Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22

Track 1: The Songs of Zion

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26
or Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

From Lamentations we read:

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.   ()

Jerusalem had been captured. The remnants of Judah were now in exile in Babylon. The psalmist wrote about the what it was like living in exile:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,
when we remembered you, O Zion.

As for our harps, we hung them up
on the trees in the midst of that land.

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

How shall we sing the Lord‘S song
upon an alien soil.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill.

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,   (Psalm 137:1-6)

What is remarkable here is the question asked by the Babylonians captors:

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

The songs sung by the captives had touched them. The Babylonians heard something in the captives that they did not have. They wanted to hear more of the songs of Zion. Even though the captives felt oppressed, they were still able to sing with joy to the Lord.

Habakkuk, the prophet and poet wrote:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
    and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
    and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
    and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.   (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Faith in God does not eliminate hardships and trials. Things will happen that are out of our control, but we must continue to give thanks for God’s faithfulness in our lives. Despite how we may feel or the circumstance that we find ourselves in, let us reflect upon how God has been faithful to us in the past, .

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

It is God who gives us hope, especially when we rejoice in him. Circumstances change, but God does not. Let us not fear the circumstances.

The Apostle Peter wrote:

Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you,   (1 Peter 3:14-15)

The message of a true disciple of Jesus is hope. The hope is fueled by an inner joy. God has given us a fountain of hope. Jesus said that we would have in our hearts: “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Do we know this Jesus? Do we know the One who feeds our soul? If so, let us reveal him to others through our joy. Like the Babylonian captors, they are looking for something that they have missed. We have the answer for them.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Track 2: Living by Faith

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

For almost all of the Old Testament prophets, biographical  information is given about them. We learn about hometown, occupation, or information concerning their tribe. This is not true for the prophet Habakkuk, however. We are told that he is a prophet, but little else. Nonetheless, we can gain an understanding of him by what he has written. Let us look at Habakkuk’s complaint against God:

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 wrongdoing
    and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.   (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Habakkuk was a prophet. He was also an intercessor for the nation, He was concerned about the injustice he was observing

.I will stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me
    and what he[a] will answer concerning my complaint.   (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk was an intercessor and watchman. He stood watch over Jerusalem and Judah. He waited to hear from God and did not lose hope:

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 faithfulness.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

We may look for God to do something to correct injustice. But he has not moved in the time that we expected. Many of us are seeing great injustices today. Perhaps ew have become frustrated and angry by it all?

God’s time is not always our time. But this much is true, God’s timing is perfect. He has an appointed time for everything.

The psalmist wrote:

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.

For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him,
and he will bring it to pass.   (Psalm 37:1-5)

God has given us a vision. It will come to pass. But God requires that we write it down, at least on our hearts. We should be in agreement with him. We should pray faithfully for it to manifest. In fact, we are to pray it into existence. By prayer we speak the future into existence. Our prayers are most effective when we pray using God’s words. That is a form of prophecy.

God tells Habakkuk and he tells us that the vision will come. When it comes we will rejoice. In the meantime we must live by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hopefor, the conviction of things not seen.”   (Hebrews 11:1) How do we feel when our faith pays off?

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells a curious parable:

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was comffective manded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”   (Luke 17:7-10)

To understand this parable we must understand that the subject of the parable is the slave and not the owner of the slave. The slave gets no extra credit by merely doing his duty.

When we help pray something into existence, we cannot take the glory for it. To God belongs the glory. We have only done our duty. The righteous live by faith. Doubt and fear belong to those who do not know who God is. He is the God who is is always faithful.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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