So, the Bible… On Desert Island Discs, the Bible is one of the books available to the castaway and in the film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ a survivor wants to keep hold of a Bible; not because he believes it, but because the Bible is somehow special. Many people think the Bible is special, including many who don’t necessarily embrace its message.
Here at St George’s we take studying the Bible very seriously. Carol Swain has run a weekday group for many years and there is also a Thursday evening bible study group which has run for three years. We’ve studied a wide variety of books; we looked at the Psalms and how Jesus used them, Mark’s Gospel and others including a verse by verse study of the book of Revelation. Recently we’ve been looking at what are called the Minor Prophets at the end of the Old Testament and the last one was Haggai.
Who? Haggai is very short, the book not the man; only two chapters and it tackles the matter of the people’s attitude to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. In short, some had returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple which had been destroyed and after making a really good start, their enthusiasm was failing. It was all a bit difficult really, rebuilding walls and gates and stuff and anyway, what they had managed to build wasn’t as good as the temple used to be; and they thought, probably never would be.
I suppose it is human nature to remember criticism rather more readily than praise and I think that for many people, the words ‘Prophet’ and ‘Bible’ conjure up images of ranting and shouting and a general putting down of everyone who isn’t considered Godly enough. Well, that’s not exactly true. Criticism there certainly is, but there’s massive encouragement too and Haggai goes to great lengths (in just two chapters!) to praise the people for their achievements as well as telling them not to give up.
There is nothing minor or insignificant about Haggai, the Minor Prophet; his message is as real today as ever it was. As we seek to work for the good of the community of Littleport, we need to trust in all the good that is being achieved whether it is in youth work, working with families, the lonely and the disadvantaged as well as establishing relationships with people for their own sake. Even people who on the surface appear to have no real needs. At the informal services at St George’s we sometimes use the words, ‘goodness is stronger than evil’. Whatever our concept of evil (a whole other bible study topic) we all recognise goodness when we see it. Goodness is stronger than evil and we should trust in all the good that we do see.
The desert island castaway also finds the complete works of Shakespeare; so, betrayal, war, dreams, angst, love – nothing has changed. Whilst it’s important to understand how and why the Bible was written in the way it is, its message is as real today as ever it was so give the Bible a go, and why not join, or ask to start, a study group? Haggai, amongst others, would be really pleased.