Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"The Latter Shall Be Greater Than the Former"

Haggai 2: 1-9

Psalm 84: 1-4, 10-12

      This morning, we’re going to delve into a short book by one whom we call a “minor prophet.”

His name is Haggai.  Unlike some other prophetic books of the Bible -- wherein the authorship

and time of composition are matters of scholarly debate -- there is no question about the whom

and when of this book.  Haggai was clearly the source, although it appears he had a scribe or editor

do the actual writing for him.  While we don’t know anything about Haggai’s personal background,

we do know that he was called by God to help lead the Jewish people in the restoration of the

temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  The entirety of Haggai’s

prophecy was written in the year 520 B.C. during the reign of King Darius of Persia, under the

regional governorship of Zerubbabel, and at the time of the priesthood of Joshua, son of Jehozadak. 

At the point of Haggai’s prophecy, there was no progress evident in the restoration of the temple. 

Yet within five years, by 515 B.C, the new temple had been completed.  In some ways,

this morning’s passage parallels our own situation here at Central as we await the restoration of

this sanctuary; of this temple of God.  As of today, there is no physical progress in our restoration. 

Yet within a few months, we trust that restoration will have been completed.  Let’s now turn to

the prophecy of Haggai.

          (Read Haggai 2:1-9)

      I don’t know about you all, but I’m a little nervous.  Here are some things that have me on

edge.  Will the work of this restoration be done on time, and within budget? Will we raise the

rest of the funds we need so we don’t have to take on debt?  Will our summer attendance be

negatively impacted?  Will I be freaked out preaching from a podium in the center of a big stage?

Will everyone be able to hear me okay?  How will Leigh live without the organ?  How will you feel

about coming forward to take communion by intinction over the next two months?  Will everyone

love it when the work is completed?  I’m sure some of you share these very same concerns. 

     It appears Haggai had some concerns as well about the restoration of the temple.  Chief among

them was how the Lord felt about the temple lying in ruins while the people hurried off to what

Haggai called their “paneled houses.”  Another thing which made Haggai nervous was whether

folks remembered the former beauty and glory of God’s house, and hence could catch a vision for

its rebuilding.  On the practical side, he – like us – was concerned with funding and supply of necessary building materials.

  And on top of everything else, Haggai was speaking truth to power. 

There is always a risk in that. 

      Yet in spite of all Haggai’s nervousness and edginess regarding the start of this work and his

role in it, there is a reassurance from the Lord.  God calls Haggai to speak to the governor, the

priest, and the people at large, reminding them of God’s steady and ongoing presence; a promise

first made to the Hebrews when they were released from Egyptian captivity, and led through the

wilderness to the promised land.  Through the prophet, God assures the people:  “take courage…..

for I am with you….. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.”  I don’t know about you, but I

myself need that assurance as we prepare to move from these familiar surroundings to a strange

worship environment. 

      God then follows up spiritual assurances with practical ones:  “Once again, in a little while, I

will shake the heavens and the earth and sea and the dry land……. so that the treasure of all

nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor.”  God is saying in effect, I will see to it

that every provision you need will come to you; from here; from there; from everywhere.  Because,

after all, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.”  That is both an assurance and a reminder that

 we need as we stand on the threshold of our own temple restoration;  that God is ultimately and

always the supplier, and will provide for all our needs of materials, skills, and funds for the project.

      Then the word Haggai needed -- and the word we need -- to hear the most:  “The latter splendor of this house

shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

”  We are indeed blessed with a most beautiful temple in this 113 year-old sanctuary. 

But our 113 year-old pews are splintering, coming up from the floor,

and breaking apart.  And while I’m privileged to have one of the most comfortable seats in the

house on Sundays, I’m well aware that sitting on those funky old, bunched-up pew cushions is

about as comfortable as sitting on a sack of buckeyes.  Our near sixty year-old carpeting is not only

less than clean and beautiful, but is bunching up and tearing apart posing a significant tripping

hazard.  Our lighting, while minimally sufficient, has some of us wondering if we may need cataract

surgery, or a new eyeglass prescription.  There’s nothing like a sharp pop or crack, that causes us to

jump out of our skin, to remind us that our present sound system has seen better days.  And while

we may not have the most unattractive, congested, and uncomfortable church entry area in the

city,  we’re certainly in the running.  Yet along with Haggai and his contemporaries some 2500

years ago, we are assured today that the “latter” restoration, which will come from God’s hand and

through God’s means, will eclipse the “former.”  And beyond that, as we are faithful – keeping God

always at the center of our efforts and at the heart of our devotion – God will prosper us.  That sure

helps calm my fears and apprehensions.  I pray it does the same for you.

      Isn’t it fitting that on this last Sunday in this soon-to-be restored temple, we celebrate the holy

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?  For what do the table and the elements upon it remind us of?

They remind us of God’s steady and abiding presence; that as we move into the building phase of

Vision 21.1, the Lord is present with us in both word and sacrament, wherever we proclaim and

observe; steadying our nerves; assuaging our apprehension; soothing our fears with the words

Jesus spoke just before His ascension into heaven:  “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Indeed, the Lord is present with us in and through the loaf and cup on this table. 

      The table and its elements remind us that God’s grace is freely offered.  And part of God’s gracious provision

is to call us to the responsibility, and to confer upon us the privilege of maintaining this beautiful house of worship;

granting us the ways and the means to accomplish it, which are ultimately God’s to begin with. 

God gives sacrificially to us – even the very body and blood of God’s Son – then calls us to give sacrificially of ourselves

in response to another piece of that Great Commission prior to Jesus’ ascension:  “Go therefore and make disciples

of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching

them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

      Finally, we’re reminded at table and in the Sacrament that we are community.  In this project of

restoring God’s house – just as it was in Haggai’s day and community – we join our prayers, our

visions, our energies, and our resources to the end of honoring and glorifying the One we serve.

      So on that note, and for the time being, we bring one chapter to a close as we prepare to open

yet another.  And we now celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as both an act of closure,

and as an assurance that we’ll reopen to the promise that “The latter splendor of this house shall

be greater than the former.”  Amen.

 

 

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102