Pastor Gaylord’s Sermon – July 19, 2015

Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, July 19, 2015
Title: “Work, for IAM with you!”
Text: Ezra 3:10-13; 6:14 & 16; Haggai 2:1-4; 9
By: Gaylord L Goertzen

People often ask me if I’m enjoying retirement. My usual answer is yes, but I miss preaching and pastoral care. So I’m always excited when I am asked to preach somewhere. So I am excited to be preaching again and excited to be preaching at Ebenfeld. As many of you know from my preaching in the past, I always bring some kind of sermon illustration. So I brought something this morning. What did I bring? Well what is my favorite and your favorite sermon illustration? What do I love to bring? It’s this—candy—chocolate candy and fruit flavored candy, and I have three baskets of candy so there’s enough for everyone. But that’s not all I brought. I also brought three boxes of Kleenex. So, I’ll give you a choice this morning. You can come and get a piece of candy or a Kleenex. Candy or Kleenex, which do you want, come get one or the other. Mark, Ryan, take a box of Kleenex and a basket of candy and help me give out candy and Kleenexes.
Now comes the question I always ask. The question is why? Why did I bring candy and Kleenexes? Well, this s a time of new beginnings. We’ve had two interim pastors since I retired and the Lord has answered our prayers and sent Jerrod and Kerry to be our new pastoral couple. Not only that, for the past 12 years we’ve had two worship services, one in the sanctuary and one in the branch. Now we’re having one new and different worship service here in the sanctuary. We have a screen and a projector in the sanctuary and a keyboard and drums on the stage along with sound equipment. The order of service has changed; we have offering and prayer time after the sermon. A lot of things have changed here at Ebenfeld in the past two years. So how should we respond to all the changes? How do we respond to these new beginnings at Ebenfeld? Take your bibles and turn in the Old Testament to Ezra chapter 3 where we read about responding to the changes new beginnings bring. Since we have a video projector the scripture is also on the screen. Look at verses 10-12.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise they sang to the Lord: “He is good, his love to Israel endures forever.”
All of the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 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 the temple being laid while many others shouted for joy.

