Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12
Along life’s journey I’ve grown increasingly fascinated with words. Words, in and of themselves, are creative expression. At the root level they are metaphors. A series of squiggles on a page that correspond to a series of vowels and consonants which mean something to any who can read or understand the language. Words come in and out of fashion. Words you never heard before suddenly become “buzzwords.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard the words “inflection point” used a lot in business. It’s become a bit of a buzzword in some circles. It’s a great little term from the world of calculus. It describes the point at which a curve moves from being concave (downward) to convex (upward), or vice versa. Businesses have adopted the term to describe the point at which a trend (in sales, for example) stops rising and starts declining, or vice versa. The inflection point is the point of change. It’s a change of direction.
I think the term “inflection point” has strong spiritual connotations, as well. God’s Message repeatedly calls people to make a sudden change of direction. Turn from darkness towards the Light. Turn from evil ways and embrace that which is good. Turn away from hatred and pursue Love. Turn from sin and pursue God. Spiritual journeys are all about inflection points.
In today’s chapter, the walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt. The gates are back in place. As a way of celebrating, Ezra brings out the scrolls with the law of Moses. It’s likely that the words of the law of Moses had not been widely read or heard publicly since Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple had been destroyed some 150 years earlier. Many who lived in Jerusalem may never have heard it. Perhaps no one in their families had heard it since the days of their great-great grandparents.
The reading of God’s story and the law of Moses becomes a spiritual inflection point. The people realize how far they have spiritually wandered away from God’s path. They weep. They grieve. Their hearts turn towards God.
I love the response of the Levites to the people. “Don’t grieve. Feast. This is a moment of joy!” I can’t help but think of the prodigal son returning to his father in humility and shame, and the father’s contrasting expression of joy. That’s the way spiritual inflection points work. They are a moment when grief and turn to joy.
This morning I’m thinking about all of the different metaphorical ways the term “inflection point” applies to life. I’m thinking about the inflection points I’ve experienced, both positively and negatively. Fiscal inflection points, relational inflection points, vocational inflection points, and spiritual inflection points. I’m meditating on the inflection points that still need to occur in my spiritual journey. Followers of Jesus often talk about their conversion as the inflection point of their life. While I certainly look back on that moment as monumental, I’ve found that following Jesus is a never ending series of inflection points. I don’t mature or progress unless I experience them.
Inflection point. Good words.