What is the one thing we probably all wish we had more of? The one thing which never stops, but always continues forward, day after day, and night after night. Our lives are controlled by it. We watch it constantly, sometimes wishing for it to slow down, other times wishing for it to speed up. It is our best friend, and yet, perhaps, our worst enemy. What is it? The answer, of course, is time. It has been said about time, “The clock is running…Make the most of today…Time waits for no man…Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery…Today is a gift; that’s why it is called the present. “This morning, I implore you to make the most of your time. It is time for a summer project; it is time for us as Christians to reflect. Time to take a good hard look at the gifts our God has given us and then to see those wonderful blessings for what they are, tools. Tools that we can use to build our Father’s kingdom here on this earth.
The people during the prophet Haggai’s time were also told that it was time. They were told it was time to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Now, you might remember that God’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, who then also took the people of Judah into captivity. Fast-forward 70 some years and we are now in Haggai’s time. By the decree of King Darius, the Israelite people were allowed to return home, and they could also rebuild the house of worship, the temple, for their God.
This rebuilding started almost immediately upon the Israelites return. In the book of Ezra chapter 3 we read that the altar was rebuilt and the foundation of the temple was completed, but then progress stopped. Why? Were the Israelites not able to get the necessary work permits? Did funding dry up? Yes, in a sense, to the first, and no to the second. The Israelites were pressured by their neighbors to stop rebuilding the temple, and those same neighbors even wrote to the Persian King, asking him to halt the construction.
So there were outside forces affecting the rebuilding process, yet here in Haggai, we see that wasn’t the real problem, in fact it isn’t even mentioned. Instead, this is the Israelites’ excuse, “The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.” The time has not come God. Ah! It is as if the Israelites knew something God did not. Listen to God’s response through the prophet Haggai, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” You know, sometimes in Scripture you have to wonder if God isn’t being just a bit sarcastic. “Oh, obviously there isn’t time to rebuild my house, Israelite people, whom I just brought back from exile. But yes, yes, you just go ahead and rebuild and live in your own homes, I’ll just wait until you are good and ready.”
Yet, God doesn’t allow the Israelites to get too comfortable. He goes on to say, “Give careful thought to your ways.” Reflect! Reflect is God’s message to these Israelites. Here is what they are to reflect upon, “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.” What is God saying to the Israelites? He is telling them and us to take a good hard look at what we have and examine where exactly it gets us in life.
Now, I took the liberty of making a list of all the blessings, possessions, talents, and other things that my God has given me, and here it is. It’s quite a list, and it doesn’t even include my wife’s clothes and shoes. You haven’t had an opportunity to make a list, and I won’t be sending you home to do it as homework, but how about we just reflect on the first five minutes of your day this morning. You woke up – where were you? In a nice bed, with blankets and pillows. You flipped a switch; the lights turned on, amazing! You went into the kitchen and opened the fridge, food! You opened up the pantry, food! You turned on the faucet and water came out! Water likely safer to drink than anywhere else in the world, yet we still make sure to filter it even more with an osmosis or a Brita pitcher. These are the blessings God has given you in just the first five minutes of waking up. So, why does God tell us to reflect on these things?
Because he wants to remind us of how blessed we are and how, just as he promises in his Word, he will take care of us. But he also, just as with the Israelites, wants to show us exactly where those possessions, those blessings, get us. Our treasures will never satisfy us. They will never bring us the complete and full contentment we seek. We eat breakfast, but later we need lunch. We buy a shirt; it wears out; we need a new one. We make money, but we have to spend money. We work out and get fit, yet we grow old and become weak. It never ends, and where did all that work and effort get us? It didn’t keep us from the ultimate result of sin, it doesn’t keep us from death.
But often that doesn’t stop us does from clinging to our possessions, our wealth, and our health. Too often, we become complacent and self-satisfied and ascribe our riches to our own efforts instead of acknowledging that every good gift comes from God. The easier our lives become, the more enjoyment we derive from our wealth, and the greater the temptation to store up treasures on earth, instead of in heaven. If we focus on earthly things like material wealth and possessions, then we fail to give God the glory and worship he deserves. This is contrary to what Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
God wants us to take the time to reflect and to see that he is a loving and caring God who will provide us with all we need. First and foremost, God has provided for us spiritually. When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s fall, what did God do? He promised a Savior. God used one of his possessions, his own Son, as a sacrifice for our sin. Yet, that is only half the picture. We were by nature dead in sin and so God used his own Spirit to create faith in our hearts at our baptism. We, who were once enemies of God, are now his heirs. Jesus’ victory over sin and death assures us of our future home in heaven. And to this day, our God continues to feed and strengthen our faith through his Holy Word. The Word which he graciously allows to be preached freely in this country without threat or fear of persecution. This is our God; a God who loves us deeply, and a God who provides for us unceasingly.
That same God calls to us through his Word today, “It is time! It is time! Reflect on those blessings I’ve given you, but don’t just do that, use those blessings to build my church!
“Build” was the message Haggai brought before the Israelites. “Give careful thought to your ways” –again, reflect! – “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” Having been called to reflect on the gifts and blessings God had given them, and how those things could never satisfy and would not last into eternity, God now gives the Israelites the command to build. Build why? “So that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” God says, but he adds a threat. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” Declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.
God giveth and God taketh away. Hard times in our lives are often the result, not the cause, of our failure to live as faithful stewards of the talents and gifts God has entrusted to our use. Now, this isn’t to say that every time something bad happens in our life it is because we failed to be a faithful steward. No, think of Job; God said he was righteous, yet he suffered incredible hardship. What this does mean is that our earthly blessings, wealth, time, and talent, are temporary, and there is no time to waste. Now is the time to use those gifts to honor God, to build his church!
However, the reason we answer God’s call to “build” is not because of his threat to take away our stuff. We build because we love our God. We build because we know our Savior, who came to this earth to seek out the lost, to seek us out and save us from the pit of sin. We build because that same Savior didn’t hold back his own life, but offered it freely out of love for us. Jesus, with his blood, paid the price we could never pay and took away our sin. And now our God has built for us a home in heaven with him. This, brothers and sisters, is why we build.
God has called each of us to be workers in his church. We are called to care, to build, and to grow God’s church here on this earth. How can we build our Heavenly Father’s church here on this earth? We can give offerings, using our wealth to fund and pay for church and school projects. We can use our time, to help remodel, take care of church grounds, teach Sunday School, fold bulletins, or visit visitors. Children, you can set a Christian example when you are with your friends, and you can invite those same friends to church and Sunday school. All of us can share God’s Word by proclaiming it and by reflecting it in our daily interactions, in thought, word, and deed. Finally, we can pray. Pray that God’s Word continues to be preached and taught in truth and purity, so that the Holy Spirit might create faith in the hearts of all who hear it.
This is our time, our time of grace. And as we saw in our gospel lesson for today we “must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we do not expect him.” Let us then prepare for his return and honor him by building and caring for his church. And if we still doubt, if we don’t think we are physically or financially capable of building, God gives us the same promise he gave to the Israelites at the end of our lesson for today. “I am with you” declares the Lord. God is with us. The creator, sustainer, and provider of the universe promises to be with us. So, let’s build.
Our God is not partial to one offer of service over another, he just asks that we build, and that we build out of love for him. So go, build while there is still time, for “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Reflect and rejoice over all the blessings you have received and build God’s church. It is time.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.