At home, we’ve just secured planning for a small garden room extension on the back of the house. My husband is an architect and I’ve had the luxury of not having to get involved in the design work or the planning process, for which I’m VERY grateful. But now the preparation for foundation laying is underway I have no choice but to get involved! Suffice to say the house is a little fuller and messier downstairs and the garden looks like the beginnings of a building site (sigh). I keep reminding myself that once the building work is complete, we’ll love the extra space for gathering family and friends. So often we face the same scenario in our churches. We know that in the long run, the home we gather in and welcome people in to will be a better place for a bit of a rebuild. But the process of the building work can be unsettling and at times annoying!
For some of you, that building work in your home church is physical. You’re either planning for or guiding a building project through. Or perhaps you’ve come through the other side of one and know that it was all worth it in the end. For others of you, the building work is relational and connected with reshaping a team, or is ministry based, connected with vision and strategic planning. The disruptive work of laying good foundations for a rebuild can take many forms.
Considering our current home situation, the story of building work in Ezra Chapter 3 has stood out afresh. The moment when God’s people celebrate as they laid the foundation of the new temple can speak to us in our administration and operational roles today. Such a moment of being back in their home and in God’s presence in his temple, was longed for by Israel whilst they were in exile in Babylon. And that longed-for moment arrives as the remnant of God’s people start the work of rebuilding after He has enabled them to return home. Out of a previous place of despair, God has once again brought his people to a place of freedom and new hope for a new future.
What particularly strikes me is what happens around that moment. It was a moment of great emotion. We can read that some shouted for joy as the potential for a new temple begins to become reality. Others wept loudly because they mourned the former temple and wished they could return to the former glory days and the ways of the past. Change is never easy for everyone. Rebuilding is never easy for everyone. And we would do well to be aware of the emotions of those around us (and perhaps even ourselves) as we’re involved in whatever (re)building process is going on in our churches.
God knows this, and he prepares those moments of foundation-laying well for his people. In Ezra 3, long before the foundations are laid, the Lord’s people are moved to surrender and sacrifice to Him, despite their fear of the people around them. Then they are moved to give money and resources to the Lord’s work. Then the priests and leaders appoint supervisors and bring structure and leadership to the work. Everything is in place to work on the house of God together. Only then are the foundations able to be laid. And as those foundations are laid, the people praise God together, they express their emotions as family together, and they remind themselves of God’s love. As they sing “He is good”, it is noisy, it is a celebration and it is a declaration for all near and far to hear. I pray that you’ll know the truth of that same declaration, and you’ll know God’s goodness and enduring love, if you find yourself laying foundations at the moment.
Ezra 3:11 With praise and thanksgiving, they sang to the Lord: “He is good his love endures forever”. And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
Chair of UCAN Directors