Ezra 3:11 “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love to Israel 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.”
These words describe the praises of Israel when they laid the foundation for their second temple, a nearly miraculous event considering their recent exile in Babylon, but a much humbler edifice than their first temple had been. Maybe it didn’t mark a return to the good old days. But maybe the good old days hadn’t been so good.
Here, at their fresh start, the important things were still the same. The Lord was still keeping his promises to them as a people. He had promised that he would bring them home after 70 years. Now, here they were. He was still using this people as a key part of his plan to save the world. He had promised that a Savior for all people would be born out this people, and that he would be born on this piece of geography. On this day, they were closer to the fulfillment of those promises than they had ever been before. The Lord was good, and his love endures forever.
We have no less reason to offer our praise. Whether we are small or big, the important things remain the same. God’s grace is still a real thing. He still loves people who don’t deserve it. He still died for people who don’t appreciate it. He still forgives people who won’t stop needing it. Do you know why? He is good. His love endures forever.
Our God is still present with us, and he still works through the power of his word and sacrament. When we gather to worship today, we aren’t just remembering past history, like high school buddies reminiscing about their glory days on the ball field or court. No, the power of Christ’s cross and the power of Jesus’ resurrection are present when the gospel is preached, or poured out in water, or consumed in bread and wine. Hearts will be changed. Even in a cramped little chapel, even in cramped little hearts, the Lord who fills the entire universe will come and make his home, because he is good, and his love endures forever.
This God still trusts us enough to say to us: “I have a little project I have been working on. It’s called ‘Saving the World.’ I am going to leave the project with you. I did all the heavy lifting at the cross. I have given you the tools. Now, go rescue my people from darkness.”
“You mean us, Lord–ordinary people like us, a little church like ours?” “Yes, I mean you. Go and make disciples…” It could be expected that we would trust him after all his kindnesses to us. But that he would trust us with work like that? How is that even possible? “He is good, and his love endures forever.”
In the last book of the Bible, the next to last chapter, heaven is described as a city of incredible size and beauty. So many people live there they can’t be counted. The walls are 1400 miles high. The 12 foundations are made of precious stones. The streets are gold. The gates are each made of a single giant pearl. Now that’s a church!
But that’s not why we will praise God there. We will praise him for the same reason we have praised him here, in our little gatherings, in our humble buildings: “He is good, and his love endures forever.”