God's Work of Rebuilding & Healing
Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4, 10-13
Given by Rev. April S. Blaine on Sunday, December 6, 2015
By Danna Faulds
Change proclaims its dominance. “Just try and stay the same,” it taunts. “See how long the status quo will last before its blasted into newness by the now.”
Change isn’t always flashy Like the Grand Canyon. Sometimes its subtle, like the Blinking of an eyelash Or the floating of a feather On the wind.
Say yes, and change Will take you somewhere unexpected. Say no, and you’ll end up in the same place, Resisting all the while.
I’d rather go willingly And see if the journey itself just might be Worth the ride.
The Danish people have a concept, that I have to say when I first heard about it, sounded particularly appealing this time of year as the temperatures begin to drop, as the days get shorter, and as the gray begins to settle over ohio.
It’s a concept called Hygge. (Hyoo-gah). It doesn’t have a direct translation in the English language, but those who understand it best have said that it best translates to “coziness.”
It can be a noun or a verb – but really, it's more a mental state of well-being, a conscious effort to create a cozy atmosphere. Lighting candles and drinking wine on a cold winter night — that's hygge. Hanging out with good friends and family at the park on clear summer day — that's hygge, too. Snuggling by the fire with a warm blanket and watching Season 3 of House of Cards – that’s hygge too.
As Americans are learning more about this delightful concept, they are even beginning to host Hygge Parties. Warm and cozy atmospheres for friends to unwind together, enjoying comfort foods from their childhood, and a cozy glass of wine by the fire. And as people describe these kinds of nights, they often use words like restorative and renewing and healing.
When I first heard of this from a fellow clergy colleague, I realized that I could use a little more hygge in my life. This time of year is filled with such busyness, such rush, such high expectations on our time that the idea of sitting cozied up next to the fire
I think I’ve become even more enamored with this idea after living out the last few years of my life where everything has been changing. And to be cozy, is to stop for a minute and be comfortable, to pause in the midst of the change and to savor what is. And to just enjoy and rest in the moment.
seems to me exactly what I’m really longing for.
As the poem says, change is.
It just is.
Just try and avoid it.
Our lives are changing each day. Sometimes for the better, sometimes creating new challenges. But always changing.
And the process of that can be very challenging and exhausting.
Daunting and hope-filled
Exhilirating and Terrifying.
All at the same time.
The Israelites in our story today find themselves at another key moment of change. As we’ve been talking about in the past few weeks, God’s love for them has never wavered, but their journey was a pretty winding one filled with challenges and missteps. After failing to be a people grounded in God’s commandments for justice, they were defeated by Babylon and taken into exile. And decades go by where many of them have now relocated away from their homeland and made a new life in Babylon. They are under the rule of the empire and life was not easy. They grieved and they wept – and they listened for the comforting word of God to them in a strange land. And last week, we heard that healing word from God. Saying Comfort, your sins have been paid in full – now Make Way – for the Lord your God is coming.
The promise that God would return and that a way would be brought forth from the desert that they were experiencing – came in a bit of an unexpected way.
King Cyrus of Persia – overthrew the Babylonians. And so – now they were under new management.
And the new management issues this decree – that those who wish to return can go back.
And not only can they go back, but they can rebuild the temple.
The promise has been answered – and the way has been made.
It’s a difficult journey to return and not only rebuild the temple but rebuild their lives again.
But the fact that the exiles have been released – with a blessing. And that King Cyrus – though not a worshipper of Yahweh himself – acknowledges that God has declared it to be so.
It is a testimony to a God who never left them.
And so they go – and they begin to rebuild. They start with the altar. There are no walls or foundation yet. But they build the altar right where the other one was before. And they offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
And then they move onto the ceremony to lay the foundation. They would have taken a part of the old foundation and laid it on the new.
And they do this with great ceremony.
The priests are in their robes. The trumpets are sounded
And the praise of the Lord begins with a great shout –
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And then it’s as if the camera zooms in on the scene and we begin to see a more full picture of what people were really experiencing in this moment. People from the generation who knew the temple in its prior setting – who had served as priests, as heads of families, now standing on the same broken ground worshipping alongside their children and the next generation who had never known this place.
And some were shouting with loud cries of joy. And some were weeping loudly.
The sounds were so loud and so great. That in the midst of the moment – you could not tell the weeping from the joy.
Change is a complicated thing. When we arrive at these moments of significance. A moment where something is shifting – forever shifting – where it won’t ever go back. It stirs up some very complicated emotions in us.
And we can look at these elders and think – well, whey couldn’t they get it together – why couldn’t they be happy?
Which is what we might ask a mother who is sending her last child to college. Or a beloved teacher on his last day of work before retirement after serving for 30 years. Or a child who is being adopted from foster care and must now move to a new home.
Being happy when change comes – even a good change – isn’t always our default. Because change is complicated. The joy of what is new is intertwined with what must be left behind. And it’s even more complicated when it is a change that we did not hope for.
But change is.
And for the Israelites – it was clear that this change was from God – that it was good. But that didn’t make it easy.
And so - In the midst of the massive change taking place. They didn’t just rush into the building of everything. They took a moment to pause as a community – to praise God for what was happening – and in a way - to take their own version of hygge –the creating of a space that would allow them to experience the embrace and presence of God and each other in the midst of the change.
There were probably tears of joy and sorrow, where there were embraces and hugs. It wasn’t the kind of relaxing moment of sipping a glass of wine by the fire.
But it was healing. And restorative.
For in this moment of worship, it seems that God wraps them up – allows them to express what they are really feeling – all the complicated emotions and embraces them with love and comfort.
Danish people will tell you that an important part of the concept of hygge - is that you feel supported and loved.
And so I wonder where – in the midst of your ever swirling and changing life – God is inviting you to pause. To breathe. And to be wrapped up in the warm and cozy embrace of God’s love – in all of your complicated emotions - to know that you are not alone in what you walk through and to experience the healing that comes in the midst of that.
And that such a pause – to allow yourself to be embraced might be just the healing that you need to step into this change with a spirit that is willing and open. To see where this path will take you.