Work Left Undone
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider how you have fared… You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.” – Haggai 1:7-9 (NRSV)
The book of Haggai is about what to do when high hopes are dashed.
The faithful had long prayed for an end to their exile. And when it came, it was so sudden it was hard to believe. But soon, troubles found them again. Their hopes for a season of joy and rebirth were scattered by a dose of reality. Their hearts were broken. Why was this happening?
God explained: the people were not yet finished working. They had counted their homecoming as complete before that was really true. Because the building of the Temple—the most important work of all—was left unfinished. “Finish the work” God said, “only then can your hopes flourish.” The people were weary, but God strengthened them.
I write this as Covid-19 is making a huge resurgence. Across the country, school plans and church plans and family plans are all up in the air again. Hopes for a season of joy and rebirth are being scattered. I think of all we have been through, and my heart breaks. Why is this happening?
Then I remember the prophet Haggai. And I know that the work of caring for the vulnerable—the most important work of all—is left unfinished. And with a sigh full of deep understanding, I hear a voice. “Finish the work” God says, “only then can your hope flourish.”
God, we are weary. Give us the strength to do what must be done.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.