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[this sermon was dlivered by two ministers - alternating sections]
America is a Great Country.
In America, we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway.
In America, we put Braille dots on the keyboards at drive up ATMs and have handicapped parking at the front door of the skating rink.
In America, our feet smell and our noses run.
In America, when we transport something by car we call it a shipment and when we transport something in a ship we call it cargo.
In America, we park $20,000 cars on the street so that we can store $200 worth of junk in our garages.
In America, the #2 pencil is the most popular, but it is still #2.
In America, we chop trees down so that we can chop them up.
In America, we have interstate highways in Hawaii.
In America, when everyone is driving slow, we call it rush hour.
Yakof Smirnof, a comic from the old Soviet Union immigrated to the US. He was amazed by the products available in our stores. He saw powdered milk – just add water. He saw powdered eggs – just add water. He saw baby powder – wow, what a country.
Our text today is from Nehemiah. It is important to understand the setting. The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon. Their Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Now, after 70 years, they have returned and are rebuilding their city. I use the word “return” loosely, because most of these people had been born in captivity and had never seen their home. They had found the Law of Moses during their work on the temple. The Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them. They vowed to return to the law. This passage reflects Nehemiah’s efforts to reconnect the people to their heritage and turn them back to God.
Nehemiah 9:1-37 [The Message – Selections]
Then on the twenty-fourth day of this month, the People of Israel gathered for a fast, wearing burlap and faces smudged with dirt as signs of repentance. The Israelites broke off all relations with foreigners, stood up, and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their parents. While they stood there in their places, they read from the Book of The Revelation of GOD, their God, for a quarter of the day. For another quarter of the day they confessed and worshiped their GOD.
A group of Levites stood on the platform and cried out to GOD, their God, in a loud voice. The Levites said, “On your feet! Bless GOD, your God, for ever and ever!”
“Blessed be your glorious name, exalted above all blessing and praise! You’re the one, GOD, you alone; you made the heavens, the heavens of heavens, and all angels; the earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them; you keep them all alive; heaven’s angels worship you!
You’re the one, GOD, the God who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldees and changed his name to Abraham. You found his heart to be steady and true to you and signed a covenant with him, A covenant to give him and his descendants the promised land. And you kept your word because you are righteous.
You saw the anguish of our parents in Egypt. You heard their cries at the Red Sea. You split the sea before them; they crossed through and never got their feet wet; you pitched their pursuers into the deep; they sank like a rock
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