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Yes, COVID-19 has most of us homebound on Sunday morning.…
ALTUS Okla. – For me, this wasn’t so much a “virtual” visit as it was an actual visit.
I was part of an in-person worship service for the first time since March 8 when I preached for the Tamarack Road Church of Christ. (I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’ve worn long pants since early May.)
This was the second time the western Oklahoma congregation had met since the COVID-19 lockdown. There was tape blocking off every other pew, communion with no tray passing and plenty of social distancing.
Tamarack is my in-laws’ home congregation. My wife and I were married (17 years ago on the day I preached, by the way) in the church’s former building, which burned down in 2005. I write more about that here — based on a sermon I did for Tamarack back in late February.
I took my latest sermon from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which originally were one book. I took several of the sermon illustrations from The Bible Project’s summary:
The combined book includes the stories of three Israelite leaders who brought exiles back to Judah after the Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel oversees the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra teaches the law and Nehemiah rebuilds the walls. (I guess they didn’t want to name the book “Zerubbabel-Ezra-Nehemiah.”)
I was going through these stories as part of my “Bible in a year program” and I found the passage in Ezra about laying the temple’s foundations to be relevant to our situation today.
In Ezra 3, after the builders lay the foundation of the temple, there’s a big celebration. “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away” (verses 12-13).
For the folks who remembered the grandeur of the temple before the exile, the rebuilt temple just wasn’t as good.
Now a lot of us are coming back after quarantine to find tape on the pews and communion wafers in disposable containers that taste like Styrofoam. It’s just not the same.
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It’s really important in these times that we focus on the true nature of church — and the glory that is yet to be revealed. These verses from the prophet Haggai, which mention Zerubbabel and the temple foundation, shed more light on the big picture:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:6-9).
Where should I visit next, virtually or otherwise? Leave suggestions in the comments.
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