June 20, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Ezra 1:1-5, 3:10-13
When I say I’m doing a sermon series on my vision about where St John’s is heading, it is as much or more about what I notice about the directions we are already moving as it is about where I think we SHOULD go and aren’t.
Last week that was about prayer. I love that we are exploring prayer in fresh ways. In part, because we have never needed it more. There are more people on our prayer list than I’ve ever seen.
This week, I’ve been thinking about the opportunities and challenges around multi-generational worship. What a lessing that we even get to think about this! Do you remember the look of the congregation just before the pandemic it? Just about every age group was represented except for middle and upper teens! And they are still a part of our family!
I see all of this as an amazing opportunity – but, who knew? – this opportunity comes with its share of challenges! We knew at some level that there would be challenges when we brought children into our families, but never did we know just how deeply it would affect the comfort of our routine when they hit teen years! But if we are to truly aspire to be a multi-generational church, we have to get ready to affirm the worth and meet the needs of every age group! No story in the Bible speaks so directly to that issue than the lifework of Ezra. During the time of King Solomon, the Hebrew people were strong and wealthy. In their prime, they had a grand Temple built to honor God. It became the focal point of their whole nation – it was their identity – their pride and joy.
Then came tough times, disobedient times, disintegration of society and straying from what they knew to be right and holy. Enemies conquered them, enslaved them. The final humiliation was being taken into exile and predictably, their pride and joy – the Temple – was reduced to rubble. It was a spirit-crushing time, hope-depleting time nearly to despair.
When they reached bottom, help came from their conquerors – King Cyrus, the Persian. He took pity on them and told their leaders (including Ezra) to pull together their best carpenters and dreamers and hard workers and return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. It was a joyous day, to say the least.
Ezra & his team did a fine job with the resources they had. They rebuilt the temple, but not like the original because they didn’t have the resources. When it came time to celebrate this new step in life of their community, this Bible says that when everyone saw the foundation coming together, the young people shouted with joy while the elders wept loudly.
So, what to do with a community – half of whom are shouting praise and the half are crying out of grief? And most of them say: “Well, of course, you need to do THIS and as for the other side, they will just have to be adults, grownups, (and quit whining) and suck it up!”
It’s at times like this especially in the middle of a project where the stress levels rise and emotions flare that we have to be aware that we ALL have both natural preference and differing needs and hopes. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are not engaged in this project first and foremost to satisfy EVERY individual need. We are here to build something bigger than your dream or mine. We are here to build OUR dream and GOD’S dream.
With that in mind, we must each invest ourselves where we are able, affirm each other in their work, and know that when it is all done, sometimes we will be shouting praise and other times we will weep. Sometimes we will do both in the same breath.
The sneaky, pesky temptation that creeps up on all of us from all sides is this: If the project turns out to be just what we had hoped, it is so easy to gloat. To say: “See! I told you so! You didn’t want to listen! We did it MY way! (somebody should make a song of that!) If you hadn’t been so stupid, we could have done it so much quicker or cheaper.” Don’t you see what is happening here? The project is done, but then we pick apart the Community for which the project was started in the first place. And, we violate the spirit and command of our teacher, even Jesus who commanded us to love one another!
If the project turns out to be nothing like we had hoped, it is so easy to blame. To say: “If you weren’t so stupid and shortsighted… If you weren’t pigheaded and selfish…just look at the mess we have now that YOU were involved!” How easy it is! How prone we all are in our own way to do these things especially when it is what our models act out in front of us! WE MUST BE THE MODELS! WE MUST OFFER ANOTHER WAY TO THE WORLD. A WAY OF LOVE AND COMMUNITY.
Do you remember when Maddie and Jacob came into our church family and what a blessing they were! They were such a dream come true for us. Them and their parents and grandparents!
In the months since we have come to a keen awareness that these little ones and their elders bring with them some challenges and some needs. They need spaces of a certain kind, they need music that speaks to them of God, they need to be understood and heard. They need to be included and honored. They are a bit of the Temple that many of you started years and years ago.
All the while their needs assert themselves, the needs of those of you who almost laid the foundations of this Temple call out for attention as well. Those new people need to hear and understand us! What’s a church to do?
● REMEMBER WHAT WE ARE BUILDING
● REMEMBER WHOSE DREAM IT IS – not ours but God’s
● REMEMBER TO NOT TEAR DOWN THE TEMPLE EVEN AS WE ARE DOING OUR BEST TO BUILD IT.
And after we’ve done our best, we need to understand that there will be a little rejoicing, a little weeping, and ONE MORE TEMPLE FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.