I am caught by the words of Haggai in this week’s lectionary reading. “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now?” (1:3)
Did you ever feel like asking that question to the church today? I know I have, every time somebody wistfully pines for the glory days when everybody went to church and the world was so much better than it is now and no one ever did anything wrong and the pews were full every Sunday and the budgets were being met every year without any problem and all families were functional and so forth. It is an understandable nostalgia, and not at all unique to this present time. Everyone has their own “good old days.”
And so it is a prophetic facet of the pastoral calling to ask the church, “How does it look to you now?” Not to discount the past – far from it! It is actually a way to honor the past, by building upon what has happened in order to continue the project. It starts with understanding that all we do is foundation work, that the project will only be completed in the fullness of time, God’s time, the kairos time of eternity. And as foundation work, there are a couple of ways we could go.
We can either step back and congratulate ourselves, “What a nifty foundation we have built,” or we can continue the construction work toward finishing the house.
Haggai wrote, “The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts,” and I believe that with all my heart. Like Dan Kimball writes in The Emerging Church, it is never time to just rest on our accomplishments and think we have found the way to do things. That’s why the emerging church is always emerging. Critics of the emerging movement miss the point when they snidely ask, “Okay, so it’s emerging. But when will it be emerged?”
That’s just it – as long as the world is what it is, the church will always be emerging. So the question will always be, “How does it look to you now?” Building on the past and allowing God to be in charge of the future, it is an act of faith to be mindful of the present and honestly answer this important question.