Live By Faith (11/29/15)

Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-4; 3:17-19
We read this morning from a book in the Bible that may be unfamiliar. Our reading is from the prophet Habakkuk. The pronunciation of the name in Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament of the Bible, is “Ha-ba-kook.”
Old Testament prophets were known as bold proclaimers of God’s Word. They called for sin to cease and justice to reign, and people to repent. Habakkuk takes another approach. Instead of delivering God’s message to the people, Habakkuk delivers the people’s complaint to God. So the book opens with a troubling question: How long, O Lord? How long?
It is the question of every child traveling on vacation. It is the question of every mother in her ninth month of pregnancy. How long? Of course, Habakkuk had deeper things on his mind. He wanted to know. “O Lord, how long must I cry for help, but you will not listen? How long must I cry violence!’ but you do not save?” (1:2)
And there must have been another question on the prophet’s mind, as well. Inquiring minds not only want to know how long, we also want to know ‘How Come’? If God is all-powerful, then how come he permits earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes? If God is all-loving, how come he stands by while innocent children suffer? If God is all-knowing, how come so many people are victims of violence and disease?
Such questions have caused people to abandon the faith.
In the 1950’s, Charles Templeton was a contemporary of Billy Graham. Both of them were holding crusades across North America.
Charles Templeton started the Youth for Christ movement that involved tens of thousands of teenagers across this country. But one day Charles Templeton had a change of heart. He went to his friend Billy Graham and confessed he could no longer believe the Gospel. He said, in a book he later wrote about his decision to leave the Christian faith: “How can a loving and all-powerful God allow such horrors as we have seen this century?”
We don’t need to look too far, to realize that the world is out-of-balance, and that the hurts are deep in our world, our lives, even our bodies. Sometimes the need for wholeness is great: terminal illness, broken relationships, or unfulfilling work. Other times, the need for wholeness is less visible: loss of hope, over-committed lives, unexpressed anger. No matter the source, the longing for balance in our lives is deep. How do we maintain faith when the need is so great and God feels so absent?
The answer Habakkuk receives is not the answer we want. God says to the prophet: “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” (2:3)
In other words: wait.
Peace, healing, and wholeness are coming; justice and righteousness are coming. If it seems late, wait for it; it will surely come. Even when all signs around you point to hopelessness, those who live by faith are called to wait. You don’t have to be afraid, or let yourself slip into despair. It will surely come.
And right now, perhaps, you’re thinking, “I’m supposed to keep waiting? How can I keep waiting? I’m sick now. I’m tired now. I’m frustrated now. I’m desperate now. God must do something. How can I believe in a God who has no power in a situation other than to command me to wait?”
If that’s what you’re thinking, let me redirect you. The problem is not with a God who asks us to wait. The problem is with what we think waiting is.
We have been told that waiting is passive and powerless, that waiting is an unproductive us of time.
So we play with our phones, or fill our time by keeping busy, over-scheduling ourselves, so we never have time in which we are forced to simply wait and watch. We think that waiting is a negative. But that is the lie. Waiting isn’t weak. Waiting is powerful.
It is in waiting that we immerse ourselves in prayer, petitioning God for the sake of ourselves and our loved ones, and our world; It is in waiting that we allow the pains and sufferings of others, their anxieties and loneliness, confusion and fears, to resound in our innermost selves; It is in waiting that we cry out, expressing our anguish to God who hears our pain; It is in waiting that we watch for God’s action in the world, opening our eyes to the ways God restores wholeness in even the smallest of ways; It is in waiting that we realize we are not the most important beings in the universe, and instead understand our place among the fullness of God’s creation; it is in waiting that we gather with a community who will sit beside us, holding us up when the wait is long.
It is in waiting that the long nature of God’s plan reveals itself, and we are able to recognize the promise that God makes through the prophet Habakkuk: “there is still a vision for the appointed time.” (2:3)
And that is why we gather here, on the first Sunday of Advent, to celebrate a time of waiting.
If you google “Advent” on your smart phone, you will find the definition. It means the arrival or coming of something. In our Christian faith, it means the arrival of God’s kingdom here on earth, a kingdom ushered in by his Son, Jesus. It’s what we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s what’s coming. That’s what we’re waiting for.
And as we wait, we bring our entire selves, our joys, as well as our hopes and our hurts. We listen to God’s Word, especially the word he speaks to us through his Son, Jesus. We look for the kingdom of God breaking into our world. We act in mercy and love. And we trust in that day when sadness and sickness and injustice and unrest and pain and suffering are ended, when God’s promises are fulfilled, and the Word that is promised speaks healing to us.
I believe one of the finest testimonies of faith in the Bible is found in our reading from Habakkuk when the prophet says: “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” (3:17-18)
I will wait, praying and crying out and hoping and trusting. I will live by faith. Thanks be to God. Amen


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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