Haggai 1:7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared.”
MSNBC correspondent David Gregory was asked what he planned to say at an upcoming commencement address. “Just be yourself,” he replied, “unless that’s not working for you.” I thought that was very funny. I also thought it was wise. “Just be yourself” is a platitude—kind of an updated version of the advice that Shakespeare’s Polonius gave to Laertes: “To thine own self be true.”
But that platitude only becomes wisdom when the self we’re dealing with has its act together. When we have learned some self-control; when we have learned to examine how our own actions and re-actions play a role in how we experience life; when we have learned to accept responsibility and treat others with respect…then just being ourselves is helpful. In the meantime, there are folks both doing hard time and having a hard time because just being themselves didn’t work for them.
I think the prophet Haggai is saying something similar to those who have returned from exile in Babylon and are struggling to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Haggai is called one of the “minor prophets” and his book is only three chapters long, but it bears noting that Haggai is one of the few prophets who actually convinced the people to behave differently and to change their ways.
I think his words, “Consider how you have fared,” with which he both begins and ends his little book, are part of the reason. He doesn’t just rail down condemnation on the people. He invites them to self-reflection. Consider how you have fared. Consider how you have been living your life. Is it working for you? Is squabbling amongst yourselves getting the Temple rebuilt? Is worrying about who you’re working with accomplishing the goal? Maybe you’re just being yourselves, but is that working for you? It’s a helpful line of thinking for individuals, but also for the Church.
Perhaps the word for the Church today is not the depression of Jeremiah or the woe-to-you of Amos but the reflective call of Haggai. Church, consider how you have fared. Is doing it the way you’ve always done it producing revitalized congregations? Is refusing to ordain women strengthening your parishes? Is worrying about people of the same gender loving each other moving the cause of Christ forward in the world? Has the intense influence of religious groups in government made our nation more Christ-like? Has the behavior of the Church in the last 50 years made it more respected? Has it made the world more like the Kingdom of God? Church, Consider how you have fared.
Help us, God, to look inward as well as outward and to consider if this is the life to which you call us. Amen.
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