Summary: It is my prayer that by examining the role of Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, it will provide guidance to each of us as we identify our own role in rebuilding the Sacred Spaces of our Community and our Church.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Text: Nehemiah 2: 1 - 10
We continue to preach under the overarching theme of “Ministry that Matters: Building the Kingdom of God.” As I indicated last week this series will extend through the eight weeks of September and October. The series is based upon the life story of Nehemiah.
It is my prayer that as we examine the role of Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, it will provide guidance to each of us as we identify our own role in rebuilding the Sacred Spaces of our Community and our Church.
Nehemiah becomes a pivotal figure for us because while he had a position of influence, he did not allow his elevation as a cupbearer to the king to deter him from being a role model and inspiration to those in need.
Too often people obtain a position of status or influence and then adopt the attitude. I've got mine, and now you have yours to get.
That type of attitude helps nobody, especially the person with the attitude. John Donne once wrote, “no man is an island.”
The truth is that we are inextricably tied to each other, to our history and to our future.
Nehemiah understood that reality, when he heard that his people were in trouble, he prayed a prayer of concern,
a prayer that was consistent,
a prayer that would alter his conduct,
and a prayer that strengthens his commitment.
From that prayer, he then sought to “Help Someone.”
That the challenge to each of us, will we become so engaged in ministry that we will help someone.
The reason why this is a challenge it that many people say,
I will help someone as soon as my ship comes in,
or as soon as I get myself together.
You will never help anybody if your first thought is to help yourself.
To help someone you cannot be selfish,
You must be self- sacrificial.
Jesus said, “if anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
The struggle to become a Christian
is caught up in the struggle to become self-sacrificial.
We could spend a lifetime examining the fifty year ministry of Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson.
For those who don’t know he was the 5th Pastor of our church and is an iconic figure by any right that has not been given his just do within the history of our City, nor his rightful place in our freedom struggle.
For me, he is a modern day example of our own Nehemiah.
Through the genius of his mind and the commitment of his heart, he led Union Baptist Church into building the sanctuary we now treasure. For the amount that we paid to replace the roof on the Harvey Johnson Center - $50,000; he brought this land and built this structure.
That should tell you that money today is not worth as much as it did in the pass.
There was a time when could put $5.00 in your gas tank and drive for two weeks.
If you put $5.00 in your gas tank now, that it would only be enough to drive to the next gas station.
We cannot count contributions of today in the dollars of the past. Likewise, it is difficult to compare the commitment of today with that of the past.
Each era, each generation must find its own measure of self-sacrifice.
The common denomination is still the same – do you help someone.
Can I teach a little, I said that Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson is our own historical Nehemiah.
In 1856 the United States government passed an Act entitled.
The Guano Island Act
which simply states that the United States government could annex any land where guano was found that was not under the control of a foreign government.
Guano was a very valuable fertilizer which was produced by fish-eating birds.
The United States took control of an island off the coast of Haiti called Navassa Island.
For twenty three years, from 1866 to 1889, a Baltimore Company, The Navassa Phosphate Company harvested the guano from the island.
They would recruit laborers from Baltimore’s inner harbor, by asking them if they wanted a job.
If they said yes, they would pack them on a ship work them for 15 months and after that period of time, each man was lucky if they received more than a few dollars when they were returned to Baltimore.
A fight broke out on the island between the laborers and their supervisors on September 14, 1889, 119 years to this date.
Six white men were killed. Seven men were charged with murder. 11 men were charged as accessories, and 22 men were charged for rioting, and they were brought to Baltimore for trial.