4 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.[a] 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
This passage reminds me that...
1. Though Christian Community Development is fundamentally about relationships and reconciliation, you won't be able to partner with everyone, for everyone will not have shared vision or Christ-centered motives.
2. You really need to know your calling and to be in an intimate relationship with Christ so that you can discern when to stand firm despite opposition and when you may need to listen to that opposition and adjust your own leadership and steps.
The passage goes on to describe how the opposition succeeded in bringing the rebuilding of the temple to a standstill, and the work didn't start again until 14 years later.
3. This standstill reminds me of God' mysterious timing, His sovereignty, and the fact that our calling and work is likely only a small piece in the much bigger vision and story of God.
As I consider how God is calling me in the Walnut neighborhood area, I reflect on what has happened in the past...
Twenty years ago, I was working at First Presbyterian, in the Walnut Neighborhood, as a youth director. At that time, I had no vision for neighborhood revitalization. Yet, at that very time, a Christian Community Development Board began to meet and formed a two year transitional program called House of Hope in the neighborhood. Our associate pastor at the time, helped start a neighborhood association during that era, and a resident in the neighborhood began to try to organize people in order to save some of the historical houses in the neighborhood. All the while, I was on the fringes, observing and occasionally participating in neighborhood functions.
I ended up leaving that church fifteen years ago, but five years later, I entered back into the neighborhood through the House of Hope. I volunteered and joined the Christian Community Development Board, and it was at that time that God began to introduce to me the philosophy of ministry called Christian Community Development through CCDA. I began to learn that much of the vision that birthed CCD in the neighborhood had been lost in just ten years' time. Houses in the neighborhood continued to decay and/or be torn down, the CCD Board was functioning now largely as a House of Hope Board with little vision or mission that had anything to do with Christian Community Development.
So, here I am, twenty years later, back in the neighborhood with a much bigger, broader vision of Christian Community Development. This passage in Ezra has been good for me to read. I don't presume to understand God's mysterious ways and why things seemed to start twenty years ago and then stall out. I don't presume to predict the future and God's timing or plans for the neighborhood. But I do know, that for this time, I am called into the picture to help create a model of Christian Community Development. I recognize that my role is just for a time and is just a small part of a much bigger story of God, and I pray that God will give me the spiritual wisdom and discernment to play out my part faithfully and well for Christ!