Connections 11.06.2022: Looking Back and Working Toward

Haggai 1:12–2:9

For the past several Sundays, the church my family attends has been gearing up for a time of visioning: where are we being called in the months and years ahead? As part of this discernment, there is a timeline on the sanctuary walls showing big events since the church was started in the 1960s. We’ve heard presentations from ministry leaders, and interviews with longtime members about their fondest and most faith-building recollections from the past sixty years.

In the Old Testament, Haggai is one of the prophets who communicate God’s messages to the people of Israel after the Babylonian exile, as the people return to Judah. The promises, reassurance, and reconciliation the people have been praying for are finally a reality. They get to go back to their land. They get to get back to their lives. And now they must get to work rebuilding the temple.

To prompt the people to get busy, Haggai proclaims God’s encouragement. Cleanup and construction are hard work, but it is vital to the peoples’ faith that God’s home among them be restored. Haggai’s message sets out a timeline of God’s action: God is present with them in the current moment (1:13), reminds them of past glories (2:3), and gives them a vision of an even more glorious future (2:9). The people need to know God is with them today. They must not get stuck in wistfulness for a glorious past. And though they are finally home in Jerusalem, God still has promises waiting to be realized.

Maybe we can’t fully relate to the pain of exile and the yearning for a homeland, but most churches and church folks can probably relate to necessary maintenance and overwhelming building projects. We work not only on physical constructions, but on the many ministries, services, and activities that build up our communities. We can probably also relate to the need to bring along those people who can’t stop thinking about how good things used to be (sometimes we probably are those people). And we can most certainly relate to the fear of the unknown: Will we live up to the efforts of those who came before us, and will our future be worthy of the past they gave us?

This past Sunday when we left church, my teenaged son observed that he feels like we missed out, that we came to this church at the wrong time. But the 1960s-to-2020s timeline on the walls and the interviewees’ fond memories only tell one part of the story. After all, as Haggai reminded the people, not all glories are in the past. God is still at work among us today, and God is still calling us toward a new, and renewed, future. God’s glorious timeline never ends, and we have work to do.


  • Do you tend to be a “past-,” “present-,” or “future-“ oriented person? Where on your timeline are you most aware of God’s presence?
  • Who in your life helps encourage you not to get stuck in the past? Who helps you experience God in the present moment? Who helps you to see God’s promises for the future?
  • Is your church or other faith community in a process of discernment, cleanup, restoration, or new construction—either of a physical space or of programs, ministries, or discipleship? What past are you building on? What visions for the future has God made clear?
  • How does your church intentionally acknowledge God’s presence with you in this moment on your “timeline”? How might remembering God’s presence today help you to honor the past and build toward the future?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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