From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit

November: Haggai

An Introduction
Haggai is one of the smaller books collected together towards the end of the Old Testament. It is quite a little book so quite easy to read, slowly, in one sitting. I would encourage you to do this if possible.
The very first verse of Haggai Chapter 1 enables us to place the book within a calendar. The year is 520BC and Haggai shares his prophecies from God between, as we would understand it, August and December.
So reading this book together in November is perfect timing: a word in season, especially as we come into a new season of lockdown here in England.
The people of God have returned from exile and are now settled back in their homeland. They have been back for about fifteen years and have spent this time building their own homes and trying to make money.
God speaks to Haggai calling the people of God to continue their work rebuilding the ruined Temple. And the whole of the Book of Haggai is the unfolding story of their response to this call.
What else is happening in the wider world at this time?...
- the Greeks are performing tragedies.
- the Persians are playing polo.
- the Iron Age Celts are in Europe, possibly just beginning the tradition we now know as Halloween.
- Confucius is alive.
- a horseback postal service is beginning in the Persian Empire.
- and the Polynesian ancestors have travelled as far as Fiji, where they have settled for many years.
This is the global history into which the story of Haggai sits.
Over the coming weeks we will explore in more detail the unfolding story, day by day, and hopefully discover how we can apply the ancient Book of Haggai to our own discipleship today.
The Word of God is living and active in our lives and so I pray that, as followers of Jesus, this story will come alive for us and enable faithful action as we worship God and serve one another.
Amen.



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Haggai 2 10 - 19

Olive Tree
One day, after a long watery waiting, a dove flew back to Noah with an olive leaf held in their beak. And somewhere over the flood waters Noah knew there was hope to be found.
As we look across the ocean of unknowing before us the olive tree births hope within us, there is safe ground ahead.
And the golden oil of the olive tree is both a blessing and a balm to our being as we make our way through the ebb and flow of these tidal days. An anointing for such a time as this.
In Gethsemene the olive trees stood in silent vigil around Jesus as He prayed in the garden, a quiet surrounding.
And in the revelation yet to come, two olive trees stand as prophetic witnesses, a symbol of light and holy forthtelling.
‘But I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God
I trust in the unending love of God;
his passion toward me is forever and ever’
(Psalm 52 TPT)
May hope bud as a new leaf within us
May amber blessings,
and balm of aurum
anoint our being
May we know Your quiet,
strong surrounding,
an embrace of steadfastness
May holy light shine upon us,
and may You be revealed,
within and through us.
Amen
Let us Worship
Song: Servant King (StF 272)



Haggai: Chapter 2: 15 - 19
‘Now think carefully about your choices from this point forward. Consider how things were before you even laid the first stone back upon the other to rebuild the house of the Eternal One. How did it turn out for you? Were you able to do it without Me? You came to scoop grain and expected 20 measures, but there were only 10. You came to draw wine from a vat and expected 50 measures, but there were only 20. I crushed you and everything you tried to do under your own power with scorching heat, mildew, and hail; and still you didn’t turn to Me. “From this day forward—from the 24th day of the 9th month, from the foundation of the Eternal One’s house—think carefully and ask yourself, ‘Is there seed left unplanted in the storage barns?’ No. But you must be patient. The grape vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate trees and the olive trees have not borne fruit yet. From this day on, I will bless you.”

Reflection

This Sunday we remember Christ the King. 
The King of Kings who took on the very nature of a servant, as Paul writes in Philippians, and was made in human likeness. The King of Kings who calls us, as royal sons and daughters, to be people who serve one another with compassion and grace. 
We are called to be a people who keep the throne of God at the very heart of our lives. 
When my boys were small we didn’t talk about punishments and we certainly didn’t want being sent to their rooms to be seen as a punishment, the place where we hoped they would sleep and play nicely all the rest of the time! Instead we talked about consequences, a concept backed up by the hilarious  party game we still play at family gatherings. Actions have consequences, and we supported this truth by suggesting that some time sitting quietly in their room considering those consequences would be a good idea.
Consider, says God to the people through the prophet Haggai. Look at your actions, or inaction, and then consider the results. See the cause and effect in your own lives and the life of the nation. 
Did God really punish the people by causing a failed harvest and a poor return? I don’t personally think so. But I do think He used their disappointment and failure as a way to get their attention. And I do believe that forgetting to have God enthroned at the very heart of their lives, as symbolised by the Temple, did indeed have consequences.
I believe it still does. 
Christ the King, our King of Kings, who took small children onto His knee and washed the dirty feet of His disciples. Who shared food with a hungry crowd and provided wine to celebrate a marriage. Who told those gathered around Him that when we clothe or feed, or care for those in need, then we are serving Him, our Servant King.
How do we enthrone God in our lives? ~ through worship and love in action.
Our Methodist President of Conference put it very well this week when he wrote, ‘A measure of a nation’s values is seen not only by actions in times of plenty but by resolve during other times too. As Christians, we believe it is our duty to stand alongside our global neighbours, and seek justice for the most vulnerable ... we are called to love our neighbours’.
To love God, and to love our neighbour. 
God enthroned. 
Song: For the Healing of the Nations (StF 696)


A Prayer (by Revd Michaela Youngson)
God of healing love,
be with those who are ill and anxious,
comfort those who mourn,
bring peace to those in turmoil.
Wipe every tear from our eyes.
God of boundless grace,
be with our congregations as we are parted,
be with those who rely on our care,
be with those stretched beyond enduring.
Wipe every tear from our eyes.
God of endings and beginnings,
be with us as winter draws near,
help us to worship in ways that honour you
sustain us with your Word
and remind us that you are the Alpha and Omega,
the first and the last,
world without end.
Amen



 

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