Some seven hundred years before Christ, a Hebrew poet prophet surveyed the society in which he lived and reacted with a lament that rings true even to our day.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?…
… the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgement comes forth perverted. [Habakkuk 1.2-4]
This could be our poem. We live in a world that some days seems to be in free fall. The level of rage, the anxiety, the deep fear, the thirst for vengeance, is all right there. So we seek security in bigger armies, better drones, gated communities.
But God will not let violence be the last word to Habakkuk. It is the business of the prophet, God says, to offer a vision, to imagine God’s good future for the world and to invite the faithful to live into it.
A new economy based, not on greed, but on generosity.
A new international order based not on domination by the powerful few, but on a peaceable network of nations.
A new church, based not on sectarian certitude, but on the largeness of the gospel.
A new neighbourhood, not based on fear and control, but ready for welcome and sharing.
Contemporary poet, William Brodrick echoes Habakkuk.
Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help,
and go unanswered,
nothing’s ever the same again.
Even God changes.
But there is a healing hand at work
that cannot be deflected from its purpose.
I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry.
Those tears are part of what it is to be a [Christian].
Out there, in the world, it can be very cold.
It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair,
faith and doubt, life and death,
all the opposites.
Join us this Sunday as we reflect on the poem of Habakkuk and its hard-edged message of hope for us.