The Sadducees were ‘sad-you-see’ because they didn’t believe in a better world to come. Haggai asks Zerubabbel to remember the former glory of the temple, and then compare it to how things stand today. I find it hard not to be ‘sad-you see,’ whenever I’m asked to make similar comparisons. It’s hard to be upbeat about the months to come when it’s November. Already, I awake hearing the furnace rumble and shiver as I walk the dog. It’s hard to believe that the best is yet to be when you get a senior discount with your coffee at McDonalds. It’s hard to believe in eternal life when everything you know rusts and falls apart. Yet Jesus came blessing people with hope. Haggai was sent to Zerubabbel to say that what lies ahead will be far more glorious than the gilded age of your fondest memories.
There is an important word in Haggai 2:4; Courage. It is repeated three times as if there are a trinity of applications for God’s people. When we look at our personal lives, we need to take courage in the reality of Heaven. Our bodies are mortal, from the moment of our birth we begin to die. Our culture idealizes youth and denies the wisdom of believing in a pie in the sky. Our culture wants us to become sad-you-see. It asks silly questions like, “If there is a heaven, whose wife is Elizabeth Taylor now?” or “If the big bang and evolution explains everything, why do we need God?” Today, it takes courage to trust in the resurrection of the dead.
The minor prophets, like Haggai, are often overlooked because they lived and spoke in an era when the glory of Israel was fading. They needed courage to maintain a faith in social justice. Like Jesus’ beatitudes, Old Testament prophets blessed a people who were poor but would inherit all, were weeping but would be comforted, were oppressed but would receive the kingdom. In today’s Tea Party world, it takes courage to continue the cause against racism, classism, and the denial of healthcare to the working poor.
Finally, it takes courage to gather in church when the pews seem emptier year after year. In the 1960s, going to church was popular. Sunday schools were bulging and grand building projects funded. Those were the glory days. Haggai’s question is on our people’s lips (2:3). They reflect on what used to be and need courage to see that the postmodern world has not beaten Christianity. Every congregation will need to adapt, but if they listen to the Holy Spirit and discern the difficult vision that God has for them, then they will be able to share faith with the next generation. The best days for the church are yet to be.