In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God. 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.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 3:8-13
It’s a moment of hope. After a long exile and enslavement God’s people are united, fathers with sons, to lay the foundation of the temple. This structure was more than a building, it was a symbol of God’s unique relationship with them. With each stone was an investment in a foundation of faith, a foundation of following God, a foundation of renewal. It was also a multigenerational task. Young spiritual leaders (Levites) 20 years old and up lead the effort while sons and fathers mingled sweat over the task.
There is a beauty and power in this scene. There is a sense of legacy and unity as old and young work not to simply build a temple but to turn back to God. This is how being God’s people should be: young and old side by side. Yet, there is an inevitable tension that rises when the generations mingle in this way. Look at verse 13. The young are rejoicing because they see their nation turning to God. They picture a bright future. They imagine hope and peace and the presence of God among them. Their shouts of praise are then met with a cry of lament and sorrow. Those who had seen the splendor of Solomon’s temple and had watched God’s presence lift from it, now look at the shabby foundation stones and they grieve. They grieve the mistakes they made, they grieve the loss of a dream they had once had. They grieve because their children don’t know how beautiful and hopeful the old temple had been. Yet, in the midst of that sadness they build because it is better than the alternative.
This mingling of youthful zeal and sobering grief is part of the point of God’s Multigenerational church. Those who are young bring a vibrant zeal for the future and a genuine belief that they can one day fully be who God wants them to be. What they often lack is the deep humility, brokenness, wisdom, and surrender required to avoid the pitfalls of human brokenness. When both generations are present and laboring side by side, they balance naivety with honest assessment. The balance hope with Joy. But we must acknowledge the tension that often exists between the generations and we must acknowledge that both perspectives are necessary to truly be the church that God commissions to reach and love the world.
Find time over the next few days to watch the movie, “The Intern.” Ask yourself, what does each character bring to the other? Finally, ask yourself, what role do you play in the other generations represented in your community?
By Aaron Bjorklund