At the end of Ezra 3 the foundation of the Second Temple is laid by the Israelites who have returned from captivity. The description of the celebration is powerful:
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
The young Israelites who grew up in captivity are thrilled to see the Temple being rebuilt at all. But for the older people, the new foundation is a reminder of the glory of the house that had been destroyed. The new one wasn’t anywhere near as impressive. They remember a spiral of sin and rebellion that resulted in the entire nation being kicked out of the Promised Land. So there’s joyful shouting and loud weeping– celebration and lament, all mixed together.
This is what it’s like when the church gathers. Any given Sunday morning there could be, on the same row, a couple rejoicing in God’s goodness at the birth of a child and another couple trying desperately to believe in God’s goodness after losing a child. And there are countless points in between. We mourn our sin. We celebrate God’s forgiveness. You can’t always tell the sound of the shouting from the sound of the weeping. But what matters is that we’re there, together. We meet each other; we bear each other up. And our God meets us and bears us up, all of us, every time, wherever we are, without fail.