Shake It Up!
Christian Faith is a story of movement.
I heard Brian McLaren speak this past week and these words were part of his key message.
Christian Faith is a story of movement.
Practically every story in scripture is about movement. People moving from one place to another…like Abraham following God’s command to move to a new land, like Jacob moving away from his home afraid of his brother only to return and find forgiveness, like Joseph moving up the chain of command in pharaoh’s court, like David who moved from a shepherd boy to become king of Israel, like Mary and Joseph who moved from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census and then to Egypt to flee Herod and protect the baby Jesus, like Paul who moved from town to town setting up churches to follow God in the way of Jesus. Christian Faith is a story of movement.
Movement is a part of life. We are constantly moving, just like the folks in the stories of scripture. We move from one place to another. We move from one day to the next growing just a bit older and wiser in the process. We move throughout our community each day from home to work and back. We move around our house each morning and evening. Our legs move as we walk. Our arms move as we work. Our eyes move as we look around. Out lungs move in and out as we breath. We are constantly moving.
And movement is, after all, just another word for change. In fact, the word move is defined by the word change – move – to change position, to change or cause to change from one state, opinion or activity to another. Moving implies change.
I said, you and I are constantly moving. And that tells me that change is a fact, a reality at every moment of our life.
There is this saying that the only things that are certain in life are….death and taxes. Well, respectfully, I disagree. First, when there is resurrection then death is never final, never certain. And if the past few years and the upcoming election tell me anything, it is that taxes are far from certain….frankly who knows what will happen. But one thing that I know that is an absolute certainty in life… is change…movement.
God knows this. God created this….this life of constant movement and change. All these stories of movement in the Bible are also stories of change….people changing, leaders changing, ways changing, ideas changing…they are stories of life changing for the people of God.
You see, God compels us to move, especially at the moment we get still and complacent. God compels us to move. And that is what I’d like for us to listen to in the story we will read today. Listen for the way Israel is not moving, not changing. And listen to what God says to inspire them. And listen to what God says God will do to get them to get moving!
Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while [God’s] house lies in ruins? Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
Right here in this story, we read that Israel is complacent. The time is right after the exile and King Cyrus of Persia has come as predicted by Isaiah to allow the Israelites to return to their land, their homes. And they do…and yet they go home and just go about their routine doing a lot of work with little reward barely getting along. Something different, something new, something better is needed. God is keenly aware of this. So God speaks up through the prophet Haggai calling the people to wake up and realize the subsistence of their situation, the complacency of their lives.
Then just a few verses later…(I’m gonna read this time from The Message translation):
Haggai, God’s messenger, preached God’s Message to the people: “I am with you!”
This is how God got Zerubbabel, Joshua, and all the people moving— got them working on the Temple of God.
Wow! The world’s shortest sermon. Haggai comes in, proclaims “brothers, sisters! God is with you!” And everybody gets up and gets to work! Amazing! Can you imagine, the manager, the CEO, the Mayor, the governor….coming in a simply saying to all his or her employees or constituents, .God is with you!” And we all get to work! Sounds a little far fetched for reality.
Now, I know what you are all thinking….your thinking the more amazing thing would be coming in on Sunday morning and hearing me be that brief! Well, I’ll just tell you now that is a little far fetched too….maybe one day I will become as effective a preacher as Haggai….but that day is not hear yet, so you’ll forgive me if I use a few hundred words more than him!
In all seriousness…the key to getting the people to move, the key to getting them to change was reminding them that no matter what, God was with them. Perhaps that is exactly the message we need to be reminded of…
With every changing breath, with every next step, with every new leader, with every anxious heartbeat, every new idea, every different face, every new song, with every little change in our life, in our family, in our church….God is with us! And that is all that we need to move from one place to the next.
A few months later, according to the book of Haggai, the prophet speaks again to the people:
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? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord.
Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
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,
God says…I am gonna shake you up until you get moving because shaking things up is exactly how we get the complacency out of you! You see, complacency, stagnancy, no movement….that is really just death. Those things lead to death. Because life is about moving every second of everyday. Life is movement. Life is change. And if we try to sit back and go through the motions just barely getting by, make no mistake, God will reach right down into our lives and shake us up until we get up and get to work!
- When life gets you down and you want to crawl in a hole and just wait for things to get better, God can reach down and shake your life up with something good to make things better.
- When your job has become dull and routine and meaningless, God can reach down and shake your life up with a fresh perspective, with a new opportunity to bring about something better.
- When you lose someone you care about and the world turns dark or lonely, God can reach down and shake your life with someone else in need of a friend to make things better.
- When your health forces you to stop moving, keeps you at home away from the things you want do and the people you love, God can reach down and shake up your life with a new calling to bring about something better.
Brothers and sisters, this is what God is doing at Hood MCC right now. God has brought us together to shake things up here! God is not going to allow us to be complacent……not with our worship, not with our business, not with our ideas and beliefs…God is not going to allow us to be complacent. Because complacency leads to death.
We must get up and breath, move our lungs in and out, move our legs, our arms, our ideas….we must get up and move! And that means change.
So you and I have an opportunity. We can cross our arms and squint our eyes and try to hold down the fort, resisting change trying to hold the floor steady when the very one who created everything beneath our feet is shaking the floor we walk upon from the very foundation of creation (a feeble task is every there was one!). Or we can embrace the change God is bringing just like Israel did….knowing that God is right here with us no matter what happens. We can get in the flow of change, we can ride the shock waves God is sending us. And we can enjoy the ride knowing that the movement of change makes life possible today and for the future.
The truth is with God and one another at our side, the change, the movement of love and grace right here within this church can be the most joyful and amazing ride of your life!