Ezra: looking back, looking forward… and building what exactly? (@UnshaunSheep)


Building Walls

And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.

– Ezra 3:11-13

Some years ago, newly wed and new to an area, my wife and I started attending a church whose building had burned down thanks to the work of some Diocesan arsonist or other. We met to worship in a village hall while the site of the church was just rubble. We watched as a new building sprang up and, to us as newcomers, it was an exciting time. Things were happening among the congregation: people worked hard to make things work in the temporary accommodation; the new building provided a focus for a renewed welcome to the local community, opportunities to create new spaces for new ministries, or for expanding old ones or doing them better. We found a praying people, working hard to witness to God’s continuing faithfulness to that community, willing to be led, and willing to share in making a new vision a reality.

We had not known the devastation of the fire which destroyed the previous Victorian building. We hadn’t been there during the long road of questioning what to do next, how (or even whether) to rebuild, the searching for God’s will among those who worshipped there. And we hadn’t been there for the epic bout of fundraising either. We were simply inheritors of the journey of faith which that congregation had been on for some time.

And amid the celebrations when the new building was indeed opened, we caught a glimpse of the sorrow, the tears, the effort, disappointment and wistfulness of those who had loved the old one. These were not people whose mourning for their old building meant that they wanted it rebuilding, stone by stone, restoring it to what it was, though. They mourned what was lost, yes, but they looked forward to what God was going to do among them in the new building too. Weeping and praising mixed, but God’s faithfulness, calling them on to doing God’s work was the common theme.

Looking back, looking forward

Here’s an exercise you might like to take some time out to try. It’s probably best to find a quiet space without interruptions to get the most out of it. I invite you to think about your presence online.

Look back…

How has God spoken to you online?

From whom did that message come? Or where online did you see or hear it?
Take time to thank God for the communion of saints online, especially those whose presence online has helped you in your journey of faith.
Consider letting those people or organisations know that you have felt blessed by their presence online.

Now consider how you have spoken online…

How might you have helped someone in their journey of faith?
You are made in the image of God, reflecting Jesus to the world, including the online world. Take time to consider how people might have seen something of Jesus in you, in how you share yourself with them online. Offer this to God.

Now, look forward…

What is God building online using you? How is your presence online being used in the wider Mission of God? Who is alongside you, helping you build your bit? Who are you helping or encouraging as they build their bit? And have you offered it all to God?

About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep