The Treasure is Here

buy Lyrica 300 mg online uk The Sunday Sermon: 26th Sunday after Pentecost – November 13, 2016

over at this website Scripture:  Haggai 1:15b – 2:9 The Treasure is Here

In the year 587 B.C., Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian Empire and the inhabitants of all Judah found themselves exiled. Separated from all that anchored them to “reality” – their city of Zion, their Temple, their God – they were exiled to Babylon. There they wept, when they remembered their home, what once was, wondering if it would ever be … again. Out of the exile rose many voices – prophets they were called – who spoke to the void, into the chaos, out of the confusion. They had work to do. All of them. We, too, have come together this morning, on this day that has been so important for 150 years and is made even more important this year with the division and discord that fills so much of the space of our days. So let’s begin as we always do in this moment …

Pray with me … And listen for the Word of God … Read Haggai 1:15b – 2:9

How many of you knew that Haggai was a book of the Bible? (A few? Should be more, I’ve preached from this book before. Well, Haggai was one of three prophets (the other two were Zechariah and Malachi) who arose in Judah after Persia defeated Babylon fifty years later in 539 B.C. and the Jews were permitted to return to their homeland, allowed, even encouraged, to rebuild their lives – families, houses, and Temple. We know nothing about Haggai other than that he was a prophet for five months in 520 B.C., but he is credited with spurring the people on to get the temple rebuilt.

If you haven’t made some sort of scriptural connection to the annual observance we are celebrating this morning, then you haven’t really been trying! This morning is Stewardship Dedication Sunday. In a few moments we will all be asked to bring our morning offerings and our pledge for next year’s operating budget forward and dedicate them to the Glory of God through the work of our church by placing them in this basket. God says: I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor. Haggai 2:7

This scripture passage, the only one usually used at all from the book, is, in fact, almost exclusively used for a lesson at dedications such as ours this morning, or of a new church or new church building. Many of our lectionaries, those lists of scripture readings that are supposed to utilize the whole of the biblical canon, ignore Haggai altogether. Unless … unless there’s money to raise … The principal message of the book can be summed up in these words: Temple building!

Among all the prophets of Israel, Haggai is unique for his insistence on temple building, concentrating single mindedly on the necessity for the Judeans to restore and sustain their place of worship. What a strange message that is for an Israelite prophet! When we think of prophets, we think of those “voices of God” who opposed the temple: Isaiah proclaimed the “Lord of Hosts hated the superficial worship carried on in here” (1:10-17); Jeremiah labeled this place “a den of robbers” (7:1-15) because those who gather here think they can worship God without reforming their lives; Ezekiel calls this type of worship “idolatry and an abomination before the Lord” (chapter 8); and there’s much more condemnation of the Temple and it’s practices from the prophetic tradition. The fact that Haggai turns around and urges the rebuilding of the temple seems a contradiction of much of the prophecy that preceded him.

No cry for social justice in these two short chapters. No assurance that God dwells with the humble and the contrite, not the mighty and the boastful. No condemnation for neglecting the poor and the widow. Instead, he calls unrelentingly for something that sounds very much like the external and superficial religion of which we would all like to be rid. Temple building has, in fact, been our focus, my sermon messages and your prayerful discernment, for the past month: forget the past – rebuild, the day is here – give more, look to the hills – take courage, all we need is already here within and among us – the latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former. What is Haggai, who’s supposed to be a prophet, doing talking about Temple building?! Why do we, every year, spend this month on giving to the church?

I want you to do something we did a number of years ago here. Imagine this plot of land at 119 Central Avenue in your mind’s eye. Close your eyes (I’m serious) and picture it from above, looking down on the roofs of our buildings, on the paved parking lot, on the trees in front and behind and beside. Now, in your mind’s eye (because your real eyes are closed) I want you to begin to remove these buildings – one a time: the Family Life Center first, gone, now a grassy plot. Then the Parish House behind me, in front of you; and finally the building in which we are seated, the Sanctuary we’re gathered in – gone. All gone. From above, no rooftops, no driveway, no parking lot, just open, empty. Pewee Valley Presbyterian was never here.

