Scripture: Ezra 3:1-13
Key verses: (11b-12) And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levite and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy.
Reflection: All over the city of Charlotte we see signs of construction. Construction provokes disparate responses – from dismay at historic buildings torn down and the headaches of a growing population (longer rush hour commutes, crowded schools, etc.) to joy about economic gains and cultural opportunities.
Those reactions to construction are heightened when the building is sacred to us. Church building projects can inspire innovation in ministry and can facilitate outreach. And church building projects can bring grief and loss when a familiar structure is no longer the same.
In Ezra, God’s people had returned to Jerusalem from a time in exile. The prophets had interpreted the exile as a consequence of disobedience. God’s people had not been faithful, they had not cared for the least among them, and they had not trusted God’s care. They were exiled to Babylon. When the Persian emperor Cyrus gained the Babylonian Empire in 539, he gave permission for the exiles to return to Israel and rebuild their temple. Ezra was a Jewish priest who led the spiritual repentance and renewal that accompanied the rebuilding.
Did you hear in today’s reading that rebuilding the temple provoked different responses? Some shouted with joy and praise because they saw the construction as a sign of progress. They saw the temple as a symbol of God’s presence and they looked ahead to times of worship that would encourage their faith. Others remembered the old temple and were sad because the new foundation reminded them of what had been lost.
In your own life, and in the life of our congregation, how do we respond to what God is doing? Do we grieve the way things used to be? Or do we rejoice at the new work God is doing in our midst? If we are honest, likely we feel a bit of both. Let us be faithful to follow where God leads us into a new day.
Prayer: Eternal God, high and holy, no building can contain your glory or display the wonders of your love. May all of our gathering spaces be signs of your Spirit at work in the world. Make us witnesses of your grace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].