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Celebrating Unity as People and as a Nation "Let us start building" (Nehemiah 2:18)


The Bible narrates and illustrated the story of God and God's people, and the constant struggle towards unity. The biblical story is not a story of uniformity, but unity amidst diverse peoples, cultures and socio-political realities. As History unfolds, we do not see a simple chronological transition from year to year, but a divinely planned transformation of communities of faith. Our beautifully created Church Calendar (thanks to all the creative people involved), is an attempt to help us focus on a theme taking into consideration the themes of the month in the Almanac and combining it with themes that are relevant for our country and its context.

The two seminal events in the Old Testament, Exodus and Exile, echo as two paradigms or pathways of the way God works in the lives of individuals and communities, and the good news that the same God is willing to intervene in our lives. The Exodus is a story that tells us of the liberation from bondage and the miraculous deliverance from power and hegemony. The Exile which is dated around 586 BC revolves around the destruction of the Temple (Solomon's Temple) in Jerusalem and the deportation to Babylon, signaled a new phase of loneliness, despair and captivity. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah must be read in this context and the words of Nehemiah, "Let us start building" (Nehemiah 2:18), a call by Nehemiah. We must remember that the Temple is rebuilt with the permission of King Cyrus of Persia, but now the call is to build walls to protect, preserve and persist the spiritual identity of the people. A generation has been born in Babylon who hardly knew anything about the Temple and the struggle that their elders went through. Therefore, before they could build any physical structures, the call was to build the lives of people.

Building up of people towards unity is challenging, but it is rewarding and an investment. Unity can be achieved by compulsion, exclusion and polarization, but is not genuine and will not last. But unity with multiple belonging, sharing and inclusion of everyone is effective and progressive and has the great potential to move towards set goals. When people are united they are happy, and if people are happy, great things can be achieved. Unity is about faith and action coming together. I like the way the Yale theologian Hans Frei puts it, "Generosity without orthodoxy is nothing. But orthodoxy without generosity is worse than nothing." Right living is as important as right believing and it is my prayer that we will continue towards both right living and right believing, which in my opinion, is the right approach to unity.

Thank you for making the Advent Season such a joyful and pleasant season for me and my family. We are deeply grateful for all your kind and thoughtful gestures shared in so many different ways. Our thanks to all! As you begin this year, I wish to share an anonymous quote, "People will forge what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel." Hope we will make people around us feel special, loved and wanted.

Wishing you all once again a blessed 2020!

Your Presbyter
Rev. Dr. Dexter S. Maben

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