Cecilia, visiting from The Sanctuary Covenant Church, challenged Woodland Hills to look back in order to gain insight about what might lie ahead for us. Are our best days behind us, or is our best yet to come? She argued the latter by referring to a passage in Haggai that deals with rebuilding Solomon’s temple. The new temple was far less grand than the original, yet the promise of God remained: this temple’s glory would exceed that of Solomon’s. Its best was yet to come, but the remnant, like Woodland Hills, could only believe this by faith—trusting that God would accomplish the promise.
Once again we were blessed to have the message delivered to us from a representative of The Sanctuary, a Growing in the Spirit partner church planted just over a year ago by Efrem Smith. Consistent with Efrem’s message a few weeks ago, Cecilia Williams challenged us to look back in order to gain insight about what might lie ahead. Efrem’s message focused on the genealogy of Jesus as found in Matthew, and he helped us see that the lineage of Jesus makes room for us all regardless of where we come from. This points us toward an inclusive destiny that embraces everyone.
Cecilia’s message began with a reflection on her birthday, a common time of reflection, analysis, and evaluation. She wonders what else might have been. But not just that, she also wonders what lies ahead… Here she showed a movie clip where Jack Nicholson’s character, an obsessive-compulsive man, barges unannounced into his psychiatrist’s office and cries out, “What if this is as good as it gets?!” Several other patients in the waiting room gasp, as if the question strikes them particularly hard.
Cecilia had us wrestle with this for a moment. What if this is as good as it gets? What if it never gets any better than this present struggle? What if my best is behind me—and what if that “best” wasn’t really all that great? Beyond our personal state of affairs, Cecilia mentioned the ominous nature of things both on the global and local scale. What if this is as good as it gets? With these thoughts in mind, we were guided to the story Haggai.
In Haggai 2:3-9, it’d been 50 years since Solomon’s temple had been destroyed and the people were driven into exile, but the “remnant of God” had made its way back to Jerusalem. Here God instructs them through the prophet Haggai to rebuild the temple. God seems indignant that the faithful have not moved more quickly on this project. God had already made it possible for the people to rebuild their own homes and now it was time, perhaps past time, to rebuild the temple. Perhaps the people were discouraged due to the daunting task of rebuilding such a structure: how could they construct a temple that even remotely resembles the riches, majesty and sheer presence of the one Solomon built? How could they return to anything like the glory days of the original temple?
Cecilia pointed out that four times God offers consolation and encouragement. Four times the message is “fear not!” The calling is difficult, but the promise is that God’s Spirit would be with them to empower the work. Cecilia pointed out that as soon as we get the message that we can’t do this on our own, it is then that we are ready to build—with God’s help. We will have God’s help, but we still have work to do, and part of the “work” required of us is to believe God! (John 6:28)
Cecilia granted that the temple built by the remnant was far less grand than Solomon’s, but yet the promise of God remained: this temple’s glory would exceed that of Solomon’s. It was not the physical presence of the temple that was more glorious to the human eye, but rather the presence of the Son of God that would dwell in and teach from that temple! Christ taught the people of God from that very place! Its best was truly yet to come, though the remnant could only believe this by faith—trusting that God would accomplish the promise.
We too might wonder if our best days are behind us. But the message this morning is that the best is yet to come! Of course, eternity will bring with it the end of all pain and suffering and that is good news and a powerful promise, but God has bigger and better things for this life as well! Jesus came to bring life, and life here and how to the fullest! Like the temple, we too have the promise of God fulfilled in us by the presence of Christ dwelling in us, not just in heaven, but here on earth as well!
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