October 30, 2022
Scripture Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
I wonder, for how many of you this will be the first time you have ever heard a sermon on the OT book of Habakkuk? I also wonder if it is the first time you have ever heard of the book of Habakkuk?
It’s probably impossible to pinpoint exactly who Habakkuk was. The only things we know about him are: He was one of 12 Minor Prophets and he probably lived and wrote the three chapters of his book around the year 600 BC. The Israelites were being harassed by the Babylonians. He probably witnessed the final attack of Nebuchadnezzar capturing Jerusalem and 10 years later destroying the temple. For the Israelites, it was a very tough time!
Other than that, we know very little about the man Habakkuk. However, we do know that somebody named Habakkuk is mentioned in the Apocryphal book “Bel and the Dragon” which is one of the extra books in most Catholic Bibles and is about Daniel. It wouldn’t hurt you to read some passages from the Apocrypha some day when you want something to do. We don’t know if those two references are to the same person! (But how many moms would name their child: Habakkuk?)
What we know are the words we have from this man. And in a short space, those words articulate for us a few of the most vexing questions we humans ever throw into the face of God!
- WHY, O God, is there so much evil in the world you created?
- WHY, O God, do you seem to just stand there and do nothing about it?
Let me read just a little of Habakkuk’s complaint
Surely Ukrainians (and also Russians) have cried something similar. How about the Jews in WW II, the blacks on the plantations, the Native Americans in our history.
How about us when it seems everything is dark, the heavens are made of iron and it seems no one is there for us. Maybe health has left us broken, maybe we have been abandoned by someone dear, maybe death has separated us or maybe we are just feeling the wear and tear of constant pressure until we can hardly breathe.
We don’t know the details of Habakkuk’s pain, but we can imagine. It must be so close to what Ukrainians feel. But, after he has written his pain through his tears and shaken his fist in the face of God, he says 2:1. “So, God, I’m done and I’m going to sit right here until you give me an answer. Why? Why don’t you see us? Why don’t you see me? Why can’t I see you!”
The question is so real and so valid. But in the middle of our pain, it is so hard to take in the immensity of the problem. Here we are, bound by our smallness, the limits of our existence which is physical, and temporal, and so tied to one small planet in one tiny galaxy, and our lives amount to no more than one nano-second of the eons of history and time.
How do we ever make any meaningful connection to the One who is beyond history, beyond time, and who is Spirit – not body? We, who have made such strides with communication with our technology and imagination – we who even have tried so hard to make connections with beings in other parts of our universe that we can only imagine.
We are helpless when it comes to setting up some system to convey our plight, our longing to speak to the One who matters most, the God who is Creation, who is Mystery and who holds all the power?
All we can do, it seems, is to say with Habakkuk: I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
And God said to Habbakuk: There is still a vision! … and, If it seems to tarry, wait for it!
I don’t understand why it is that sometimes when I feel like I have to see some evidence of God in my life, my eyes still can’t see clearly. In times like that I long to be something more than human, something more like the God who is my source of life. I long for my eyes to be opened and the tongue loosened so I can hear a voice and see some trail of the divine.
This is an important word for all of us who long to be people whose lives and actions are responsive to the promptings and voice of God. We want to sense that we are led by God, listening to God’s voice, and doing what God wants us to do, but it is not a simple matter. We long to have the vision written so clear and plain that anybody running by can see and understand and respond. But that clarity is not always forthcoming and we must wait….
This is also an important word for all of us in the Beloved Community who want to form a church, a body of believers, who live like people who are keenly aware of the needs around us and at the same time are keenly alert to the call of God. And clarity is not always possible when we want it. Each of us has a piece of the vision, none of us has the whole thing. We see the struggle, the competition, the darkness and lostness around us and we say to God: “How long? How can you? When will it all be clear?”
But what a hopeful word: In the darkness, there is the sound of a familiar voice. It gets clearer as time goes on. Even though at first we can’t place the speaker, but soon we know the voice – it is the sound of God’s voice: “There is still a vision. And, if it doesn’t come right away, wait for it! It will surely come. It will SURELY come!”
And God says to us as God said to Habakkuk: “The righteous shall live by their faith!”
And while you wait, stay open because when it comes, it won’t likely look like you had in mind. Remember, God is the potter, we are the clay. The design is God’s.