Friday, 8 November 2013

A prophet on a work site

The 25th Sunday after Pentecost
Year C                                                                                  
Haggai 1:15b-2:9


A project manager?  Of course!  A couple of good hammer-and-nail men?  Even better!  But why would you need a prophet on a building site?  Maybe so God can be heard saying something to the people like the following:

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts.  The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts.”  

This line from the prophet Haggai, beloved of stewardship preachers across the ages, comes from the mouth of one of the Minor Prophets.  Along with his contemporary Zechariah and the prophet Malachi (who lived a generation afterwards) Haggai prophesied to the nation following the return of the Jews from Babylon and during the period of their rebuilding and reestablishment in the land of their fathers.  

This week’s reading from Haggai is significantly enriched by reading the events recorded in Ezra chapters 3-6 but particularly from chapter 4 on.  After having received permission and encouragement from the Persian King Darius himself for the rebuilding of the Temple, and having seen the emergence of capable leaders, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, it was the people themselves who began to lose heart and to listen to those voices within and around them which suggested that failure was inevitable.  
 

Momentum was lost and doubts abounded.

Enter the preacher - the prophet:  What Haggai does here is to remind the people that the resources they need to complete their work and to fulfill their destiny as God's people in the land never really were locked up in the hand of their adversaries after all.  Nor were these cut off from reaching their destination because of the logic of the balance sheet.  The needed resources - in this case silver and gold - were given into the earth by God and God can release them for his purposes.  

Let the adversaries think they control them, then.  God will shake those nations up.  Let the balance sheet say what it will.  The chief weapon in God's hand is his word and the retelling of his mighty acts in the past.  The proper response to God's promise, spoken through the prophet, is courage.  

The project will move forward when the hearts of men and women are turned.