What’s happening here? Here we see a new beginning. God’s people had been in captivity in Babylon but just as God promised, at the end of 70 years God’s people were allowed to return home to Jerusalem with Ezra as their leader. What’s the first thing they did when they returned? They began building a new temple to the Lord their God. When the foundation for the new temple was laid, the religious leaders, the priests and the Levites, and all of the people gathered for a time of worship and celebration. The priests blew their trumpets, the Levites, the worship leaders, sounded their cymbals. With praise and thanksgiving for all the Lord was doing they sang “The Lord is Good, his love, his faithfulness, to his people Israel endures forever.” It was a day of celebrating a new beginning, the foundation of the temple was laid. All the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord. It was a great day of celebration. Do you see the candy? Do you see the sweetness of it all? Great things are happening, God is at work in a great way, a great revival is taking place among God’s people. For years God’s people have been praying, “revive us again, O Lord. Restore us; bring us back to the Lord.” God in his love and faithfulness answered their prayers. He brought his people back to Jerusalem; God restored them and revived them. There’s a great revival happen in the hearts and lives of a whole new generation of God’s people. This new generation has been living not in the Jewish world but in the pagan world of Babylon. But God is at work, he’s brought revival to the young people of this new generation and they want to build a new temple to the Lord their God. The young people could have said, “Times have changed; we don’t need a temple to worship the Lord.” But they didn’t, they wanted to build a new temple where they and their children could worship the Lord their God. Laying the foundation of the temple was a time of a new beginning, an exciting new beginning. That’s sweet, as sweet as candy. So they shouted and praised the Lord.
That’s what’s happening here at Ebenfeld. Jesus Christ has raised up a whole new generation of young men and women and families here at Ebenfeld. Look at all the young families we have at Ebenfeld. It’s not that way in many older churches like ours; most have very few young people and only a handful of children. God has blessed us with a church full of young families and children. There’s a revival going on among our young families. They want to serve the Lord, they haven’t left the church. They committed to Jesus Christ and his church. God has called out a whole new generation of young people to serve and lead our church and has given us a young pastor and family from a new generation to serve him here at Ebenfeld. God is doing great things among us. That’s sweet as sweet as candy. And that’s why I brought the candy. The candy reminds us of all the great things God is doing here at Ebenfeld.
Why did I bring the Kleenex? Look at verse 12.
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 the younger people were shouting and praising the Lord for all that he was doing many of the older people were weeping. For them seeing this new temple that was being built was not sweet as eating candy, for them it was as bitter as eating onions, it brought tears to their eyes. They pulled out the Kleenex and began to weep. Why? Well who are these older people? If you have KJV it says “ancient men”. Who are the older people, the older family heads, the so called “ancient men”? Well we know for sure they were old enough to remember the first temple in Jerusalem and to have worshiped there before it was destroyed and they were carried off to Babylon. So how old are they? 75? 80? 85? Well the temple was not destroyed in 605 BC when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and carried the first group of the people like Daniel and others into captivity. The temple was left standing and a good number of people still lived in Jerusalem along with some priests and Levites. The Babylonians allowed God’s people to worship in the temple and even allowed them to have a king. The prophet Jeremiah lived and prophesied in Jerusalem during this time. But in 585 BC, 20 years after the first group was carried into exile, King Zedekiah and the people rebelled, so the Babylonians came, destroyed the temple and carried the rest of the people into captivity in Babylon. Now it’s 835 BC, 50 years after the temple was destroyed, God’s people are back in Jerusalem and the foundation of the temple is being laid. So who are the older people the “ancient men who are weeping? I’m one of them. The older people were those who are 55 and older. They remembered the glory and greatness of the first temple and when they saw THIS—notice the word “this” new temple they wept, they wept loudly. Why? It’s because they remembered the good old days. To them this new temple was nothing at all like the temple of the past. They wanted a Kleenex not a piece of candy.
Are you weeping because you remember the good days of the past? Do you need a Kleenex this morning? I do. I remember when people didn’t stay home on Sunday nights but came to church for Sunday evening services here at Ebenfeld. I loved teaching a bible study and then going somewhere for fellowship after church. I remember the good days when we had a full choir up here that sang on Sunday mornings. They even wore choir robes. Do you remember those good days? Maybe you miss the good days when Ebenfeld not only had a choir but a male chorus and numerous singing groups. You remember when we sang all the great hymns of the faith. You remember when, men wore suits and ties, women wore dresses, gloves and hats, those were the good old days when everyone wore their Sunday best to church. Some of you remember the good days when we had week-long revival services and saw people saved. Some of you remember the baptism where 50 people were baptized. Wow. God was doing great things. Ebenfeld has a great history; God has been at work among us in a great way. We have a glorious past. That’s what our 125th anniversary book, “A miracle of grace at Ebenfeld” that Peggy wrote is all about. Many of you remember the good days of the past and you weep, why? It’s because things just are not the same. This new beginning at Ebenfeld, this new worship service, is not like the past. Yes you like me rejoice because a new generation is rising up and a revival is happening at Ebenfeld, but we still weep because things just are not the same at Ebenfeld. It’s like we have a new church. We miss the good days of the past. Right?
Is there anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with weeping and remembering the good days of the past? Well, what did Lord God say to those who wept when they remembered the good days of the old temple? Turn in your bibles to the book of the Prophet Haggai. It’s hard to find so it’s on the screen. Look at what the Lord said through Haggai who was one of God’s prophets when God’s people returned to Jerusalem. Haggai 2 verses 1-4:
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai. “Speak to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah and to Joshua son of Jehozadak the high priest and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem like nothing? But now be strong of Zerubbabel; declares the Lord, be strong O Joshua son of Jehozadak the High Priest, be strong all you people of the land and work for I am with you declares the Lord Almighty.

