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Leap In Faith!
November 12, 1995

HAGGAI 2:1-9

Iím grateful to the Boehm family for sharing this morning how our church helps them on their spiritual journey. Don and Cathie Boehm joined our church in April. Chris and Kim are in the confirmation class, and will be confirmed next month. It is not easy for a family to pull up roots and move to a new community where they experience new schools, new neighbors, new customs. It is not easy to put down roots, and find a church. To decide on a church, believing the new church can help them on their spiritual journey and provide opportunities for them to serve God, is a major decision. They leaped in faith.

General William Westmoreland was once reviewing a platoon of paratroopers in Vietnam. As he went down the line, he asked, "How do you like jumping?" "Love it, sir!" was the first answer. "The greatest experience in my life, sir!" was the second answer. But, the third one answered, "I hate it, sir!" "Then, why do you do it?" asked the General. "Because I want to be around guys who love to jump."

I donít imagine most of us like to leap from planes. Imagine the faith it takes to leap: faith in the parachute; faith in the pilot to release you over safe ground; faith in the wind currents. I donít imagine most of us like to leap in faith. We probably prefer our lives to be secure, dependable, predictable, and comfortable. Beth Fretz shared a quote by David Lloyd George: Donít be afraid to take big steps. You canít cross a chasm in two small jumps. Often we come to chasms in our lives. We might prefer to stay on one side and die; but the future is beyond the chasm, and to reach that future requires not two small steps, but a giant leap in faith.

In the scripture lesson read this morning, the prophet Haggai urged the people to rebuild the temple. The Babylonians conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the magnificent Solomonís Temple, and carried off the leaders into captivity. Some 60 years later, the Persians conquered Babylonia and kindly King Darius allowed the Jews to go home, back to Jerusalem. There they found the temple in ruins. Haggai urged them to leap in faith, and rebuild the temple. He asked them, "Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory?"

When King Solomon built the temple, we read in 1 Kings 6:21-22, Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, then he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. Next he overlaid the whole house with gold. Truly, the temple must have been a magnificent structure. Haggai urged the people to remember the house in its former glory.

In your own life, and in the history of your family, surely there are days of former glory--events, awards, achievements of which you are particularly proud. Perhaps you were a football star, or your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, or someone mined gold, or you were a teacher with scores of grateful pupils, or just last week or last year, you won an award. Perhaps your parents drove their car proudly with the bumper sticker, My child is an honor student. Have you seen the bumper sticker, My kid beat up your honor student? Surely, we all have memories of former glory.

Our congregation has memories of former glory. We are rightly proud of the monumental achievement of relocating the congregation from downtown, and building this magnificent edifice, largely with volunteer labor, 40 years ago. I am told of the former glory of youth groups, where they went on work projects, conducted Sunday worship services, acted in Floyd Tuftís plays. We have memories of former glory, but what do we do with them?

Haggai challenged his people to remember the temple in its former glory. For what purpose? To build a new temple. Haggai challenged his people not to dwell on their memories of former glory, but to build on those memories! In your own life, and in our congregationís life, donít dwell on the memories with nostalgia and wringing hands. But, build on the memories of greatness. Look on the former glory not as the good old days that are gone forever, but as a spring board, a trampoline, to leap in faith into the future.

There are two stances we can take in the face of the future. One way to meet the future is to be reactive, to react to whatever happens, to accept whatever we conceive to be inevitable. Que se ra se ra, whatever will be, will be, and thereís not much we can do about it. Usually they with this stance approach tomorrow by being passive, or by kicking and screaming as they are dragged into the future, catapulted across the chasm, or left passively behind.

The other stance we can take in the face of the future is to be proactive, not to accept the future, but to create the future. We can actively decide what that future will be and set out to accomplish the dream. A woman scientist attended a church seminar, and gave this evaluation.

These are wonderful leaders. As a group you are incredibly bright and talented. Iíve never heard any group that is so knowledgeable of the kind of issues you discuss with each other...But, everything you talk about is in the past. Itís the past that you are so expert in discussing. Itís the churchís past that you are so knowledgeable of. But I donít think Iíve heard anyone discuss the future. Where is your church going in this exciting time? What kind of new future are you going to create?

Our congregation has a bright future, and we are setting out to create it. We are challenged to bring a Minister of Discipleship to our staff. We are deeply committed to the children, youth, and families of Merced. We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ has answers for todayís problems. We want to create a future that is biblically based with Christ at the center. Now, how do we leap in faith, and accomplish the future about which we dream and for which we hope?

Haggai tells us. Haggai challenged his people not to dwell on memories of former glory, but to build on them, and, specifically, to build a new temple, to leap in faith. And, he told them how to leap.

1) 2:4, Take courage. Creating the future is not for the weak kneed! Creating the future is not for cowards. Take courage. Believe. Trust. Take risks, not take care, but take risks. Receive from God the gift of faith, and courageously believe. Do you have the courage to believe in our churchís future? Do you have the courage to take a leap in faith, and begin to tithe, to trust God so deeply that you will contribute, not out of your abundance, but out of the substance God has given you?

2) Haggai said, Work. Thatís an old fashioned word, isnít it. Work. Creating the future requires work. Little is handed to us on a silver platter. The honor student should not dwell on days of former glory, but, with work, can go on to even greater accomplishments. With hard work by all of us, we will achieve even greater accomplishments, and create an effective, excellent ministry. Hippocrates wrote centuries ago, Prayer is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand. When we went on trips as a child, I enjoyed reading the Burma Shave signs. Remember them? Every few yards, the next phrase in the ditty would appear. Hereís one:

Sitting still and wishing

makes no person great.

The good Lord sends the fishing

but you must dig the bait.

3) Haggai promised, I am with you, says the Lord of hosts..My spirit abides among you; do not fear. How can we fail when the Lord is with us? Not only will the Lord be with us, but there is a promise to those who leap. Haggai 2:7, 9 I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts...The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts. The days of glory are not in the past, they are yet ahead. Donít dwell on the former glory. Build on the former glory, for the future is indeed bright. The future splendor shall be greater than the former. And, we shall prosper. In this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

Letís claim the promise. Take courage and work for the future, because the Lord is with us. Letís leap in faith!

ã 1995 Douglas I. Norris