November 13, 2023

Nehemiah 2:1-8

1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was served him, I carried the wine and gave it to the king. Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. 2 So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.”Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors” graves, so that I may rebuild it.” 6 The king said to me (the queen also was sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a date. 7 Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may grant me passage until I arrive in Judah; 8and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me.

Merciful God, who always knows our heart. You know the things we hold precious and you feel when we love deeply. You behold our dreams and you bless us with hope.

Compassionate God, you grieve with us when we lose what we love. You bless us with good people, like this king, who bear witness to our grief, who notice the pain in our eyes, and who recognize our loss. Thank you for helping us feel seen and reminding us that we don’t bear our grief alone. You give space for us to feel sad when we just need to feel, and the quiet space we find in you gives us refuge. We pray to you, God, just as Nehemiah prayed, that you honor what we have loved by grieving alongside us.

Mothering God, help us work through the feelings we experience, and hold our loss for words until we find them. You walk us through our processing and bless us with growing resilience. When we feel met in your love, slowly we find spiritual healing, and regain our hands and heartspace to heal what has been lost.

Bless our eyes to see your presence, to notice others’ sufferings, and to recognize each other as your beloved children, because that really is who we really are. Bless our hands to reconstruct our broken hearts and communities with peace. Help us feel the warmth of your gracious hand upon our weary shoulders, and lift our eyes to find hope. Amen.

Written by Libby Janes, BA from Austin College, MSW from Texas Tech
Middler at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Click here for the rest of today’s lectionary readings.