What does the Lord say to the older people who remembered the greatness of the first temple and are now weeping because this new temple is different? Does he scold them and say, “Stop crying?” No he doesn’t. Does he criticize them for remembering the good days of the past? Absolutely not! There is not one word of rebuke, criticism or scolding. Why not? It’s because there is nothing wrong with remembering those good days and missing them. We should remember the past. We should celebrate the past. We should respect the past. Why? It’s because God was at work in the past and we need to remember how he worked. The past is important; there is nothing wrong with remembering, celebrating and missing what happened in the past. There’s nothing wrong with longing for the past. Nothing at all. It’s all right to take a Kleenex and weep about the past. It’s all right to say, “this is nothing compared to the past”. If—if what?
Well what does the Lord say to all of the people? To both those who weep and those who shout, the Lord says, be strong and do what? Work! That’s right WORK. Work to do what? Work to build this new temple for a new generation even though it’s nothing compared to the past temple. God doesn’t say, “Work to rebuild the old temple and make it just like it was in the past.” The Lord Almighty says, ‘Work to build this new and different temple for a new and different generation even if it isn’t like the temple in the past.” Why work to build a new and different temple? Here’s the most important part of all. “For I am with you.” There it is—I AM WITH YOU. What made the first temple so glorious? It wasn’t the beautiful stones, or the ivory or the cedar or the gold. One thing and one thing alone made the temple glorious. It was God’s presence, God’s Shekinah glory that made the temple great and glorious. So what is God saying? He’s saying, “I know this temple isn’t as great and as glorious as the one in the past. It’s all right to weep. I know things have changed, I know change is hard. But I the Lord Almighty have not changed. My glory, my greatness is the same. I haven’t changed. I AM STILL WITH YOU.”
Why were the good old days here at Ebenfeld so great? It’s because of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever. It wasn’t revival meetings, or a huge baptism or a choir, or hymns or Sunday night services, or Sunday best clothes that made Ebenfeld great. It was the presence of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord working through those things. Yes, everything has changed; things are not like they were in the past. Yes it’s all right to weep and miss the good days of the past if—if—we young and old, shouters and weepers obey Jesus Christ our savior and Lord and do what? Work! That’s right work to build a new church for a new generation. Why? Because that what our parents and grandparents did for us. Do you think it was easy to go from speaking German in church to speaking English? The older generation wept. But they went to work and built a new church, a new English speaking church, for a new English speaking generation. And Ebenfeld is alive and well because they were wise and obeyed God. They knew Jesus was still with them so they worked. They gave, they sacrificed, they served, so that we can be a church today. Praise the Lord for that great wise older generation. Now we are the older generation. We weep because things aren’t the same. We miss hymns and the organ, the choir and Sunday best clothes. It’s all right to weep, but Jesus Christ calls us to be wise and work together young and old to build a new church for a new generation just like God’s people built a new temple for a new generation.
What happened? Did God’s people go to work? Did they obey the Lord? Did they build a new temple for a new generation? Listen to Ezra chapter 6 verse 14:
So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel.

What did God’s people both old and young do? They worked to build a new temple for a new generation just as God commanded them. Verse 16 says that when it was built they all celebrated with joy. The weeping was gone it was replaced with joy because the Lord their God, the Lord Almighty was with them and at work among them. They celebrated with joy.
So what is Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord saying to us through his word? He’s saying, “It’s alright remember the good days of the past and weep if you are willing to work to build a new church for a new generation.” Jesus is saying, “Yes things have changed, but I haven’t changed. I was with you in the past making the past glorious, I am with you now and I will be with you in the future as you continue to build my church. So work. Work!”
Young people, I praise and thank the Lord that you love Jesus Christ and his church as much as all of us older people do. Jesus calls you to work to build his church at Ebenfeld. But that’s not the only work he calls you to do. Your work is to celebrate, remember and respect what God has done in the past. Your work is to thank the older people for their commitment to Jesus Christ and his church for without the older people of Ebenfeld, there would be no Ebenfeld today. You are building on what we have done just like we built on what our parents and grandparent did. Young people, remember that one day you will be the older people and your children and grandchildren will be the new generation. So love, respect, and care about us as you would like to be loved, respected and cared about in the future.
Older people. Jesus calls us to remember, celebrate and thank him for all he’s done in the past. He also calls us to stand beside the young people and give, serve, work and pray as we together build a new church for a new generation. Wisdom comes with age, so we are the wise and the wise are those who hear God’s word and obey God’s word. Jesus calls us to work to build his church. So Jarred, our pastor, my pastor, and Bruce our church leader, I going to stand beside you to give, work, serve and pray, as we build Ebenfeld. Will all of you, both the young and the old join me?
One more thing. After Lord spoke through Haggai and told the people to work because he was with them, he made one final promise. Listen to Haggai 2 verse 9
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.

Wow! What a promise. The new temple was not nearly as grand and glorious as the first temple. It was smaller and the Ark of the Covenant which was lost when the first temple was destroyed, was no longer in the Holy of Holies. Yet the Lord God said the new temple’s glory would be greater. Why? Not because of the temple, it was just a building but because of HIM. The Lord Almighty is a great and glorious God and his presence is what would make the new temple more glorious that the past temple.
Do you see the promise the Jesus Christ our Lord makes to us his church here at Ebenfeld? He promises to do great and mighty things here at Ebenfeld. He promises to give Ebenfeld glorious future just like we had a glorious past. Why? Because HE—HE is a great and glorious God and because he is here with us. So let’s work!