Nehemiah in the Hebrew Scriptures gives us a description of an important event of his people in our first reading this Sunday. It is a powerful moment for the People of God - they were presented with the Word of God, the law, by Ezra the priest. The entire community gathered, men, women and those children old enough to understand, to be presented with the book of the law and to be instructed in what it meant for them. No one was better than anyone else, no one knew more of God's ways or were closer to him than anyone else. All stood there listening, learning, absorbing the truth as it was presented them. Then in a powerful moment of insight and wisdom, as Ezra praised the Lord, all the people, their hands raised high in praise, answered AMEN, AMEN! Their YES filled their lips and their hearts, and they bowed, faces to the ground, before the Lord. The truth was presented, it was interpreted so that all could understand, and it was accepted, embraced by every individual in the community without hesitation or reservation. That day, that moment was declared holy to the Lord their God, and they were invited to rejoice, for "rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength".
I was struck by the fact that ALL listened and learned, that every individual and the entire community were entrusted with this Truth. There was no one too sophisticated, too learned, too old, too insignificant to receive this treasure. And that their communal response was an affirming YES! They may later falter, later turn away and sin, but in that moment of grace there was unity and resolve to be the chosen people.
How often do we have those moments? Rarely, I think. Why? Probably because we subdivide and limit ourselves in a multitude of ways: learning and study are for the young (yet, even if we are a know-it-all, we never know everything); religious studies are complete after we have received Confirmation (or for some even Holy Communion); religion is personal and private, reserved for church or prayer times; we should not be "too expressive", "too demonstrative" or some may be offended; and maybe ultimately because my life is about me, and not about or for God.
Oh how I would love to see enthusiasm and intensity in our worship and in our desire to grow in holiness. How I would love to see the community so hunger for the word of truth that they listen with their whole heart, mind, soul and being, and with those elements love God. How I would love to see the "great amen" truly be a "GREAT AMEN", worthy of the name.