The bible study group was about to end; it was wrapping-up with a final sharing from a participant. Then someone, known as a Bible expert, arrived just at that time, terribly too late, but as he took a seat, he immediately started talking about a word he overheard. He wanted to discuss his thoughts on “love” he said, because the last sharer mentioned that word.  The leader reminded him that the topic was not love, but “Jesus the Way to the Father”. Without batting an eyelash, this late-comer started preaching about that other topic.
He rattled on and on about people today losing the way of righteousness. He passionately told the others how they must fight the wickedness of the world. He told his listeners how God’s love is uncompromising and therefore, unless they change and follow his divine will, they will all experience the harsh judgment of God. The others, who couldn’t control him, were helplessly listening to his endless ranting.
Some people who read the Bible think that they are above others. They think that they are entitled to judge other people’s sins. They think and act as if they alone know God in a personal way.
The first reading (Nehemiah 8) today tells us that in fact it is the contrary! The Word of God must not produce people who are strict and stiff and judgmental. The Word of God has one impressive and lasting effect – joy!
Nehemiah read and preached on the book of the Law, the Scriptures the people knew. And people were so affected they were crushed in the heart and were weeping. But Nehemiah wasted no time in telling them not to cry. “Do not be sad… do not weep” he said. he even continued: eat and drink and share with those who do not have anything.  The purpose of God’s word is to encourage and strengthen people in joy.
Do we receive God’s Word in joy as we pray and worship? Is the preaching in our church filled with horror and doom or with joy in the Lord? Many people have already turned their backs on their church because they do not find anything there inspiring ang joyful. Let us bring joy back into our reading, praying and preaching of the Word of the Lord.