I've started this topic to collect a reading list of scriptures and online resources for those leading, teaching, and preaching on the "post-pandemic return" to in-person worship, teaching, and fellowship -- and the "rebuilding" challenges facing most churches. Your thoughts, resources, and ideas are welcome.
Let's begin with some scripture...
One of the things I haven't seen a lot of (yet) is discussion FROM SCRIPTURE about where we are and where we need to go in the post-pandemic days ahead. Personally, I find it both comforting and empowering to be reminded that God's people have been here before, survived, and even prospered. These scriptures and the historical events behind them remind us that HOPE isn't merely knowing WHAT to grab onto, but WHO.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah spoke words of advice, encouragement, and hope during Israel's return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile in the 6th Century B.C. (A return that lasted decades, btw.) This first post starts with excerpts from their ancient but amazing relevant words to us today.
Be sure to visit our "Sunday School After the Pandemic" Forum for more specific ideas and resources related to Sunday School and Children's Ministry.
Haggai and Zechariah: Scriptures for The Coming Return
"This Temple is going to end up far better than it started out."
"You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people."
But here's the BIG TIP: To hear the word in Haggai and Zechariah, you really should read them as translated in "The Message" Bible --Eugene Petersen's powerful and contemporary version of scripture. Lots of great teaching/preaching material when you do!
Here are the links to Haggai and Zechariah at Biblegateway.com in The Message translation. Haggai is only two chapters long, but they are two TERRIFIC chapters for the post-pandemic challenges ahead. Zechariah has nine chapters and most of us are only families with Zech 9:9's description of the king riding the colt, but so much else in Zechariah are about "returning" and "building better."
Below, I've excerpted a few of my favorite verses from these two overlooked "minor" prophets. Do read their full chapters in The Message to see more ideas pop out at you.
a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies* spoke out again:
“Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
what are they getting out of it?
a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.”
7 That’s why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:
“Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.”
Haggai 2:2-5, 9
‘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 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 am about to shake up everything,
to turn everything upside down and start over from top to bottom
—overthrow governments, destroy foreign powers, dismantle the world of weapons and armaments,
and throw armies into confusion
(Some terrific metaphors there!)
NOTE: In other verses, Haggai uses the word "house/home" or "Temple." When he does that, keep in mind that in Hebrew the word "house/home" can mean "FAMILY" or "legacy," and that "Temple" was reimagined as "body" even "body of Christ" in the New Testament.
The Third Vision: The Man with the Tape Measure
I looked up and was surprised to see
a man holding a tape measure in his hand.
I said, “What are you up to?”
“I’m on my way,” he said, “to survey Jerusalem,
to measure its width and length.”
Just then the Messenger-Angel on his way out
met another angel coming in and said,
“Run! Tell the Surveyor, ‘Jerusalem will burst its walls—
bursting with people, bursting with animals.
And I’ll be right there with her’—God’s Decree—‘a wall of fire
around unwalled Jerusalem and a radiant presence within.’”
the Word of God came to me:
“Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you.
Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”
God-of-the-Angel-Armies* gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests:
“When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.
I’ve had it with war
—no more chariots in Ephraim,
no more war horses in Jerusalem,
no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.
Come home, hope-filled prisoners!
(Try substituting the words "council" and "congregations" for Ephraim and Jerusalem!)
*About the phrase, "God of the angel armies"
The phrase is a possible translation of the Hebrew phrase "Lord of Hosts" --a title for God found over 300 times in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for "hosts" (sabaoth) is a military term for "army" Lord of Hosts is sometimes translated as "Lord Almighty" which doesn't quite capture the original meaning of "army." The image is one of power and control, conveying confidence and trustworthiness. Learn more.
Recall that "angel" in both Hebrew and Greek means "messenger." Thus, "Angel Armies" could be rephrased as "Army of Messengers." What is the message that God wants to mobilize our "troops" to deliver?