Habakkuk cries out his complaint into the silence of God and wonders “what’s the point?” I wonder the same thing when evil events paint a cruel caricature of the human race. But the truth is I know more decent people than the depraved ones that dominate the news and even though good people do not make the headlines they make the world a better place simply by being in it. Even so Habakkuk’s complaint is that God is not doing enough to see that the wicked are diminished and the decent flourish. God’s response is to give Habakkuk something to do. “Write a vision on tablets a runner can see.” Our “make a sign a runner can see” means we speak God’s “wait and see” in the face of all that troubles us and put all our effort and energy into transforming this world to look more like the world God promises is coming. In that way we act out the hope that God’s deliverance is not delayed whenever decent people act decently.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
It appears there is a great chasm between the table of the rich and the poor at the gate that is as fixed as the one between Hades and Abraham’s bosom and the only thing the rich man can count on is that his brothers will be joining him sometime in the future. The lesson to be learned seems to be a Christian version of Karma which means we would do well to make a down payment on a mansion in glory by moving into a homeless shelter in the here and now. But that’s the problem with paying too much attention to the details of a parable which are only there to set up the punch line. According to Luke the crowds to whom Jesus first told the joke included money loving Pharisees but I doubt many of them laughed when they heard it. While they claimed to listen to Moses and the prophets their love of money and neglect of the poor at the gate violated the very teachings they claimed to follow. The irony is that the raising of the real life Lazarus led them to believe Jesus had to die in order to save the nation (John 11:45-53) and because of that we, who believe because someone rose from the dead, listen to Moses and the prophets today. But if we don’t want the joke to be told on us we will bridge the chasm between the table of the rich, where we often sit, and the poor at the gate, which we hardly visit, with acts of charity, mercy and kindness motivated not by a need to avoid Hades but the desire to make the world we live in look a little more like Abraham’s bosom.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The sincere faith that first lived in Lois and Eunice might not be the best thing to rekindle in Timothy given the suffering Paul is experiencing. But something about that faith was so compelling that a presumably loving grandmother and mother believed Timothy would be better off confessing the faith even though it might lead to imprisonment or death. The spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline was not for cowards in the first century. According to church tradition Timothy was beaten, dragged through the streets of Ephesus and stoned to death for preaching what Lois and Eunice and Paul persuaded him was sound teaching of which one should not be ashamed. In twenty-first century America participation in the sound teaching of faith and love carries no threat of persecution and yet according to a decade worth of polls is in serious decline among those in both the Eunice and Timothy age demographic. A whole generation has been lost to the holy calling of God’s purpose and grace and Lois is wondering why. It could be that the most dangerous threat to the faith was to neuter it by making it mainstream until a majority of people could claim to be Christian without practicing or participating in any communal expression of it. So what do we do? We do what Paul preached to his beloved child Timothy - rekindle the gift of God, the sound teaching of the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. Move out of the mainstream and into the marketplace. Do not be ashamed to give a reason for the hope that you have and with gentleness and respect be people of persuasion for the good treasure entrusted to us is worth sharing.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The Lord does not operate in a vacuum and the vision cast by the psalm cannot be realized without corrective lenses. In the real world the oppressed do not see justice without assistance and the hungry are not fed without being invited to dinner. The only praise of the Lord that makes a difference to the Lord is the praise that makes a difference to those the Lord loves; the blind, the prisoner, the stranger, the orphan, the widow, the ones bowed down by the weight of the world. In the meantime the wicked would helped by those who love the Lord when reminded that the only hope they have is that the Lord will revive them once their plans perish.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Amos’s “alas” could have been written for our time when bad loans repackaged in new paper brought the mortgage industry house of cards crashing down and the rest of the economy with it. Those most responsible got a “get out jail free” card and while the politicians pointed fingers at each other no one grieved over the ruin of “Joseph” except the “Josephs” who lost jobs and homes and for many any hope of finding gainful employment again. In the land of endless distraction, we can be like those lounging on couches listening to idle music oblivious to the fact that shuttered storefronts represent real people who longue not in luxury but for lack of a job and whose only song is a lament. The word of Amos was a warning that went unheeded by those at ease in Zion secure on Mount Samaria until the Assyrians came knocking on the door with an eviction notice. Whether you think we have fully recovered from the great recession or not the way we heed this warning of Amos is to grieve with and for those who still suffer loss of home and livelihood while at the same time acting on the word of James 2:14-17 by providing comfort, support and shelter as we are able. In so doing we anticipate the day when “alas” will be “alleluia” and we will find our place in the many rooms of the Father’s house.