More Than What Could Have Been

Haggai 2:1-9

In their weakness, God told His remnant to be strong, not because the outlook was bright in the eyes of the here-and-now, but because through eyes of faith they could see God’s work as good as done. Be strong! I don’t know what your horizon looks like now, but I do know that God says to you, “Be strong!” Why? God is with you; God is on your side. His Spirit remains in your midst, dwelling in you as His temple through faith. Will God not protect, preserve, and prosper His temple, His sanctuary?

Fear not! You have the new covenant, the Body and the Blood of the Lamb, that purifies you from all sin and seals your for a better day, a day that may look far off in the eyes of the here-and-now but that is as good and done through eyes of faith. The Lord is the Lord of hosts. He is the Lord who takes what we have ruined and rebuilds it stronger than it was before. He is the Lord who uses us in the process, even after we have already shown how insufficient we are for the task. For right though we may be about our insufficiency, Christ changes everything.

Are you surrounded by the rubble of a broken life? Does everything you see remind you of what you could have been or once were? Well, look through God’s eyes, for the rubble of God’s people is His pile of living stones to be built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). Our could-a-beens and once-weres are mere shadows of things to come, better things than we ever could have created or become by our own power.

God still comes to His people in their weakness and says, “Be strong! Fear not!” He told that to His exiled remnant returning to rebuild the Temple. He told that to His frightened disciples, hiding in an upper room, as He showed them His pierced hands and side. He tells us now through the gospel in Word and Sacrament. He will tell us the same on the Last Day when He gathers us on His right. “Fear not! Be strong!”

Has the cross weighed heavy on us? Look to His cross, and remember that it’s the utmost sign of His love. Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” Perhaps those words resonate…and sting. The cross does that. It humbles us. It strips us of our delusions, robs us of our platitudes, flushes our religious pills. It does all this and leaves us with nothing…but God in Jesus. And that’s the best place to be, because there we find the Absolution, the Word of Life, true hope, and an inheritance that won’t spoil or fade.

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.  And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.” God robs us of our glory to give us His, and He glories in nothing like mercy, and it’s in and for His mercy that we glory in Him, so that we boast of Christ and Him crucified, so that we live free from all the places we looked for glory before, ransomed from slavery to the idols we can’t help but make without the one true God, enlightened to see the world and what we have in it as gifts and not gods, means and not ends.

Familiar with the cross? Heavy laden? Desperate for what once was or frantic for the future? To those, and to us, Christ comes and speaks, “Be not afraid, I forgive you. Be strong.” To those He gives peace in Word and Sacrament. Peace now which surpasses understanding (and it does all too often seem unbelievable, and yet it’s still ours even then), and peace then which will have no end.

“And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” We find that peace in a Bethlehem manger, come to us, since we can’t and wouldn’t come to Him. We find that peace with water, bread, and wine. That peace will come again to find us and bring us to His glorious house, full through His emptying of Himself upon His cross. We are more than what could have been.

Wade Johnston

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