“Keep away; let us work on this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. “
Ezra 4:1 – 6:22
One of the hidden benefits of following a lectionary or breviary like the Third Way Cafe’s Sip of Scripture –aside from the discipline of daily study and the spiritual help it provides — is that a lectionary sometimes takes you to places you would not normally go if left to your own choices. Like today’s scripture section, in the book of Ezra, which I confess I have never read.
If you’re like me, you probably go back time and again to a “favorite” gospel, a couple of favorite major prophets, one minor one, one or two sections of the original Torah, a dozen Psalms, and a couple of Paul’s letters. What can I say? We like what we like, and we know what we know, and we can never know it all. I hope that’s okay with God, because I might never read the book of Numbers cover-to-cover. I hope that won’t get me a rap across the knuckles with God’s ruler for not having done my homework.
Nevertheless, when we are lead by a church lectionary or a teacher toward biblical themes and stories that challenge us, or that we simply have not experienced yet, there’s something potentially powerful about that. It’s the type of submission and development of new habits that can keep one’s faith fresh. It’s a way of being open to the Spirit, Who speaks through the entirety of scripture to the entirety of human history, myself included.
I do not worship in Jerusalem anymore, nor have I any practical need to stay connected to God through that holy site, thanks to the work of Jesus and His Spirit. So the rebuilding of the temple to which Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah refer seems more of secondary historical importance to me than of primary theological importance. Yet I still worship the same Lord as Ezra, and because that great temple mattered to Him, it also matters to me. Not to mention, the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon is one of the central metaphors throughout the Christian and Jewish traditions. Even Jesus makes use of it, when he says “this temple” will be torn down, then rebuilt in three days (referring, of course, to his body, not the brick and mortar temple in which he stood at the time).
In this, the springtime of the year for the northern hemisphere, a time of renewal, let the struggle to rebuild the temple according to God’s instructions be a reminder that the temple of our own faith needs regular renewal and rebuilding as well. And the scriptural bricks for that rebuilding project can sometimes come from an unlikely location, a biblical neighborhood we’ve sometimes heard about, but never visited.