October 2, 2016
In which people ask God questions and don’t get the answers they’re after. Preached at St. Peter’s Comox.
Just wait, the righteous will live by faith.
We catch the prophet Habakkuk in the middle of a “did I hear that right?” moment with God. Habakkuk goes to the Lord and says, “God, look at all of this violence! Look at all of this wickedness; you’re in charge, right? So… what are you going to do to fix it?”
I imagine many of us have had moments like this; we find ourselves so trapped by the fallenness of this world, by the pain we cause each other, and by the hidden contempt for this God we are trying to follow that we just want him to hit the reset button, we want him to do something about our distress and about the world’s groaning, we want him to fix it.
So Habakkuk asks: “Are you going to fix it?” And what is God’s answer?
Ummm.. listen here bucko. Not only is it bad now, but it is going to get worse. These Babylonians are strong and put their faith, not in me, but in the power of their own strength. In your lifetime I am going to give them more power and more strength and more dominion over the kingdoms of this world.
If at this point you’re thinking “Come again God?” you are not alone. That’s exactly what I exclaimed to Marguerite when I first read the passage last week, and it is exactly what Habakkuk says. What? Seriously?
But God then tells him to wait for the appointed time. Something wonderful is going to happen in time. Just wait: the righteous will live now, in this, by faith.
It is an important reminder: that sometimes God allows terrible people to succeed, people who use that success to scoff at those that thirst after the holiness of the Lord. It is an important reminder that in times of distress and sorrow, sometimes we are going to call out to God, and his answer isn’t always going to seem very comfortable. Sometimes things we can’t control seem worse to us. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our question the way we want him to.
In those uncomfortable places, when the scoffers rise and we continue to be surrounded by corruption and evil and violence and selfishness and heresy in our lives, our home is in one place: in faith. We have but one task: to wait upon the Lord.
I know, this God guy can be pretty frustrating. Sometimes when you ask a question, he doesn’t answer. And our Gospel lesson this morning shows us that sometimes that’s just how God operates. We enter into the scene and the apostles ask Jesus a question…they ask him- will you increase our faith? After what we heard in Habakkuk this seems like a good request; this faith thing is going to be important for walking with God if it’s all we have in the face of worldly persecutions.
But Jesus responds to the Apostles, not with a “Yes, here’s some faith,” or a “Nope, sorry you’re out of luck”, but rather with a description of what faith is. “You don’t need oodles of faith,” Jesus says. “If you had even as much faith as a mustard seed you could say to that mulberry tree get up, uproot yourself and be planted into the sea and it would obey you.”
The life of faith is one in which marvellous things do happen. Prisoners to their own ambition are set free. Those who mourn are comforted. The weak are made to stand, scales fall from eyes, and the dead are given new life. But that spirit, not of timidity but of power at work in us, strong as it may be, must not be mistaken for our own greatness. The wonders God works in us are not of us but in us. We are servants, called into a life of obedience to his voice. Whatever fruits we bear are not to be accounted to us as our merit but rather simply our duty. This is what the gospel tells us: when a servant has returned from the field, the master doesn’t owe him thanks. He tells that servant to make him supper and serve him.
God doesn’t owe us answers. He isn’t a tool to be used according to our will. Rather we are created by him and the fulfillment of our very being is that we be used according to his will. To expect the inverse is a perversion.
Yet listen to who this God guy is. Yes he frustrates us sometimes by giving us answers that we don’t expect or that don’t fit our agenda, but he has an agenda that is so amazing. For our master prepares a feast for us and calls us to dine. He calls us to dine on the finest of foods, to feast on his very being that we might have life from him and in him.
Just wait, for the righteous will live by faith.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn; the justice of your cause, like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
Feed us by faith Lord Jesus.