November 20 2022

Learning for Life: 9:30

JOIN our Worship Service: 11:00 am

Listen to the sermon: Joel Russell-MacLean

Watch the recent Worship Service

“The End”

Bulletin:  November 20, 2022

Newsletter:  November 13-20, 2022

Scriptures: Nehemiah 13; Psalm 15; Luke 19:41-44


Joel Russell-MacLean

We come to the end of Ezra and Nehemiah and the end of the church year.

Just a short while ago, we celebrated as the children of First Baptist acted out the rebuilding of the city wall. The people celebrated the rebuilt and repopulated city, safe within her walls. Nehemiah had gone back to Susa to serve King Artaxerxes.

Years had passed. Now, at the end, he returned to Jerusalem. Ezra was gone. The temple was empty. One of the enemies, Tobiah, used the temple as a residence. The priests and Levites ha abandoned the city since people had stopped giving. The Sabbath was forgotten. Faith, scripture, and prayer were absent from homes.

Why does Nehemiah end this way? Perhaps because it captures the truth of all mortal success, temporary and fragile. Maybe because it challenges the listener to decide whether they will join in the unfinished work of rebuilding the city.

We will end our year this way to sharpen our longing for the advent of Jesus.


Brief Video Bible Study:
Watch this well-made summary and reflection of Ezra/Nehemiah from the Bible Project

Companion pieces of music for this Sunday’s service:

Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony

This music reminds me of Ezra & Nehemiah because there is a moment of joy and triumph. You think this is the ending! Everything is resolved! But then the story carries on. Things fall apart, and it ends on a conflicted, mortal, pitiful note.

If a whole symphony is too long, listen to the last bit of the 3rd movement (scroll ahead to around 36 minutes) through to the beginning of the 4th movement and then scroll to the ending, around 47 minutes in. The whole Symphony is one of the most accessible and beloved symphonies. It is powerful if you have time to listen to start to finish.

The Holy City

Christopher MacRae sang this with us on Palm Sunday. Ending the church year with this song seems fitting as we conclude a series on the city of Jerusalem. The lyrics and the chorus move from apparent victory to grief and then end with the hope of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven.


Johnny Cash transformed this song when he covered it at the end of his life. When his wife June suddenly passed away shortly after, the words and video they had just made together became even more poignant. In the original, industrial songwriter Trent Reznor seethed and screamed the words with just-controlled rage against depression and darkness. Instead, Cash’s rich and measured singing evokes pity and grief. He seems to have in mind the human mix, and perhaps his own mix, of failure, success, and loss.

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