Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pentecost 17C - Sunday, October 6, 2019

Holy Cross MonasteryWest Park, NY
Br. Bob Pierson, OHC
Pentecost 17C - Sunday, October 6, 2019

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Click here for an audio version of the sermon.

When I read the words of the prophet Habakkuk in today's first reading, I thought perhaps he had been listening in on my personal prayer time.  His words closely mirror my own sentiments:
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?  Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?  Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble?  Destruction and violence are before me, strife and contention arise.  So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.”
I will admit that these words may overstate our current situation just a bit, but I think many of us really wonder what's going on in our world today when our nation's leaders seem to be using their power illegally to investigate political rivals, innocent refugees are being imprisoned at our borders along with their children, gun violence continues to be reported in the news almost weekly, and nothing seems to be happening to deal with any of it.  To quote the psalmist, “How long, O Lord!”  So, as Habakkuk continues, he has my attention:
“I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.  Then the Lord answered me and said:  Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.  For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.  If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.  Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.”
“The righteous live by their faith.”  What does that mean?  Perhaps an answer lies in our other two Scripture passages today.  The gospel passage from Luke has two curious sayings of Jesus.  In the first, after the apostles ask Jesus for an increase of faith, he basically tells them, “You don't need MORE faith.  If you had just a tiny bit of faith, you could do amazing things.  And then Jesus goes on to tell the apostles that they shouldn't expect God to serve them as a reward for their good deeds.  Instead, they need to realize that whatever good they do is simply what they ought to have done as God's servants.  What I hear God saying in Luke today is:  “Plant your mustard seeds, and let me bring them to fruition.  But don't expect me to do it all for you.  You need to be involved in what you are called to do.”  So, the righteous live by their faith, and do what they are called to do, as small as it might seem.

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, also has something to say about what it means to “live by faith.”  Paul reminds Timothy of his “sincere faith” which he inherited from his mother and grandmother, and asks him to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.”  God did not give Timothy “a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed of his testimony about our Lord, but rather to join Paul in “suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling.” For Paul, living by faith means using the gifts of power, love, and self-discipline that God has given us, even if it means we get to share in Christ's suffering as a result of living our call.

So as we return now to the prophet Habakkuk we recognize that we are called as God's servants to share the gifts that we have been given and to plant our “mustard seeds” of power and love so that God can use our efforts and help us right the wrong of the world.  Yes, we may feel overwhelmed by the amount of pain and suffering around us, but we don't need to do it all.  As Sister Helen Prejean, from Dead Man Walking once said, “We aren't called to do everything; we are called to do our one thing.”  And if our one thing seems tiny and powerless, we need to remember the snowflake.  All by itself, it is almost nothing, but if we get enough snowflakes all moving together in the wind of God's powerful love, we have a blizzard that cannot be stopped.  I guess the question is “do we have the faith to believe that?”

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