“Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.” -Ezra 1:5-6
The people were in exile in Babylon. Life, as they had known it was drastically changed. They lost their homes and their livelihoods. Their “normal” was shaken to the very core. Back home, in Jerusalem, their beautiful temple, which Solomon had built, was a pile of rubble. The walls of the city were demolished. It had been a war zone. But God put on the heart of the pagan emperor, Cyrus, to send some Israelites back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. They were to restore the walls of the city and resume worship. It was not going to be an easy task. The temple would be functional, but it would not look the same. There were fits and starts and complete breakdowns where no progress happened for a year or more. It was discouraging and difficult, but the people were determined. They didn’t give up. They knew how important it was to worship and how precious their home was, so they pressed on.
This summer, as we begin our sermon series on the books of Ezra and II Corinthians, we will see parallels with rebuilding the city of Jerusalem to our own situation of restoring “normal” life, work, and worship. There will be moments of great celebration. There will be discouraging events. There will be complete stops. There will be joyous occasions… and it will all be in God’s timing. I know that God can redeem this time and this situation to God’s glory. I know that God has redeemed this church and her people. I know that God will restore our life of worship together, but we have not stopped. We are still the church. We are still God’s people. We are still moving and working, worshipping, and growing in our faith. The church will look different and be different. We will feel differently when we are together in person again… but there will still be celebration! It is my prayer that the church we rebuild is more open and embracing of our differences: racially, ethnically, culturally, politically. May the restored church see our similarities as sisters and brothers in Christ and not the dividing walls of our culture.
Holy Spirit, come and dwell among us. Give us courage to rebuild and restore your church. Help us when the task feels too great, too overwhelming, help us to be consistent and endure. Help us to share your love with all people and do the hard work of reconciliation. Amen.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 14, are Ezra 1 and II Corinthians 1:1-11.
If you would like to participate in conversations about racial reconciliation and how our country can heal the wound of racism, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Reconciliation Conversations will begin on ZOOM this Thursday, June 11, at 10am. As soon as we acquire copies of the book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” by James H. Cone, we will use that as a guide. (Please order a copy if you are interested in joining us). I would love for you to share in this important conversation to acknowledge the pain that our nation has inflicted and find ways to move forward in reconciliation and healing for a new future.
Please connect with these links to pray with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters for healing these deep wounds of racism: