Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 26

Track 1: Faith Patience Perseverance

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

In today’s Old Testament reading we examine the complaint that Habakkuk had against God:

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.

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.

The wicked surround the righteous–
therefore judgment comes forth perverted   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

The prophet’s complaint, though made centuries ago, could very much apply to our times. We see so much injustice and so little done to correct it. Will anybody ever be arrested? Will anybody ever be convicted of their crimes?

Habakkuk waited for God’s reply. He listened carefully to hear what God might say:

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 will answer concerning my complaint.

So much of the answers we seek from God are dependent upon our willingness to listen. God answered Habakkuk:

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   (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. 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.

God gives 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. Our prayers are prophetic when we pray the word that God has given us.

The psalmist wrote:

You are righteous, O Lord,
and upright are your judgments.

You have issued your decrees
with justice and in perfect faithfulness.   (Psalm 119:138)

God is faithful. How do we resond during the in-between period, while we wait? Do we disparage and doubt? Do we criticize and complain? These things are not done by people who humble themselves before God. God spoke to Habakkuk:

Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:4)

We are to live by faith. Faith is trusting in God. It often requires patience. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)

The promises of God are received by faith. Let us not forget that the recipe for faith contains some  patience. and perseverance


Track 2: A Descendent of Abraham

Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-8
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

Today we have one of my favorite characters of in Gospel narratives:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”   (Luke 19:1-7)

Zacchaeus was a sinner indeed. He was a tax collector. Tax collectors were hated by the Jews. They worked for Rome, occupier of Israel. Not only that, but they often took advantage of people for their own personal gain. But Zacchaeus knew that he was missing something. He had heard about Jesus and he sought him out. And then he transformed by the unconditional love of Christ:

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19:8-10)

Calling Zacchaeus a son of Abraham was a shocking thing to say. It meant that anyone could be a son of Abraham. Most Jews believed that y0u could achieve that status only by birth. John the Baptist, however, preached:

and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”   (Matthew 3:9)

The kingdom of heaven is not made up of people who have the right credentials, attend the right church, or hold others in contempt. No, Jesus made it clear that the his kingdom was made up of sinners who repented. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!

Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile!

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.

I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.   (Psalm 32:1-6)

Zacchaeus did more than verbally confess his sins. He took steps to correct the wrong that he had done. The Apostle Paul wrote the Church in Thessalonica:

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.   (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Zacchaeus was a sinner, but he set an example for us. Are we sons of Abraham?

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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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