This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on November 6th, 2016.
What happens when our reality does not live up to our expectations? For the returned exiles of Israel, this was the question. During the reign of King Darius, the people of Israel returned to their land and started to rebuild the temple. Pretty soon they noticed that their new temple did not live up to the picture of the temple they had from the past. One can sympathize with them. During the long exile no doubt the stories of the temple were told. The thought of returning home and seeing that former glory must have helped ease their pain during the nights they spent in a land that was not their own. Yet, they stood before a new temple that was under construction and it could not live up the first, no matter what they did.
The question of the exiles is one often asked by churches. Most churches can remember a sort of golden age. The time when the budget was better and more people were in the pews. Or maybe just a time when things seemed easier or when the world made more sense. It can be easy to look at the congregation, budget, connection with the community, or a whole series of measures and think “this is not what I expected it to be.” The question does not even have to stop at the church. It can extend wider to denominations or even take root at a personal level in one’s life. This question has relevance to us today in many ways.