By Pastor Bryan Niebanck
Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory?Haggai 2:3
It takes all of us. I have been watching the World Series this week, and one of the common things that players say at the end of the game is, “It takes all of us.” Maybe one person’s home run won the game that day, but the home run would not have made a difference if it were not for good pitching, or for the guy getting on base before you, or the batters working up the pitch count ahead of you. It takes the whole team to win. You need both the defense and the offense to perform well. Sometimes, even when the whole team puts in all the work, you still don’t win. There are 29 unsatisfied teams at the end of every baseball season.
Today, we recognize All Saints Day. We know that it takes all of us to create a church. We all do different things around the church. For the church to perform well, we all need to do our own little things well. We can invite someone to church. We can serve on the consistory. We can minister to the children. Whatever you bring to church, and to the community, you are making it better. You can make someone smile every time they see you. We take a few moments today to think about the impact that the saints in our lives have had on us. They made us smile and laugh. They brightened up our lives. They gave us something to look forward to. And still yet, they gave us a legacy that we can learn from and take with us.
Every time I go through my coin collection, I think of those who have helped me to assemble my current collection. I think of my grandparents, especially my mother’s dad who loved collecting coins. I did not have the opportunity to talk to him much about coins, and I wish I could now. But I can thank him for inspiring me to continue to collect even well after he is no longer with us. On All Saints Day I also think of my friend who passed on to me the love for writing letters. She is no longer with us, but because of her, I love writing letters to this day. Those who have gone before us inspire us. They motivate us to keep on going, even when the going gets tough. Their lives encourage us and still amaze us to this day.
Did you know that Jesus often prayed for his disciples? In John 17:21, Jesus prayed, “I pray that they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” Jesus prays for all of us to be one. What does it mean for all of us to be one? Are we one body? We are one body in Christ. Are we one people? We are one people because we follow Christ. Christ does not want us to form divisions among us. Even among people who do not follow Christ, I believe that he wants unity among all people. We are to treat everyone we meet with kindness and hospitality, because in doing so it spreads kindness and good will throughout the world. It takes all of us to create a kind culture. It takes all of us to create a sustained hope.
We read a selection from the prophet Haggai today. Haggai, as with many of the other minor prophets, speak in a time following the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile. The temple still lay in ruins. It was not something that the people had the time or resources to focus on right away. The people returned to Jerusalem around 537 BCE, but the second temple was not completed until about 516 BCE, twenty years after their return. It is in this context that the prophet Haggai asks, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory?” (Haggai 1:3). 516 is 71 years after the exile to Babylon. In these days, it was a rarity to live to be that old. Not many people were old enough to remember what it had been like before, except for what had been described in the law. Yet, dreaming of its former glory, and hoping for its restoration, eventually spurred on the completion of the project so that the second temple ended up having more splendor even than the first, according to God’s promise: “I will fill this house with splendor” (Hag. 2:7). The people got together, knowing that it would take all of them to fulfill God’s promise of restoration.
What do we need to restore today? Is there something in your life that needs restoration? What about in the world? If you do not have an answer to the first, I congratulate you on living a perfect life; that is very hard to do! Is there a relationship that needs restoring? Perhaps a relationship with a sibling, a parent, a child? Perhaps your relationship with God needs to be rekindled? What in your life could use some restoration in this moment? Do you think it will take a lot of energy and commitment? It will probably take all of you.
Just this past month, I realized that I had not talked to certain friends in quite a while. I began feeling a desire to restore some of these connections so that I do not lose them completely, even if it is long-distance. When I was in the Albany area last month, I called up one of my college roommates to meet him, even if it was only for a brief moment. I have tried to be more intentional about calling or texting some of my old friends as well. I recalled that I had a friend in high school who was a big Eagles fan. I sent him a text this week and I found out that he was at the Eagles-Steelers game last weekend. We sent a few texts back and forth. The point is that it is so easy to get lost into our own lives and forget that we wanted to stay in touch with certain people. We have to make an intentional effort to do so. It takes all of us to be successful at it. It takes our mind, soul, heart, and strength to do it well. I have to think about it (mind), I have to care about it (soul), I have to love doing it (heart), and I have to have cared for myself to have the energy to do something about it (strength).
The theme of being church is that we do these things together. Jesus prayed for us as one, together. We can do more when we are together. Christ has assembled each one of us to be here and make a difference in someone else’s life. Our being together was Christ’s idea before it was ours. We are called to follow Christ together even if our oneness is only unified by Christ. Even if we have no other similarities, we find ourselves together as one body that is called church. For together we can do more things than by ourselves. As a group we can do much more than individually. This is why we have been brought together to this place. Remember how the people got together to build the second temple because God brought them together in that place. They knew that it would take all of them to fulfill God’s promise of restoration.
Our world needs restoration today. Some churches call it revival. We can call it restoration. Others can call it renewal. Whatever we call it, we need it. The world needs it. We need to bring hope to a hurting world. And to bring a culture of kindness, it takes all of us. It takes all the saints in our lives who have taught us how to be in this moment. It takes all the lessons that we have learned. It takes you; it takes me. Division is easy. Togetherness is hard. But, again, Jesus wants us to be together. Jesus needs us to love one another. In John 13:35, Jesus tells the disciples this very commandment: “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:35). Through our love toward one another as the church, no matter our difference, no matter our belief, we create the church. We create the community of God in today’s world. We create a culture where God is present. The more of us who make an effort to restore God’s love in this world, the greater God’s glory will be found to be. Jesus prayed for oneness. Let us be one, together with those who are alive, and together with all those who have gone before. May all honor and glory be to God! Thanks be to God. Amen.
2:1 In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:
2:2 Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say,
2:3 Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?
2:4 Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts,
2:5 according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.
2:6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land;
2:7 and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.
2:8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts.
2:9 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.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
2:1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,
2:2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.
2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
2:5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?
2:13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2:14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.
2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope,
2:17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him
20:28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.
20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;
20:30 then the second
20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.
20:32 Finally the woman also died.
20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
20:34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;
20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”