The Pas 20th Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 26
Proper 22 – Ordinary/Lectionary 27 – Pentecost + 20
2 October 2016
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10 BAS pg 749
2 Timothy 1:1-14
God, you weep with those who are oppressed, with those who are uprooted from their homeland and with those who are without shelter or security. Grant that your faithful love may reach out through us, so that your healing mercy may rise like the dawn. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.
When we look at the events taking place in the world on all sides of us, todays readings are profound even to the point of probably being confusing.
“2 How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (Hab 1:2-3)
When we look at the events of the day, we see situations in the world where money and greed rule the world in the mask of democracy and fairness. So then Habakkuk’s words aren’t showing us a new scenario for the world, today. He speaks to today’s circumstances around today’s society, and he speaks hope for God’s love, and for a life of faith.
Habakkuk is dealing with a society of people who have no care and consideration for a life of faith. He’s living in a generation where its each person for himself, where observances of faith, or even kindness to one’s fellow human being has taken a very, very distant back seat.
Sound’s familiar, doesn’t it? Yet, he doesn’t give into the depravations of society all around. Rather he advocates for what is rare in the world around him, around us – for a life off faith, for a life of upright action, for a life of righteousness in God.
“2 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. … 4 ‘See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.’” (Hab 2:1, 4)
Surrounded by evil and destruction the righteous live by faithfulness. Surrounded by all of the dregs of society, that society strives to legitimize to make itself feel better, to justify its own corrupt, wicked, degenerate actions. Yet, Habakkuk tells us “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” (Hab 2:4b)
And this one statement, this one position gives us strength. It shows us that even one person is able to do what is right in the face of what is easy, what is convenient.
In addition, we can see that Habakkuk’s position of a life of faith and righteousness is repeated in the psalm. Today, our psalm tells us: “3Put your trust in the Lord and do good; … 4Take delight in the Lord, … 5Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, …6He will make your righteousness as clear as the light … 7Be still before the Lord” (psalm 37: 3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, 7a)
Where Habakkuk tells us to live lives of righteousness, the psalm, naturally, is able to take more poetic license; and there are days when I need to hear, to internalize the psalmists’ words, today.
There are days when I need to remember that a life lived in Christ is so much more than anything that the world is able to offer. Today, we are reminded to do just that – to hope, to trust, and to believe that God has a plan for us, even if that plan is to stand in a place where our lives are an example for all of the world around us.
Even if our place is just to stand before the greed and the corruption of the day and set the positive example.
I remember my mother more than once commenting on the futility of picking fights that one cannot win. But it’s not always the victory today that is important. It’s rather standing up with those who need to be encouraged to stand with us; it’s those who need to know of God’s love seeing us being knocked down by the forces of this world, so that they can see us get back up, once more.
I had the opportunity to enjoy the movie “Wild Hogs” recently. It a movie about a group of four middle aged, midlife crisis men, who happen to ride motorcycles, taking a road trip together. At one point they stand up against a notorious biker gang who is insisting on destroying a diner in a town. These four men get the tar beaten out of them by the biker gang, and yet before the townsfolk, they still get up to continue to defend the diner.
But, really, it’s the act of getting up, of standing for their principles, for their new friends, encourages the town to stand with them, and take back control of their community from this gang of ruffians.
Over and over, in our readings, in the bible, God often returns to the idea of the remnant, the small group who is the core of the faith that God so desires that we live within, perhaps, we are being called to be that faithful remnant, today?
Just imagine our remnant standing faithfully, shoulder by shoulder with other remnants faithful to God in the world, all to make a difference in the lives of those who have lost hope, who have lost everything in the face of the tactics of this world.
In the meantime, our psalmist reminds us to trust in the Lord, to take delight in the Lord, to commit our way to the Lord, and to be still before the Lord. (Psalm 37: 3-7)
And Habakkuk reminds us “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.”
Thinking about it, it’s not often that we think about or even fully understand the term ‘righteous person’, and then I had the opportunity to hear Janet Moase sing “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “Man of La Mancha”.
Now when we think about this musical, what we often remember is Peter O’Toole’s sublime performance from 1972, as the man, Don Quixote.
Don Quixote is a man who sees the world differently and who ‘tilted at windmills.’ He had a habit of jousting with the old Dutch-style windmills in order to strive to right wrongs, free damsels in distress, and overall to be a force of good in a world he saw going horribly wrong, when we cannot treat all women as ladies, etc.
The heart of the lyrics from the song “The Impossible Dream” are: To dream the impossible dream To fight the unbeatable foe To bear with unbearable sorrow To run where the brave dare not go To right the unrightable wrong … This is my quest … To fight for the right Without question or pause To be willing to march into Hell For a heavenly cause And I know if I’ll only be true To this glorious quest That my heart will lie peaceful and calm When I’m laid to my rest And the world will be better for this That one man, scorned and covered with scars Still strove with his last ounce of courage To reach the unreachable star.
Although Don Quixote is talking about finding and defending true love, he’s not looking just at the love between man and woman. He’s also fighting for the love for creation, for justice, and for seeing God’s love shining in the relationships between each of us throughout the whole world. And in that sense, we can look at this in the face of the reading from Habakkuk, and the words of our psalm.
In addition, we can see this in the rest of the readings, for today. Paul tells Timothy “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Tim 1:7, 9)
In our righteousness, we are made bold. In the face of the wrongs we are given the strength and the directive to stand up for issues of justice, for issues of inclusion, for issues of prejudice that affect not just the ones we see being affected, but all of humanity.
Meanwhile the gospel has Jesus inner circle, the apostles asking Jesus “Increase our faith!” and Jesus response is that our faith is so much a part of us that it grows in the doing of the duties, the responsibilities, the smallest of details of our lives rather than in the grand gestures. (Lk 17:5-10)
Sure, Jesus tells us “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Lk 17:6) but, really, how many mulberry trees do we want to relocate? Isn’t it better to have the faith to stand in the face of the problems of our world, to be that positive example of what it looks like to live a life that looks to God, instead of to greed and manipulation for fulfillment?
Don Quixote fought for love. He fought for what today we call ‘unwinnable causes’; but if we only fight for what we can win, how do we make an impact in the world around us? The midlife crisis bikers from Wild Hogs fought for the rights of the individual in the face of the blind destructive behaviour of a gang. They found value in standing up for what they believe in, and the town, in return, stood with them in the face of the injustice.
We may not win the battle, today, but we always have the ability to stand up, once more, stand with those who find their own strength in the gospel, their own strength in God, in the Lord, our saviour, and together we can make a difference, in the same way the mulberry tree can be commanded to move to the sea.
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Lk 17:6) “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Tim 1:14) “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.”(Hab 2:4b)
“Be still before the Lord.” (ps 37:7a)