Thursday, 3 October 2013

Viewing from the Ramparts

Lectionary Passages for Oct 6. Habakkuk 1:1-4. 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-9, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

The week has gotten away with me, I'm sorry I'm so slow getting to the lectionary blog!

Habakkuk is not common reading, but it's message has common resonance for anyone who has an ear to world news. The prophet is distraught over violence indiscriminately perpetrated by the uncaring powerful against good people. The law seems "paralyzed and justice never prevails."

I've heard this lament taken up as reason to stop believing in God. After all, how can a loving God not intervene and stop human madness? It's impossible, if we only read the lectionary verses, to see where Habakkuk goes with this. The book is only a few pages long, so I read the whole thing.

In verse 5, the Lord is portrayed as answering the prophet, saying the Babylonians will be sent in as a violent, conquering people in order to get rid of the violent, law-defying people. Habakkuk replies in the rest of the chapter by challenging the idea that more violence is a solution. The Lord replies again in chapter 2, urging Habakkuk to wait and watch, that someday the Lord will set matters right and the evil ways of people will stop. "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and  establishes a town by crime."  And Habakkuk waits. Chapter 3 has him praising God, and asking God to intervene by renewing God's deeds of old. It's quite clear that Habakkuk believes God will eventually do something. He fully knows that the violence and force of human ways is not the way to lasting peace and justice. He lays aside his distress and takes up hope in the midst of brokenness.He rejoices in the strength God provides for him to make it through each day.

3:17-18 are poignant. "though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord."

A postscript: My husband and son recently went on a mountain hike in which they walked over many false summits before finally reaching a viewpoint. From there, they could see the whole landscape, all the way down to the highway. The distance gave them a vastly wider perspective than what they had at the start, beside the highway. At the highway's edge, the rushing traffic overwhelms one's senses. At the summit, things fall into perspective and the cars are small and far away. This is a great image for me when I read Habakkuk 2:1. Habakkuk stations himself on the ramparts where he can see, where he can get a wider perspective and perhaps understand what God wants. Habakkuk removes himself from the overwhelming rush of the immediate traffic of issues to listen for God. Sometime he will have to go back down, back to everyday life, and maybe back to dodging cars. However, his glimpse of the wider sweep of God's domain gives him hope, patience, and even joy to take back into that life.

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