Monday, October 24, 2016
I’m following the lectionary reading this week. They say every preacher should preach from this three-year cycle. I have done it twice in my life, and since I am now falling into the trap of preaching my favourite hobbyhorses, I think it is time I go back to the lectionary! The Old Testament reading is the first four verses of Habakkuk, chapters one and two, whilst the gospel reading is the story of Zacchaeus, a story of Jesus ‘seeking and saving’ the lost. At first the two readings seem quite unrelated, but upon reflection they are really not. In chapter one Habakkuk is bemoaning the destruction and violence all around him, which in his context of the 722 BC Syrian exile, was extreme. The present day atrocities in Syria and of ISIS somewhat equate to what Israel were experiencing back then. They were indeed dire days. Jesus, familiar with suffering and pain himself, tackles the problem of ‘violence and destruction‘ by including the ‘outsider’, who is a representative of all that is wrong! Befriending Zacchaeus, the loathed tax collector, who is a symbol of Israel’s enemies, is how Jesus preached the gospel. It seems lost on us today that Jesus’ solution to the problems we face (at least in part) is to preach the gospel to those we disregard. We are more comfortable to isolate, make fun of, and scapegoat the problem-makers, rather than befriend them with the gospel. The Lord’s answer to Habakkuk, the first four verses of chapter two, is, “But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. And this is the message: "Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.'” Note, how in the midst of Habakkuk’s ‘crying out’, he goes into the watchtower to wait for God to answer him and to act. The more dire it gets, and the more we long for God to say something or do something, the more we need to be still, pray, and wait. God’s answer, whilst we befriend and preach, is that good will overcome evil, but we will have to wait, and remain faithful.