Haggai 1:15b-2:9, Psalm 145, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38
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 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, 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? 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, 5 according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. 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; 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. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts. 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.
2nd Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 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. 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. 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. 5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?
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. 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. 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. 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, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 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. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;
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. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 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. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
What Did You Say?
Last week we celebrated All Saints’ Day. Derek Weber, the Director of Discipleship Ministries, shares a vision of saints as read in Psalm 149 that is uplifting as we prepare for today’s message. Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. 2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
In verse 3. the saints of God are those who accept the invitation to dance. A saint is one who knows something of the joy of living, even in the hardest moments of life. A saint is someone who knows something of the exuberance of praise, even when tears fall like rain and sweat falls like great drops of blood. Today, I wanted to lift up our saints once more as we consider what it means to praise God.
When I think of praise and joy, I see Jesus smiling and moving to the music of life. Through my preparation for this week’s service, I discovered a new song. “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” is a traditional English carol that says that Jesus invites us all to join in the dance. In his own voice and with his life, Jesus calls all to dance with joy for this gift of life eternal. It creates a similar feeling to Lord of the Dance. In the verses, the text tells the story of Jesus’ life, and then the chorus is a celebration.
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day; / I would my true love did so chance / To see the legend of my play, / To call my true love to my dance; Sing, oh! my love, this have I done for my true love.
In our OT passage, we join the Israelites following their return from exile in Babylon, the people of God have much work to do to restore the city of Jerusalem. The victims of natural disasters come to mind. Haggai is one of the prophets sent by God to encourage them. God promises future material blessings for the people and a time of peace. Think about a time when you relied upon God’s promises for the future. How did your faith in God’s provision keep you focused on the long-term goal? When I look at following a long-term goal, Abraham always comes to mind. Well into his old age, a time when you should be able to take it easy, God calls Abram into a new service and a new life to birth a new nation: a nation of God’s chosen people.
We mustn’t forget that God promises us life everlasting! Hallelujah! The prophets share the revelations of God to bring hope to God’s people. For what do we hope: Peace, Love, Mercy? God promises to be with us always and to provide for us. What must we do to receive this gift? We must choose to accept this gift and blessing. We choose by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. God does not guarantee that our lives will be challenge-free, but we are so blessed because God promises to be with us always: in good times and in bad times.
When we accept Christ, we are called to service. Not for a day, but for our lives. Through our baptism, our former self dies and we become new. Again I think of Abraham, In Second Thessalonians, Paul addresses a group that is disturbed because they think they have missed the return of Christ. Can you imagine them asking each other, “did we miss it” Surely he has come by now! He assures them that they have not missed the time and tells them to persevere in their faith. I think that most of you will agree that waiting is hard. Take a moment and engage your senses: Think of fresh bread baking in the oven! Can you smell it? The aroma alone is enough to make our mouths water. We try to peek into the oven without disturbing the baking. As we wait, the time ticks by ever so slowly. If we simply sit and wait for the bread to bake, it seems it will never be done, and what have we missed doing? Perhaps we could be writing cards of encouragement for someone or completing one of the many tasks on our to-do list.
Jesus never tells us to sit and wait for his return. We are given glimpses of our eternal glory, but there is so much still to do in this life as we “practice” learning to walk as Jesus walked. As the Holy Spirit works within us and through us we continue to work to get it right as we gather in the lost sheep. As we work to build a better day here and now, we know that one day we will all join together at the heavenly banquet table. We are not simply biding our time until our earthly walk is complete, we must strive for more peace and mercy in this life. The glimpses of glory provide us with a vision of hope. Like smelling the bread baking in the oven, we know that the best is yet to come as we approach our dancing day.
Have you ever asked someone a question where you felt as if your question wasn’t answered? In fact, you felt as if the one giving the answer purposely “changed the subject. I am reminded of a mentor who spent much time helping us to ask the right question. It wasn’t that he couldn’t answer the question we asked, but it was the wrong question because it would not provide the information that was needed. After a battery of “ineffective” questions, finally, someone would ask the “right” question, and our mentor would say, “that is a great question!” In the parable in Luke, we read about some Sadducees who don’t understand the resurrection. They can only imagine it as an extension of earthly life, so they ask Jesus about marriage in the resurrection. Jesus wants to expand their thinking so he redirects the conversation to focusing on God as the God of the living. Instead of answering the “ineffective” question that was meant to cause debate, he gives an answer to bring an understanding that all who believe will live in eternity. Jesus presents his message and meaning within the tradition of Moses, (making a connection to which they can understand) making a case that if the God of their ancestors is indeed the God of the living, then those ancestors are certainly alive in God’s presence. For me, this brings to mind a poem by Langston Hughes.
Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.
Music is about more than playing the right notes. It is the relationship between the notes, the dance of the sounds in the air, and their movement across our ears. It is lively, moving, and beautiful. As a young piano student, I was first taught to read and play exactly what was on the page, but that is not what music is. When it comes down to it, you must play with your soul, not just with your hands. In Jesus’ response to the Sadducees, Jesus reminds them that the law is there for our earthly existence (our starting point), but in our heavenly existence, we must consider how the music (God’s children) lives
and breathe, in this life and the resurrection. It is fair to ask, how can the law point towards a living God if it does not live? Jesus tells one reluctant follower, “Let the dead, bury the dead!” We rejoice in the resurrection because the dead can die no more.
The heart of today’s message is about praising God. In Paul’s first letter to the people of Thessalonica, he reminds his young followers of God’s will in their lives. Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I believe that this sets the tone for today’s Psalm 145 begins
145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
145:2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless the Lord. Every day? Yes, every day. What about the days I regret, the days when everything goes wrong, when I make bad choices or fall into bad circumstances? Every day.
What about the days when it seems like the world is too broken to fix? What about the days when loving my neighbors seems impossible because I can’t stand some of those neighbors and the ways they choose to live? What about the days when I get disgusted reading social media because everyone’s opinion seems so wrong? Those days too? Every day.
Undoubtedly, Praise is easy when things are good. Wow! Thank You! Let’s be honest; there are days when praise is easy. It just pours out of us. Think of the beautiful days we have seen this week! With all of the trees are showing off their myriad of colors, it is easy to shout Praise God! In this case, we are giving praise in response to something and this is good, but Psalm 145 challenges us to do even more. In vs. 2 David is talking about praise as a way of life, a purposeful act. Every day I will bless the Lord is a decision and not a reaction. Every day.
As the Psalm continues,
145:3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
145:4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
145:5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
we find a to-do list of ways to fulfill our decision to live a life of praise.
- meditate on God’s works,
- seek God’s justice,
- feel God’s nearness,
- listen for answers to prayer.
All these ways can keep us sharing our praises, purposeful, intentional praise, even on the days we don’t feel like it.
The Good News is that God is with us always, and God is worthy of praise. With God by our side, we live in the hope of possibilities that exceed our imagination as promised by God. God is offering us an invitation to dance with joy, “Dance, then, wherever you may be for Jesus is Lord!” And all God’s people say, Amen!
This is my story, this is my song. Praising my savior, all the day long.