they hear the words of God's law, they feel the thrill of returning home to the comforting embrace of God and covenant.
As they hear the words of God's law, they are also reminded of how far and how long they have been away, not just physically but spiritually and morally as well.
But now they are home again. They have another chance to live as they were meant to live: faithfully and peacefully in the presence of God.
We too, you and I, have another chance.
You and I can come back from the spiritual and moral wilderness where our circumstances and our bad decisions have deposited us.
You and I can live as we were meant to be, as all people were created to live: faithfully and peacefully in the presence of God.
You and I can be reconciled and live according to the law of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You and I can be home again.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
The statutes of the LORD are true,
all of them just;
More desirable than gold,
than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey
or drippings from the comb.
By them your servant is instructed;
obeying them brings much reward.
Who can detect heedless failings?
Cleanse me from my unknown faults.
But from willful sins keep your servant;
let them never control me.
Then shall I be blameless,
innocent of grave sin.
Let the words of my mouth meet with your favor,
keep the thoughts of my heart before you,
LORD, my rock and my redeemer.