Righteous Waiting

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

 

Waiting for the bus. Waiting in the doctor’s office. Waiting at the DMV. Waiting for the test results. Waiting for a phone call. Waiting is rarely, if ever fun. Waiting is usually uncomfortable and painful. The prophet Habakkuk is waiting. He is waiting for the other shoe to drop. He is waiting to see just how much worse things will get. He is also waiting on God to save him and his people.

 

Habakkuk is speaking to the people of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel. All around him he sees injustices and wrongdoing. The wealthy exploit the poor for their own gains. Justice is something that is easily perverted if you have the funds to sway a judge. It seems as though no one in the land gives a thought about God or God’s way of mercy. Outside of Judah, Habakkuk sees a massive threat. The Chaldeans or the Babylonians are in the midst of conquering the world and it looks like their tiny nation of Judah is next on the Babylonian military’s list. The Kingdom of Judah doesn’t stand a chance. Babylon is a superpower of that time and Judah is a tiny nation less than half the size of New Jersey. Judah is in trouble. Habakkuk is looking at the corruption within his country and at the dangers outside of it and he is just waiting for things to go from bad to worse.

Habakkuk boldly raises his voice to God and asks, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?” His cry might as well be our cry.

 

When we see systemic racial violence and injustice.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When we see police shot and killed while they seek to keep the peace.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When we see addiction consume a loved one’s life.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When we see another murder in our city. 21 murders so far this year. 3 of them were just high schoolers 15 and 16 years old. 10 of them happened just this past summer.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When children go hungry.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When bloody war rages on around the world.

We cry out, “Why do you make me see wrongdoing?”

 

When injustice, violence, and destruction have become what we expect, we join our complaint to the prophet Habakkuk’s, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?”

After these courageous complaints, God does answer Habakkuk and says, “If [deliverance] seems to tarry, wait for it… the righteous live by their faith.”

Righteousness is not simply about being good. This is not God saying, “Buck up and shut up.” Righteousness is first and foremost about relationship- our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us. We are “righteous” not because we are Superman, Wonder Woman, Mother Theresa, and Ghandi all rolled up into one. We are “righteous” simply because we are God’s beloved people. We wait and we live by faith, because God has graciously let us know that we are God’s. At our baptism God claimed us as God’s very own children and God declares that nothing can separate us from that great love- not injustice, not violence, not poverty, not war, not even death. “The righteous live by their faith” means that we are bold to face the challenges ahead of us knowing that God will face them with us. God will be with us when all evil is defeated and God is with us even as we suffer in the midst of it.

The gift of faith has the power to change our present reality. In the comedy movie, What About Bob?, the main character, Bob, played  by Bill Murray, is afraid of just about everything. He schedules an appointment with a psychiatrist, Leo, played by Richard Dreyfuss. The doctor asks Bob what is bothering him. Bob explains that his many fears prevent him from even traveling out of his apartment. He continues saying that he also has problems moving, “When I go out, I get weird.”

“Tell me about ‘weird,’ Bob” Dr. Leo says.

Bob replies, “Well, I get dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, hot sweats, fever blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, involuntary trembling, dead hands, numb lips, fingernail sensitivity, pelvic discomfort.”

Bob is afraid of a lot of things. It might not be injustice, poverty, and war, but the things he is afraid of are enough to halt his life. His fears are enough to stop him from living his life.

Dr. Leo goes on vacation in New England and Bob is left alone. He is alone with his fears, but now he believes he has found a savior who can deliver him from his fears. Bob doesn’t give up on overcoming his fears. Bob, out of his strong faith in Dr. Leo’s care, follows him to New England for his own vacation. Bob gets on a public bus and travels to another state, talks to strangers, uses a public telephone, and even goes on a sailboat- all things he would never have dreamed of doing before establishing this relationship with Dr. Leo.

Bob has a childlike trust in his doctor’s care and competence, and so out of his faith in his doctor’s ability to help him, Bob finds himself living into the reality he has faith that he will reach. He trusts in the promise that Dr. Leo will help Bob overcome his fears, and in so doing, Bob starts to live his life as though his fears really won’t hold him forever.

God of course, is very unlike Dr. Leo in some ways. In the movie, Dr. Leo does not actually seem to care for Bob and despite his best efforts, does not seem to be able to get rid of him. Our God, however, loves us through thick and thin. The gift of faith in God is something that we can trust in. The righteous live by their faith, because God is truly faithful. God is the one who delivered us from slavery in Egypt, who sent prophets to us to call out for justice and peace, and who came among us in the person of Jesus Christ handing over his very life for our sake.

As we wait on God, we trust that God will deliver us. We begin to live our lives conformed to the promise we believe in. When we receive faith that God will deliver peace between all people, we start to live for the sake of our suffering sisters and brothers. When we receive faith that God will beat swords into plowshares, we start to work toward dismantling the gun violence on our streets and the wars across many lands. When we receive faith that death has lost its sting, we start to live abundant, self-giving lives.

This faithful waiting is good, but it is difficult. We must encourage each other to keep looking out for God and to keep believing in God’s steadfast love- to keep believing that the righteous live by their God-given faith. God says to Habakkuk, “Write the vision, make it plain so that a runner may read.” Spread the word. Let everyone know that God will deliver us from all sin and death and that God is with us right now. Run, don’t walk, and let all who suffer know that God is on the move. Let everyone know that violence, injustice, and death have had their day and today belongs to God alone. Tell all people that God’s lovingkindess is with us always and nothing is going to change that.

 

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