In the Meantime Week Seven - "The Kingdom Is Coming"
Habakkuk is a book that was written for faithful people in any time or place who find themselves living in the meantime between redemption and fulfillment. Habakkuk was a prophet who went to God with some serious questions about God's motives and actions. He wanted redemption. He wanted things to go back to the way they were when people were worshiping God faithfully, justice reigned and all was right with the world.
Who doesn't want that? I want that about a thousand times a day. Only going back isn't the answer. Because we all know that the past gets idealized and we only remember what we want to remember. God is all about moving forward.
That's what Habakkuk is all about in the end. People who have a right relationship with God live faithfully by trusting his plans, his ways, his will... and looking forward to the future in hope. And sometimes God's plans are hard to figure out, and don't seem to make a lot of sense---or worse, feel like the exact opposite of what we need.
Habakkuk found himself wondering what God was up to, and if God's plans were really perfect. He was at the end of his rope. And then God promised him that redemption was coming---salvation was on it's way. As Christians we view this promise through the lens of Jesus Christ, who was God's embodied promise.
So now like Habakkuk we wait. We have the promise embodied in Jesus Christ we have salvation happening all around us, and we can choose life over death. But we are still waiting for the kingdom of God to be present all around us and for the world to finally be right.
The last chapter of Habakkuk is a song. Check that. It's a song of rescue.
Think about what it means to be rescued. Here, maybe this will help... think about the greatest rescue movies of all time. What would be on your list? Here's a short list of mine:
1. Schindler's List - I mean come on, this has to be number one.
2. Black Hawk Down - more than just a guy flick
3. Last of the Mohicans - "whatever shall occur... I will find you!"
4. The Searchers - classic John Wayne movie
5. Taken - Liam Neeson comes for his daughter and kills everyone else
6. Castaway - Tom Hanks & Wilson traverse the ocean
7. Rambo I, II, III, IV, Whatever
There's others, but I'll probably wait to have the congregation fill in the ones I missed.
Every one of these movies taps into something that is at the heart of each of us---when we are in trouble, we want to know that Liam Neeson is going to wreck Paris to find us. Or Daniel Day Lewis is going to don his leather leggings, prime his musket and take out some Huron to save us. We want to know that when we need help, that help is on the way.
That's the take away from this sermon---the one thing that I want everyone to hold on to...
Do you need help? Help is on the way.
Read Habakkuk 3:1-19
After all is said and done, after all the conversations with God and after having nothing left but a choice to believe or not... Habakkuk sings at the top of his lungs.
In verses 1-2 we hear Habakkuk sing to God, "Renew your deeds." This is not bout Habakkuk's deeds, his works, his efforts, his abilities, power, success, etc. It's about God's. Habakkuk desires the kingdom of God, is prepared to work for it, pray for it, live for it---but he knows that he can't bring it. We need to hear this. We can promote the kingdom of God through out actions. Neither can we oppose it, because we've already seen what happens to those who do (take a look at last week's sermon). God's going to bring his kingdom---and is bringing his kingdom.
In verses 3-15 we see God "conquering the chaos"---taking a world that has been made formless and void by sin and reforming it and reshaping it. If it sounds a lot like Genesis---it's because it's meant to. We tend to mess everything up and then find ourselves without the ability to fix it. We discover to our dismay that we actually have to live with the consequences of our sin. God takes the chaos of all of this and conquers it.
In verses 16-19 Habakkuk declares at the end of his song that come what may---whatever calamity might befall him that he will wait and will rejoice. This is the final Amen of the prophet, and one that we are invited to join him in singing. Can we live with this? Can we live with just placing our future in God's hands? Can we affirm Habakkuk's faith? Can we join him in this song of trust? It's harder than it seems to sing at the end of it all.
Some have said that this vision by Habakkuk is a vision of Armageddon---when God will conquer the forces of evil once and for all and sin and death will disappear. When we put it like that it doesn't sound like such a bad thing---Armageddon. I don't know about you, but I want a God who is going to judge injustice and set things to right.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for a plot against Hitler wrote in prison, "By good powers wonderfully hidden we await cheerfully come what may."
My prayer for each and everyone of the people who hear this sermon is that they catch the vision of the coming kingdom of God. I see it happening all around me. I see it in the faces of the people who line up at our Clothes Closet every Friday hoping to find clothes for their children. I see it in the way our congregation gives of itself to our community to feed our neighbors, the lost, the broken and lonely each week. I see it in the way we minister to children that no one wants to help. I see it in the way that our members are growing hungrier to know more about what it means to follow Christ, and to understand the Bible. I see it when someone who is hopeless and helpless finds a home in our midst and begins to understand the love of Jesus. In a world that seems to be falling apart, we have evidence, real evidence
The Kingdom is coming. We can't be afraid any more. We've got to start living into the hope of those words. We know we need help.
The kingdom is coming.
Don't be afraid. Help is on the way.
Sing at the top of your lungs.
Several years ago, I was on call at Florida Hospital when a man was brought in who had suffered a massive stroke. He was on a ventilator and they were about to remove it. I went to his room and discovered his brother and sister-in-law sitting there with him. I introduced myself, and the brother told me, "He's Jewish...we're all Jewish. Isn't there a rabbi on duty?" I told him that there wasn't and we wouldn't be able to contact one until the next day. He informed me that they were on vacation from New York, and his brother had collapsed in his hotel room. I asked him if it would be okay if I prayed over his brother. "Do you know any Jewish prayers?" he asked me. I told him that I knew one that was taught by someone who was Jewish---the Lord's Prayer. He looked at me and a small sad smile came over his face. "We did have him first, didn't we?" I prayed the Lord's Prayer over the man, and then all was silent. "He was a good brother," the man said in a choked voice. "He always took care of me." The nurses and technicians had gathered in the doorway. "I'm a cantor at my synagogue." he told me. "I'm going to sing to him now." I expected that the man would sing something in Hebrew. He didn't. He sang something else. He sang the Lord's Prayer in a beautiful tenor voice. A strange light seemed to be in the room. Everyone in the entire wing was still. I looked at the nurses standing in the doorway and they were crying. I was crying. The kingdom of God was all around us. The sadness, the uncertainty, the fear, the doubt---all of it got pushed back.
Do you need help? Are you tired of being afraid? Are you weary of doubting?
Then sing. Sing at the top of your lungs.
Help is on the way.