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.”


How we 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.


All of 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.


Ah, but 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!


This 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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