Summary: A sermon about faith, hope, meaning and the future based on the Book of Haggai.
“Can You Ever Really Go Home Again?”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
Some 500 years before Christ, the Jews who had been living in Babylonian exile were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem.
About 50,000 Jews journeyed home, but “can you ever really go home again?”
Jerusalem had changed, and the people had changed.
While they were in captivity, they were sustained by their memory of their homeland.
But when they returned and saw the Temple in ruins they were very disheartened, even to the point of thinking that God had forsaken them.
So they took things into their own hands and busied themselves by working to build their own houses.
Their energies were turned inwards, and thus, they were depressed, despondent, and their work was not amounting to much.
Then the Word of the Lord came through the Prophet Haggai, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built’…
…Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?...
…Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little.
You eat, but never have enough.
You drink, but never have your fill.
You put on clothes, but are not warm.
You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Are these not words to a people who are living lives which are devoid of meaning, of hope?
What is the point of their existence?
They can never be satisfied.
They run this way and that, but never find what they truly need.
Ever feel this way?
So, again, in verse 7 the Lord says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”
How many times have we, as Christians, found that our lives do not seem to be yielding much?
How many times have we been carrying on with things, and living in such a funk that it’s as if we have blinders on?
And when that happens, does not the Lord, say to us: “Stop. Give careful thought to your ways.”?
“Get back on track.”
“Listen to me.”
“Return to your first Love.”
“Set your feet in motion, I am with you.”
And if we listen to God, if we take a good inventory of our lives, if we decide to come back to the Way of the Lord—God will guide us back to Him.
And God will give us great and meaningful work to do!
After the Lord instructed the people to “Give careful thought to” their “ways”, God then told them what they should be doing and how they could get out of their funk and get going!
“Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.”
God is basically saying, “Work, for I am with you.”
From any other source, this may sound flat or even flippant.
But God has a track record, not only with Israel, but also with us today!!!
We can witness too and speak of God’s faithfulness and power from experience, not hearsay!
When have you begun to work for the Lord and found that “Yes, indeed, God is with me?”
“Life does have meaning!”?
Many situations and tasks we face may seem, at first and even second glance, impossible.
We may look at what stands before us, catalogue the resources we have and find that the task outweighs what we have.
We are living in extremely difficult economic times, duh!
And not only our church, but just about every church is feeling the crunch!!!
We just aren’t taking in as much money as we used to.
It is becoming more and more difficult to pay salaries, keep the lights on, and pay for ministries here at home and overseas.
But if we begin a good work, we often will find that we have far more resources than we thought.
Indeed, our hardest task is often simply making the first start.
And the challenge of making a start is about where we place our faith and trust!!!
Now that Clair and I are married, we have two churches to which we tithe.
Earlier this week, Clair, the consummate book-keeper came to me and said, “After we pay our tithes to our churches we will have only $290.00 to live on until the next pay period.”
There was never a question about whether or not the tithes would be paid.
The questions were about, “Will we have enough money to buy the groceries we need?”
And, “I guess we will not be able to ‘eat out’ for a while…and no ‘extras.’”
Fine with me!!!
After the people laid the foundation for the Temple…pressures mounted up.