A Common Foundation
When we took our youngest son to visit Southwestern University during his Sr. year in High School, I was not sure what to expect. You see, we graduated from Southwestern in 1983 and I had been on campus only once since that time, and that was 25 years earlier. As I walked the campus with Sam and his tour-mates, I noticed several things, some of which I had heard about but not ever seen. The campus had changed from a driving campus to a walking campus and the streets we had driven were now closed to all but foot and bicycle traffic. The Fraternity house I spent so much time in had been demolished and replaced. The commons where I ate many awful meals was gone and the cafeteria had been moved to another building that, when I was a student, had served a completely different purpose. As the tour guide regaled us with stories and traditions, I realized that many of the traditions that made my college years so rich with meaning had faded away and new “traditions” had taken their place. In general, the campus looked the same, but really was not.
But its purpose remains steadfast. Southwestern is a fine school with high academic standards and a close-knit atmosphere that prepares young college kids for the rigors of life in the adult world. And the truth? Where I saw what was no longer, and wistfully remembered things that would not be experienced by my youngest son, Sam saw something else. He saw the future. Where I remembered what was, he anticipated what would be. And both of us had that experience from a common foundation that is the excellence of the school!
In Ezra, chapter 3, the people of Judah who were returning from exile in Babylon had a similar experience. They were preparing to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed when Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon. Here is part of that story:
“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
‘He is good; his love toward 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. 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.” (Ezra 3:10-12)
All of these people; young and old, long-timers and newcomers, were excited to be back in Jerusalem. They were happy they could worship again as they wished and they were anticipating restoring the house of the Lord. But some of them remembered the old times and knew that what was ahead of them was not going to be what had been behind them. Still others had no appreciation of things gone by since they had not experienced them, and anticipated with joy what God had in store for the future. Neither group was right. Neither was wrong. Both were building on the same foundation – “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”
How about us? Many of us, thinking about past friends and triumphs will inevitably mourn the passing of what was. Still others among us will embrace the future with joy and anticipation. Just remember – the past never truly dies…it simply strengthens our stance on the foundation. And the future cannot happen without the witness of the past…for we cannot be going TO somewhere if we are not first FROM somewhere. Together we bear witness to the foundation we share in Christ Jesus.
The very next verse from what I quoted above says,
“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.” (Ezra 3:13)
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? We celebrate our past and jump without reservation into an unknown future. We weep, we laugh…we mourn and we wait expectantly to see what God has in store. All of us. With a sure foundation in Christ Jesus.
“He is good; his love towards us endures forever.”