Our young preacher uses images projected on a screen to illustrate his sermons. Yesterday he made a point about the readings from Ezra that I discussed in a post last week.
Solomon’s temple–the first temple–had been grander than the one Ezra rebuilt. He used an image like this one to illustrate.
But the temple that Ezra rebuilt after the exile must not have been so grand. This image of the rebuilding process hints that poverty and difficulties made the post-exilic effort not so grand. Also the rebuilt temple probably lacked the Ark of the Covenant and other special articles that the first temple held.
So the people had a mixed reaction:
All the people gave a loud shout as they praised the Lord when the temple of the Lord was established. Many of the priests, the Levites, and the leaders – older people who had seen with their own eyes the former temple while it was still established – were weeping loudly, and many others raised their voice in a joyous shout (Ezra 3:12-13 NET Bible).
It had been a half a century, but there were still some who remembered. For the young there was an excitement about their accomplishment and the reality that they had a temple at last. But for older folks the accomplishment was sad in that they saw a diminishment that they lamented.
You could go several ways in applying this insight. One that was used yesterday was that for children Christmas is always new and joyous, but for some older folks who remember Christmases past there may be a sadness born of comparison.
I have been thinking of it in cultural context. I and other older folks (as well as some not so old) may find much about current culture profoundly sad, and so become vulnerable to those who raise the call to “make America great again”.
Think about family, for instance.
We have a mixture. Some rejoice in the freedom that comes with the destruction of old norms and the rise of an era where the old gender roles disappear. Others weep when they remember an era of fixed roles, two-parent families, and greater social cohesion.
There is both gain and loss. So there is both joy and sorrow.
The Hebrews at least had a sanctuary again, as badly has it may have compared to the old one. And no matter how they felt, the old priests, Levites and leaders seem to have made a contribution in the new situation.
Today, in spite of the decline of church and family. We still have the benefits of church and family. So in spite of justified nostalgic sadness, folks who are tempted to despair need to keep making a contribution.