Now imagine other possibilities for these few acres of God’s green earth. Imagine there’s a house, or two, on this plot of land, maybe even a row of townhouses or an apartment complex. Perhaps there’s a small business here, big garages in the back of the lot, mounds of dirt and rock, a gate at the entrance. But no church, no school, no cars pulling in and parking in the a parking lot, no people climbing out of those cars to wave and greet one another, no one entering the large building for fellowship and formation, no one slipping into the stone sanctuary all by herself, fifteen minutes early or five minutes late, and no one coming out an hour later with a hundred or so others, no one hugging or smiling or shaking hands. The cars are zipping by on Central Avenue but no one is slowing down to glance through their window and wonder … what is happening in there or who is still bothering to do “church.” No one is wondering because, in your mind’s eye, we’re not here. We were never here … as a church, as a community, as a presence in the world that expresses a mystery every one of us feels, whether we’re religious or not.

You see, whether we “believe it” or not, God is present in the world. But that presence is made real, made perceptible, made palpable for the world in community. God’s presence is symbolized by tangible reminders of God’s actions among and within the community – handshakes and hugs, smiles exchanged and tears shared, prayers prayed and songs sung. One of those communities, one tangible expression of God’s presence in the world, is us (names …) and the reminders for the world are these buildings on this campus; and the life that has flowed and continues to flow in and out of these doors and that driveway; out onto the street as people pass by and wonder what’s going on today and who the folks are that gather and disperse and gather again. We are the community of God and these have been the reminders of God’s presence and activity in the world every single day of every single month of every single year for one hundred and fifty years.

Haggai wonders: Who is left among us that saw this house in its original glory? No one, of course, but the “symbols,” this building and this gathering have lasted for generations. Haggai’s next question notes that those who looked upon the sanctuary upon returning from their exile in 520 B.C. saw nothing but a small foundation. We don’t’ have all things in common with him and ancient Judah – all who pass this plot of land still gaze upon solid structures and all of us who gather still experience vibrant worship and ministries in this place.

One of the most powerful reasons that our sanctuary – and this plot of land at 119 Central Avenue with all the structures it contains – is not “nothing” is because for about a month every year for about one hundred and fifty years, the community that gathers here has engaged in some very direct type of stewardship. We’ve been reading “Stewardship Moments in History” every Sunday since this year’s season began. For 150 years, this community has done exactly what Haggai implores God’s people to do: Take courage … Take courage and work! Haggai 2:4

Whenever the call goes out for temple rebuilding, be it two thousand five hundred and thirty-five years ago, or this past month this year, that call is an announcement that God is yearning to be seen in the world, to be shared with the world, to give of the life and of Christ’s Love that is the only thing that can save the. That’s what the book of Haggai is about – God’s yearning to enter into covenant fellowship with God’s chosen people once again. That’s finally what our Stewardship Season every year is about. Our yearning to maintain our covenant fellowship with God, with the community of saints who have come before us here, and with one another together now.

I want to ask you to do one thing more in this time of sermon, something that we’ve done almost every year I’ve been with you on this Sunday. If you have your pledge card with you, take it in your hand. If you’re with your family or your spouse, one of you hold it, but both or all of you take note of it in front of you. If you didn’t bring your pledge card with you, take one out of the pew in front of you. There should be plenty for all this morning … there better be plenty for all!

Now as you hold that card (blank perhaps, but hopefully with some commitment in mind soon to be written down) listen again to the prophet’s voice:

I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry lands; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine … The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former … and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:6-9

Did you hear it? A call …Your call? If you did that thin piece of paper in your hand or in the hand of one in your family, probably got a little heavier. The treasure we seek is here already. Not only in your pockets, but in your hearts. Tehonly question that remains is: Will we offer it?

I know, we know, as we sit preparing ourselves for our commitment to the future of this community, this congregation, as we anticipate our “stewardship dedication” in just a few moments, I know that each one of us here and many others who are not present this morning, love this church … that’s not in question now, and it won’t be later this week and in the weeks ahead when we start totaling and figuring in case we need to adjust and modify hopes, dreams, and expectations. We all love this church and are loved by it, no question. The only question that remains for us in the moments ahead is: How many of us will walk away feeling like we did less than we could have, or should have?

We don’t give out of guilt. Guilt is not sustainable. But love is. And so is hope and promise. I hope that, if you’re still holding it, or when you pick it up in few moments, I hope that your pledge card has gotten lighter. I promise that if you’ve heard your call to this church, it has. And maybe there’s a number or two you may want to change on there. You have time – we’ll sing and affirm our faith before we dedicate our gifts.

The treasure is here and God will fill this house with splendor. To the glory of God and the good of our world.


Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / November 10, 2013