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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

The Oracle

The Oracle
                                                            Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
This Habakkuk passage is the only one used in the Lectionary. It comes late in the church season, as we begin to prepare for the season of Advent. In this passage the writer is living in a time of social unrest. The Israelites are living in turbulent times. They have probably already been invaded by the Babylonians, but the Temple has not yet been destroyed by the Babylonians. In this key passage Habakkuk is witnessing the social injustices around him, first caused by the leaders and the wealthy in society. A lack of justice prevails. There are gross inequities in the social justice system and economic exploitation of the poor by the wealthy. Habakkuk sees the breakdown of social order taking place. 
Habakkuk’s second lament is about the injustices taking place on the international scene. The Chaldeans are exploiting the Israelites for their own gain. The Chaldeans have taken control and have placed unjust practices over the Israelites. It is amidst these circumstances that Habakkuk accused God of being inactive and inattentive. God is not seeing what is taking place, and, if he is seeing, he is not responding. 
The discrepancy between God’s absolute holiness and the complete absence of God’s holiness in the world seems irreconcilable to Habakkuk. Habakkuk challenges the prevalent thinking of the times, that the just will prevail and the unjust will be punished. What he sees is that the unjust are succeeding and the just are having hard times. Justice itself seems a distant concept. So why try and why have faith in God?
Then God speaks to Habakkuk. “Wait!” is the answer. There is a larger vision that waits for its time. “The righteous live by faith.” Faith is what God calls the people to have. God is in control, and God’s plans will not die. Never has a time of faith been called on more than in the early church when persecutions were sweeping the countries where Christians were witnessing and calling people to live by a new kind of faith. Those who were able to see a larger vision of God’s work in the world were the ones who lived by this faith. They were the ones living in righteousness. 
We live in a world, or at least a society where lack of justice seems to prevail at times. Politicians, judges, leaders, those who want to gain by exploitation of others seem to have dominance. In third world countries, the wealthy and powerful get wealthier and more powerful at the expense of the poor. We wonder where justice is when we see someone set free because of “technicalities “ or loopholes in the law. 
Living by faith means that we do see a larger picture. We see possibility where there seems to be no possibility. We see God in a seemingly God-less society. We see examples of God’s activity where others only see chaos and disorder. We see hope, where others see despair. We wait with expectation where others struggle to make sense of things or see a bleak picture of the future. It is easy to see a blank, bleak future with all the violence and senseless acts of brutality and injustice that are portrayed on our tv sets. But people of faith are called to live in the present by understanding that God will prevail, that the world will someday know peace and justice will be the order of the day. That allows those people to catch glimpses of God’s work, glimpses of people living by faith and making a difference in the world.
Very recently our daughter experienced two different tragedies. The first was a member of one of her teams she supervises, who had been experiencing trouble getting her job done, frequently falling asleep in training sessions and at her desk. This woman had had a particularly bad Friday, having difficulty keeping up with her job. Later that night she died in her sleep. Evidently she had been very sick and hadn’t wanted to die bedridden, but continued trying to do her job. Her faith in her ability to do the job as long as she could kept her going.
My daughter got the news this week that one of her acquaintances at work committed suicide quite unexpectedly. No pleas for help or noticeable acts of preparation for ending her life were evident to those around her. This woman lived without hope in the midst of her circumstance. She could no longer see any point in going on and succeeded in ending her pain and her life. 
Two different people, one living with hope and keeping sight of the bigger picture, the other living without hope, narrowing her ability to see potential. 
A person with faith lives by a different sight. As we wrap ourselves in the love of God through faith, our vision is changed. We do see the injustices in the world, but we also see potential. We catch glimpses of God’s vision for creation. We see disasters and tragedies balanced by acts of goodness, caring, sharing, and helping. We see acts of cowardice and fear balanced by acts of heroism and bravery. We see acts of destruction balanced by acts of new growth and the earth healing itself. Our vision is a different one. We know there is God’s future for us. And when we choose to live by faith, we hold on to God’s promises that someday there will be no tears, the lamb will lie down with the lion, wars and rumors of wars will be no more and all creation will know it’s creator intimately. 
That’s the vision we can choose to live by, in fact that is the vision we are called to live by, doing what we can to be a part of that vision, living justly and spreading the word of hope.

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