The Future Glory of the Temple
In the second year of King Darius,
in the seventh month, on the twenty- first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts:Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.
The Question about the Resurrection
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Haggai is a prophet we don't hear much about.
In just a couple of chapters he boasts of a time in the history of Gods people when they came together, got their focus right, and rebuilt Gods temple.
Haggai comes across as some kind of cheer leader in that process, encouraging the people again and again to "take courage".
But, more than helping the people find their flagging energy, as they become overwhelmed by the enormity of their task, Haggai brings their minds back to what underlies that task.
What is important in it.
The whole point of rebuilding the temple was to honour God.
Giving their time, their talents and their money to focus on God, central to their life and faith.
The people were beginning to fear that they had bitten off more than they could chew.
It was a huge task to rebuild the temple and return it to its former glory.
It took a huge commitment - hard work and dedication.
The prophet Haggai realised that, what the people needed, was not simply someone to appeal to their work ethic, and their charity, they needed someone to stir their soul.
To take them back to basics - reminding them of their roots in God, their relationship - a symbol of which is this temple that honours God and the unique relationship that these people share with God in community.
It's more than - " build the temple and God will reward you"
It's more too, than " build the temple and people will flock to it"
Haggai's message strips away all the superficiality and invites the remnant, those who remember the old times, to remember specifically how God has been at the heart of their culture for ever - and more, will always be at the heart of their being in community.
God - yesterday, today and forever.
That is the God who is to be honoured in the building of this temple, a work that demands only the best in recognition of the God at the heart of all life.
Today we talk of honouring our dead - all those who have been sacrificed in war.
Those who have served their country - and those who have, quite simply gotten in the way of war.
Modern warfare often results in shocking numbers of civilian casualties.
Once again, we need reminded of why we honour the dead today.
And that is - to ensure that we do not ask of others the sacrifice that has already been made.
At the heart of our remembering must be the determination to stop the violence.
That is a huge task.
It seems impossible in today's world where so much rests on the economy and infrastructure of war, where politicians use the threat of war as a first and not a last resort.
But, like God's people, in danger of being overwhelmed at the enormity of their task in rebuilding the temple, so we need to be reminded of the underlying purpose of our remembrance - to bring about peace.
To honour the dead and the God who calls us into life.
To do that demands that we glimpse Gods vision for all Gods people - a vision beyond our limited sight, beyond our dreams.
A vision of the new life offered by God for the life of the world.
In the gospels, we often find Jesus trying to describe that new life.
But often, those around him were too mired in the life they knew to even begin to glimpse the kind of life that Jesus offered.
Like the Sadduccees we encounter in our gospel reading today.
Jesus, surprise, surprise, is arguing with the Sadduccees.
They are trying to trip him up with a question about marriage and the resurrection.
They didn't believe in resurrection and wanted to discredit the notion of it.
Here's the scenario:
For the protection of women, the law decreed that a man should marry his brothers widow.
The Sadduccees painted a ridiculous scenario, involving one bride and seven brothers.
(Not seven brides for seven brothers)
This poor woman was widowed 7 times.
Each time, like property, she was passed on to the next brother.
And so, the Sadduccees asked Jesus - to whom would the woman belong in the next life?
You can just imagine Jesus shaking his head in frustration at their question.
Because they were missing the point entirely.
Resurrection signals a new life we cannot possibly envisage.
It is beyond our ken.
Far outstripping our limited imaginations.
Resurrection sets aside the limited concepts that folk struggle with in this life.
As with the rebuilding of the temple, where the prophet Haggai implores Gods people to have courage, to get back to the centrality of God at the heart of all things, so Jesus encourages those caught up in the minutiae of daily life to catch a glimpse of something much bigger and, in particular, to see God present in all life.
This Remembrance Sunday, we are called to lift our eyes beyond what we see,what we have witnessed, what we have learned about war - the pity of war.
In the words of Harry Patch, one of the last survivors of the First World War: " War isn't worth one life".
We are called, today, to imagine a world without violence.
A world where all life is honoured and where God is at the heart of all life,
Only by working to ensure that war and conflict between races and peoples and nations becomes a thing of the past can we truly honour those we remember today.
Only by working for peace can we honour the God of peace who is at the heart of our faith and our life together.
Today, we are exhorted to "take courage" and to work for peace.
For the glory of God.
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