Thursday, September 26, 2019


I love the way in which the book of the prophet Haggai opens:

“In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: Thus says the Lord of hosts:”

(Haggai 1:1, 2a, verses set for Holy Communion today.)

This introduction takes in the Big Picture, geographically and historically, of international politics. Darius is king over the Persian empire. Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon, her princes taken into exile for a generation. But then Babylon, in turn, had fallen to Persia, to an even greater empire; one that allowed all those taken captive by the Babylonians to return home, should they so choose.

Some of the Jews returned, in three separate waves; others, having found that their God was not restricted to the boundaries of their ancestral homeland, chose to spread out and bless all the families of the earth from wherever they happened to find themselves now. But the people to whom God spoke through Haggai had returned to Jerusalem, with Darius’ blessing.

So, we start Big Picture, but, immediately, swoop right in: this word from God is assigned a year, a month of the year, a day of the month of the year. A precise day, that has never been seen before, nor will it be seen again.

And on this day, this word comes to Haggai for two people. Precisely two people. And these two people are located, precisely, not by a post code/zip code, but by the cross-hairs of who they belonged to, in the community, and what role they performed, within the community. Being, and doing. Relationship, and responsibility.

Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel, and the governor of Judah. Joshua is the son of Jehozadak, and the high priest.

This is not a general word (though it is one we get to listen in on, two-and-a-half-millennia later; one that still reverberates, and so, has something to say to us). It is a specific word, to specific addressees, at a specific moment.

And I believe that God still speaks like this today. That, notwithstanding the general words and the borrowed words, God has a word for you, on this 26th day of the ninth month of the year 2019. Against the backdrop of the city/town/village where you live; and the nation you live in; and the present, sprawling moment in global politics, with the resurgence of nationalism and the environmental crisis and whatever else is going on. But, to you.

Because, in all the Big Picture, God does not lose sight of you; even when we lose sight of ourselves. God cares, about from whom you come and what you do with the one, precious life given you. And, so caring, God will both affirm and challenge us; will encourage us—literally, give us courage—for the task at hand, whatever that may be.

I don’t claim to be your Haggai, don’t claim to know the specific word God has for you today. But I know it has been spoken. May you receive the grace to hear it.

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