sermon video, pt1. Click for part 2
Habakkuk is included in the lectionary only here, today. The book has three chapters, but, as with all of the books that remain in our canon, it is important, and we can learn a great deal about God’s desire toward us. What makes Habakkuk stand out as a prophet is the conveyance of the prophecy:
Instead of declaring the catastrophe that will occur if the people do not make things right among them and between the people and God, Habakkuk converses with God, laments the injustices all around him. That the corrupt and selfish seem to prosper while the kind and generous are exploited.
And God seems to just be watching.
And God replies.
It is a conversation.
God speaks to Habakkuk of God’s promises, God’s love and will for all to be made right. And this is where Habakkuk almost resembles the Palmists who lift up their grief and confusion to God, and in the same breath praise God for all the beauty and joy in experiencing God’s presence in faith. But in the case of this prophet, God responds, and declares, reiterates the promises – and for the people in exile, the promise that the Babylonian captivity will come to an end
– even in this time.
I love how Vinita Wright puts it:
“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. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.”Habakkuk 2:3, 4, NASB
There are a couple of things I want to focus on here: “there is still a vision for the appointed time… it speaks of the end… wait … it will come … it will not delay.” So, wait. – but it will not delay… And the vision is for the end of the story (theirs and ours), and at an “appointed time.” So there is this sense that God is already at that appointed time – that God can know it will occur, and it will not delay.
But… if it seems to tarry…
I can think of one epic time in life where this phenomenon is never more real: the birth of a child. During pregnancy, it seems as if the baby will be inside forever. Those last few days (if all goes well with baby and mama, of course!), each day feels like an eternity. But when the baby comes, we wonder at how insignificant that time was by comparison to actually raising the kid! And then, will they ever leave the house?! Ok, I’m actually grateful to have 2 of my adult children at home right now.
But the reason for the delay of this all-things-being-made-right thing is what? Pride. “Look at the proud!” The spirit is not right in us. That is, when we are not living by faith, dwelling in the presence of God, growing to become more of who God made us to be… the end – heaven on earth – all things right and good – cannot happen.
The spirit is not right in us.
If you remember from last week, when I mentioned our discussion of the Enneagram and identity formation…
“Tragically, most of us start with our sense of identity, believing that if we build out the mythology of who we think we are, then the more attractive our identity and the more valuable we become.”Christopher L Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram, 16
“When we can start with the grace of resting in our dignity” our worth, whose we are, “then the truth of our identity” is free to be exposed, expressed.
The result of living out of a mythology of self and without grace, the grace of dignity – the truth of who I am, who you are, as uniquely imaging God – the result of living for the myth and not living in the grace of knowing my true worth … is shame.
A very wise person I know reflected on this, “Today’s generation is dying to not feel ashamed, feel shamed by the church – ashamed of who they are. The church doesn’t need to be inspiring. The church needs to be an agent of dignity” – of answering the question of ‘What am I worth?’ We need to be agents of dignity to this generation. To say, “Look what Jesus did! Who God is: Divine Love that transcends time and space; Source of your worth – do not be ashamed!
If each of us understands of what our relationship with God the Creator consists, free to be made right because, Jesus – through whom all things were created – indwelled and empowered by the very Spirit of God…. If each of us let go of the mask that we made identity – cobbled together as a façade, our entire sense of worth is no longer in question – and there is no longer shame.
But we have to have faith. Believe that the end is present because God is timeless, and God is near. In fact, God is among us.
“Everything in God’s universe is present-tense. Divine love transcends time and place.
and Wright goes on to say:
So it’s never really too late to pray for a person or to express love to that beloved soul.”Vinita Wright
And if I am God’s and God’s Spirit lives in me, and you are God’s and God’s spirit lives in you, and we believe that God is present in our midst… it is then no massive leap to have a sense of relationship, of even relating with the dead. Dwelling, abiding in the presence of this timeless God as we do here and now.
To Abide means to continue, remain, survive, persist, stay, live on. That is, not fade or disappear.
It also means to endure, accept, cope with, or even to face something.
We can abide in this space – but not in order to remain with death. Rather, in order to pray for and evoke God’s love concerning those who have died; and to be inspired and learn from their wisdom… in order to live on! Abide!
All Saints Day began in the 4th century to “recognized as its foundation stones those heroes of the faith whose lives have excited others to holiness and who, having entered into the glory of heaven, pray for and with all of us on earth. … At first, it was observed [to honor] those who were martyrs, giving their lives as witnesses for the faith.
In the eighth century, a pope dedicated a chapel to All Saints in St Peter’s at Rome on 1 November, and so people across the world began celebrating the day on the 1st of November. … On this day we celebrate the great cloud of witnesses who accompany us on our journey of faith…
During this season, we give thanks for a great multitude of women and men, who have gone before us in the way of faith. [Scripture tells us] of the destiny of all who die in Christ; they go to that place where there is ‘no sorrow or pain’ and where they can worship God for all eternity.
All of us have been inspired on our Christian journeys by ‘ordinary’ men and women [all of whom struggled to live into the grace of their worth]… Who has inspired you; what captivated you about them? How did they reflect God’s love?
The saints reflected God in their own lives. … How do you reflect God in your life?
What can you do to help others to reflect God in their lives and perhaps to take their place in that company of Saints?
The Bible contains words of promise and encouragement, without shrinking from the pain of human living. …[What struggles are you – or someone dear to you – …facing today …” Taken from pray-as-you-go.
This is why it is important to remember our ancestors, to learn from the wisdom of the saints.
Thomas Campbell beautifully explains,
This “communion of saints,” in which we declare our belief when we recite the Apostle’s Creed, can be translated from the original Greek or the original Hebrew, providing two varied senses. Joan Chittister remarks, “To use the Greek version is to talk about those who share ‘a communion of holy things’—the Eucharist and all the other sacraments that implies.
“Those who use the Hebrew translation of the term, on the other hand, concentrate on that communion of holy persons from whom we have inherited a faith strong enough, versatile enough, and deep enough to shape our lives and direct our decisions. But, in reality, the two concepts are really one to those who understand that, at base, it is precisely our sense of family that governs the way we go about life, the things we value, the things we celebrate, the things for which we strive.
“The Creed is talking, in other words, about the unity of strangers that forms around the image of the Christ who calls us always beyond our past into a demanding and sometimes lonely present. In communion with these people who have lived the faith to the end before us, we all trek on alone but together, together but alone depending on the hand and the sight of the other to take us further still. [who takes your hand in this life that requires faith in order to traverse it?] It is memory that calls us on.
“Belief in the communion of saints [calls us to be immersed in] the holy-making project of living out the life of Christ ourselves as so many have done before us.”
And maybe you remember hurt from one who has died, but there is always grace, and they now know the reality of eternity and are praying for you even in this moment.
Strengthened by the model of the One ‘in whose memory’ we make Eucharist—this thanksgiving for everything that is—we are bound to all it implies: We are bound to the reflective life that can lead us to great heights. We are bound to the unfinished work of bringing the world to the beatitudes. And we are bound, as well, to those who, in a special way, have modeled it before us and shown it to be worthwhile.”Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief
Who are those people for you? Who showed a life of “bringing the world to the beatitudes” to be worthwhile? What is it that convinced you it is a worthwhile project?
In the Eucharist, abiding in, taking communion, we remember. Today we remember – remembering the saints, in communion. And together dwell in this Cosmic Abode of the communion of saints.