Ezra 3:12 “But many of the older priests and Levites
and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the
foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.”
love our buildings! And that’s very
normal. For most of us, it’s not so much
the building as the history we have had with that building. We remember the fond times, the way the
lights of a home welcome us at the end of a day or how festive a church looked at
a loved one’s wedding. When we have a
long history with a place, we can connect more easily with our past. We remember leaning against that wall over
there during a particular conversation, we remember sitting in this corner over
here when the pastor stood right there and baptized the baby. It all comes back to us in the space.
that makes changing our space hard, and we see that difficulty in this passage
from Ezra. The book of Ezra tells us
about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. King Solomon had built the grandest one ever,
but the Babylonians had razed it in the sixth century and had carried all the
people off into exile. Ezra finds favor
with the new Persian king, and is allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the House of the
Lord. And so the people are
excited. They can offer their sacrifices
again; they can return home.
things are different. Just in the laying
of the foundation, people could see that the new temple was not going to come
close to rivaling the splendor of the temple Solomon
had built. The older priests and Levites…the
ones who remembered Solomon’s temple, the ones who had spent their entire lives
serving in that temple, wept aloud…crying because the space they loved was
truly gone. The younger folks and those
without so much investment in it, shouted for joy…they
would have a temple again!
verse puts Israel
at a crossroads. Will the older priests
and Levites refuse to serve because the new temple is not like the old? Will they be united in offering their
sacrifices to God or not? It is the test
of idolatry. While it is both understandable
and appropriate to mourn the loss of what was, if we cannot move to accept what
is, we have made an idol of the past.
When God is with us and has given us a gift, it may not take the shape
of the gift we thought we wanted. But
ultimately it is about the Giver and not the gift. Eventually our mourning must turn to dancing
that God has allowed us to return from exile and come home—even if that home is
a different one--or we will never know the blessings of God.
Wherever you are,
Lord, we will make our home. Amen.
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