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Things Will Get Better

A Lent Reflection for Wednesday, March 20 by Pastor Mary Peterson

Lectionary reading for 03/20/2023: Psalm 119:9-16; Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; John 12:34-50

Selected passage for reflection: Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23


Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 The Message

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Word of God came through the prophet Haggai: “Tell Governor Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak and all the people: ‘Is there anyone here who saw the Temple the way it used to be, all glorious? And what do you see now? Not much, right?

“‘So get to work, Zerubbabel!’—God is speaking.

“‘Get to work, Joshua son of Jehozadak—high priest!’

“‘Get to work, all you people!’—God is speaking.

“‘Yes, get to work! For I am with you.’ The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is speaking! ‘Put into action the word I covenanted with you when you left Egypt. I’m living and breathing among you right now. Don’t be timid. Don’t hold back.’

“This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies said: ‘Before you know it, I will shake up sky and earth, ocean and fields. And I’ll shake down all the godless nations. They’ll bring bushels of wealth and I will fill this Temple with splendor.’ God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.

    ‘I own the silver,

    I own the gold.’

        Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

“‘This Temple is going to end up far better than it started out, a glorious beginning but an even more glorious finish: a place in which I will hand out wholeness and holiness.’ Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”


I’ve spent the past 25 years serving in a variety of churches- a new church plant in the best part of town, an old, established church in an urban setting, a small suburban congregation surrounded by Starbucks, a historic congregation in a medium sized town. It’s been an adventure! Through each of these gatherings I have seen God work in the lives of the people and observed the ripple effects of God’s transforming power through communities. I have also listened to many people lament that the church has changed so much. 

“It isn’t the same as it used to be.”

“I don’t recognize the church anymore.” 

“I just wish we could get back to the way it was.” 

In this passage from Haggai, God’s people find themselves looking at the ruins of what they used to love. Their place of worship has been ransacked and the few people who have chosen to return from the exile are focused on rebuilding their homes- not the communal place of worship. No doubt the religious leaders must have been wringing their hands:

“We need more volunteers- especially young people.”

“Our capital campaign fund is not growing quickly enough.”

“Does the neighborhood even care that we are here?”

We are so quick to forget the promises of God for the people. Throughout the story of God, we see God reveal the plan to continuously recreate the world and draw people back to Godself. God has the plan, but we often lack the imagination to grasp the vision. And yet God continues to give the invitation to “get to work.” Eugene Peterson paraphrases the instruction from God in this way: “Put into action the word I covenanted with you when you left Egypt.” God tells Moses that the cries of the people have been heard and that God is preparing a place beyond their wildest dreams. After they were freed from Egypt, God began to help them see what God had planned for all of  humanity. The commands Moses receives on Sinai help the people know how to respond to God and how to respond to one another. God is building something and the people are invited to participate. 

Many years later, God’s people had experienced many ups and downs of life, but they are reminded to continue working to create spaces that draw all people into the love of God and the love of the community. The prophet Haggai reminds the people that God is inviting them to participate in this holistic work that will be more glorious than anyone can imagine. 

We need this reminder today as we continue to see churches in North America in decline. Even though it may not be as “good” as we remember, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. God’s invitation to participate in the transformation of this world is not one we should pass up because we lack imagination and cling to nostalgia. The world is a different place than it was last week, but people are still longing to feel whole and good. God’s work of transformation is still happening- and we are invited to join in the mission of God. 


Spend a few moments thinking about how your faith community has changed in recent years. How do you see God moving in the midst of those changes? Where do you feel invited to join in the work of God through the communities you engage with? What might God be calling you to imagine and how can you get to work to help that vision become reality?


God, thank you for your faithfulness through all of the ups and downs of life. May your Spirit breathe life into each place we find ourselves gathered with others. Give us your imagination and help us to be courageous enough to get to work. May we experience wholeness and holiness in the communities you gather. Amen. 

About the Author 

Mary Peterson lives right outside of Beaumont, Texas, with her husband, two teenagers and two cats. She is passionate about the beach, drinking coffee and traveling. Mary serves as Senior Pastor of a precious church called Providence Church and is completing her Doctorate of Ministry at Fuller Seminary. 

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