Week of Proper 20: Thursday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

Priorities, Temporal and Eternal

SEPTEMBER 28, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Haggai 1:1-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, this word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  These people say, “The time has not yet come for rebuilding the House of the Lord.”

And the word of the LORD through the prophet Haggai continued:

Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins?  Now thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Consider how you have been faring!  You have sowed much and brought in little; you eat without being satisfied; you drink without getting your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one gets warm; and he who earns anything earns it for a leaky purse.

Thus said the said the LORD of Hosts:

Consider how you have fared:  Go up to the hills and get timber, and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified

–said the LORD.

Psalm 149 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat

and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples;

8 To bind their kings in chains

and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed;

this is the glory for all his faithful people.


Luke 9:7-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.  But Herod said,

John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this that I hear such reports about?

And he was anxious to see him.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I leave the consideration of the reading from Luke to the related posts.  Instead, I focus on the lesson from Haggai here.

The oracle is dated August 29, 520 B.C.E., according to our Gregorian Calendar.  This date falls within the second year of the reign of King Darius I, who has just consolidated his power after a civil war.  Almost nineteen years have passed since King Cyrus II permitted Jews in Babylonia to return to their ancestral homeland, and the temple is still in ruins.

There are socio-political factors to consider.  For example, one did not just begin to construct a temple when one felt like it.  No, this was the responsibility of a king–in this case, Darius I.  Such an undertaking bestowed prestige on its sponsor.  Such subtleties may be lost on modern readers.  In fact, I had to look up all this information in The Jewish Study Bible.  One may assume that ancient Jewish readers of the text would have understood these facts.

The message of this text, however, is that the reconstruction of the Temple is essential to prosperity for the returned exiles.  It is a question of priorities, Haggai reports; do you value the temporal more than the eternal?

By eternal I mean “of God.”  This has nothing to do with time and is not restricted to the afterlife.  So eternal life, for example, is life in God.  As the Gospel of John defines it (in 17:3), eternal life is “to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

That which we sow we also reap.  The Gospels tell us this.  So, with this thought in mind, reconsider these words from Luke 6:20b-26, the Beatitudes and Woes and from the Sermon on the Plain:

How happy are you who are poor:  yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy you who are hungry now:  you will be satisfied.

Happy you who weep now:  you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich:  you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now:  you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now:  you shall moun and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

(The Jerusalem Bible)

Then read the section from Haggai again, noticing the similarities.

I write these words during a time of global recession brought about by the  irresponsible fiscal policies of a relative few people.  Prosperity is good, especially when it is widespread, permitting people to be financially independent.  There is always plenty for everybody in God’s economy, but artificial scarcity seems to be part of human economic systems.  This is sinful; there is no other way to state the matter.

But let us look upon the current dire straights as opportunities for setting and pursuing righteous goals, for establishing eternal priorities.  And may our Lord and Savior, per Luke, be our guide.  May we seek what we need for ourselves and others, but not luxury.  May we take this opportunity to simplify our appetites and lifestyles, as God directs us.  May we seek that which lasts–that treasure which moth and rust can never destroy.  And may we find prosperity of a sort no economic downturn can affect, because this wealth is not of this world.

And so may we find true liberation.



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