I came across an interesting (to me, at least) article on cnn.com. A reporter who is Roman Catholic has been reading a book of the Bible each week, reflecting on her reading and her reactions to the reading. This week, she read Nehemiah (http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/26/living/catholic-bible-22/index.html).
In case you aren’t familiar with Nehemiah, the book is about the return of the exiles from Persia, somewhere around 538 BC, following the defeat of Jerusalem in 586 BC. As they return they discover the temple in ruins, Jerusalem in disarray, and those who had been left behind, desolate and hopeless. Along with Ezra (another leader, and another book in the Old Testament), Nehemiah seeks to restore the land, the city, and the people.
Not everything in Ezra and Nehemiah seems to be noble. Those who married foreigners, for example, are told to rid themselves of their spouses, and there seems to be some political jockeying going on (back then too, huh?)
Still, the author of the CNN article sees something in Nehemiah. She sees someone who is rather ordinary doing extraordinary things. Or, as she says, a regular guy with an extraordinary job.
I suppose there is some truth in that. Perhaps it becomes more pronounced because the writing of Nehemiah allows us to see a very human, real person. Written as a very personal memoir, Nehemiah allows us to enter his world, and to walk with him, and to experience God’s message through him – to us!
So read the article from CNN – and then take a look at the Book of Nehemiah. Especially this weekend, as we celebrate All Saints Day on Sunday. After all, doesn’t Nehemiah sound like a saint?
I suppose he does, but don’t get too hung up on a regular guy with an extraordinary job. That’s not what a saint is.
A saint is a regular guy, called by God, to do an ordinary job that is transformed by God’s grace into something special.
Like Charlie McCarty. Charlie was an older gentleman who I knew when I was about 10 years old. Active in the congregation, Charlie was also the manager of a shoe store. Charlie made a big impact on me. I still remember him. I can picture him. He was a saint. I just don’t know why. I honestly cannot tell you why he made an impact on me. Maybe it was simply that he lived life faithfully, in all sorts of little ways, in all sorts of ordinary ways.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Nehemiah was a regular guy, doing extraordinary job – God called him, just plain Nehemiah, to be something bigger than he was. God does that all the time. Maybe God even calls you to be something almost bigger than life.
Or maybe not. Maybe you (and I) are just regular folk, called to do ordinary things, but to do them while God’s grace transforms what we do into something special. Just as God’s grace transforms us into something special.
That, it seems to me, is the essence of sainthood – not accomplishing remarkable things, but allowing God to accomplish remarkable things – and very simple, faithful things – through us and in us.
See the difference? Sainthood is about GOD at work, not about me and what I can manage.
Maybe that is why Charlie made such an impact. I knew, somehow, that God was at work in him. I could (probably) see that, but since it wasn’t extraordinary, I really don’t remember it – I just remember that God was at work. And that’s all I need to know.
That’s also all I need to be about. I want to be faithful, and yes, doing a few extraordinary things would be nice. In the end, however, it’s not about me, it’s about God. Perhaps God has me pegged for extraordinary accomplishments. Or not. Regardless, the call is to be faithful, and to allow God to use me to make a difference in the world around me.
So whether I am a modern day Nehemiah, or a more up to date Charlie matters not. To simply be faithful, to simply be an instrument of God’s work, to be a saint. Can’t ask for anything more than that!