Sermon for Proper 22 – RCL Year C Option 2
Scripture Passages – Psalm 37:1–9 | NT: 2 Timothy 1:1–14 | OT: Habakkuk 1:1–4; 2:1 | Gospel: Lk 17:5–10
You know what my favorite part of parenting is? That moment about 10 minutes into your all-day road trip with all your children and one of them asks:
“Are we there yet?”
…yeah, that’s not my favorite part at all.
Of course the answer is “no.” Not yet. I, as the responsible adult, know that we’ve got enough gas, how to get where we’re going, and that our vehicle is in roadworthy condition. I’ve got not only the big picture, but a grasp on all the important details, so I’m not stressed at all.
But that’s not my kids’ perspective. 10 minutes after that first inquiry comes another, “Are we there yet?” And then 10 minutes later, “how about now, Dad?” And then 5 minutes after that, “I’m booooorrreeeeddd….what can I do?”
“You can listen to the radio and enjoy the ride, kids!”
On the journey of life we are often like those kids on the road trip. We know the ending (or at least we should). God is going to win in the end. All things will be made new in the end. The devil and sickness and death will be defeated. But in the mean time we find ourselves asking, along with some biblical authors, “are we there yet? What can I do?”
Like kids on a road trip we have an idea of where we’re going, but we don’t understand how long it will take or what the fine-tuned details are going to look like. And unlike kids on a road trip boredom is not the worst we can expect on our journey.
We look around and see our world struggling, our society crumbling, the church stumbling, leaders falling, and so many people suffering for innumerable reasons.
So for us, the question, “are we there yet?” is very personal one, laced with painful uncertainty and often sorrow because we know, just like kids in the back of a still-moving minivan in familiar neighborhood, that we are not there yet.
What is taking God so long, after all?
It’s a valid question; one that is even asked by prophets in the Bible. Habakkuk’s outcry to God is bold and straightforward:
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2, ESV)
“…the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4, ESV)
In my research I for this sermon I found the key word in the passage is mishpaṭ, “justice.” This isn’t just the idea of fairness, but a concept of God’s total order for his people in the context of the law and the whole Israelite religious tradition.
Habakkuk asks along with us as we gaze into the world, “where is justice? When are things going to be set right?”
He persists. He doesn’t argue with God exactly, but he does press in to his request. He asks, in chapter one verse seventeen, if God will “keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?” In other words, will the cycle of violence ever end?
“Yes,” God says, “it will end. It may seem like it’s slow going, but just wait.”
In the meantime, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:2-4 ESV)
So the answer to “are we there yet?” is, I think, “not yet.” And the answer to “what can I do?” is live by faith.
Habakkuk had tremendous faith. By all appearances he took God at his word, and in his final prayer he gives praise to God for everything he has done in the past in view of what he has promised for the future.
The Good News is you and I can remember God’s faithfulness is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
We know this isn’t just a nice story, but something that really happened. And unlike Habakkuk, we can really see a little bit of that perfect future has breaking into the present with the inauguration of God’s Kingdom and the release of the Holy Spirit upon his people, the church…that’s you and me! We can see what it’s like to live in Kingdom even though it hasn’t yet manifested in its fullness. We can see the reconciliation between God and man happening in front of us whenever someone confesses Jesus as Lord. We can testify to healing of people’s bodies and souls. We experience the sustaining power of God’s grace as we participate in Holy Eucharist. Living in light of these truths is what allows us to navigate in these indefinite, uncertain, and violent times.
But living in light of these things can be hard. And it does seem to require a lot of faith doesn’t it? Have you ever felt like you’re just not sure if you have enough faith to make it? I know that I have. Yet, we are to live by faith.
Let’s go to the Gospel passage today and see what Jesus tells us about faith. The disciples, perhaps finally grasping the true cost of discipleship, ask for an increase in faith, and Jesus kind of chastises them.
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6, ESV)
They are thinking about faith in entirely the wrong terms. It’s not about how much faith you have, but who you have faith in.
As one theologian said,
“It’s not great faith you need; it is faith in a great God. Faith is like a window through which you can see something. What matters is not whether the window is six inches or six feet high; what matters is the God that your faith is looking out on.”
So, the way we are going to live is by faith. We don’t need a lot of it, it just needs to be resting in the right person. It sounds easy, but that’s the danger isn’t? If we encounter a modicum of what we consider to be success, we tend to start congratulating ourselves as if we’ve accomplished something in ourselves. This is why Jesus really drives home the story about the servant’s attitude to his disciples. He knows that the key to keeping the faith is staying humble and focused on the person that you are ultimately serving and that can ultimately save you—God.
Paul gets this, and this is why he exhorting his “beloved Timothy” to stay strong in a world that was pretty hostile to Christianity. He knows that given all the suffering Timothy sees, and might well experience himself, there will be a temptation to throw in towel. He trusts God, he says,
“who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:9–12, ESV)
He goes on,
“Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me…guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
There it is again, the life of faith: not drawing attention to yourself, but patterning your life after what God has revealed in his word. Faithful, humble, service.
As a minister and a pastor I am often heavily burdened by the brokenness of the people around me. The world seems so hopeless for many. Christians still die for their faith. Children are still abused. Marriages still fall apart. Sicknesses we can’t cure still plague people that don’t seem to deserve to suffer like that. The ones that have abandoned God still seem to be the ones that exert the most influence on our society not just domestically but globally.
Yet, I am convinced of the truth of the Gospel. Not am I convinced that Jesus was really raised from the dead, I am a witness to the real inner healing that comes from getting into a right relationship with God. I have seen God heal impossible cases. I know that love conquers fear every time. And I know that I have communion with God in this this fellowship of believers, in the reading of the Scripture, and at this altar.
So I still have hope, and I want to say to you: you can still have hope, too.
It may seem as if salvation is a long way off, after all we do still—as Paul says in Romans—wait for the redemption of our bodies. We’re not there yet. But this week as you contemplate the often harsh world that you find yourself in, remember what God has done in Jesus and what God is doing in the world through your faithful, day-to-day obedience in the power of the Sprit. And be confident that the God that raised Jesus from the dead will deliver on what he has promised to do. Justice will come. God’s order will be restored. Jesus is coming back, and all things are even now being made new. Amen.
 Achtemeier, E. (2001). Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C. In The lectionary commentary: theological exegesis for Sunday’s texts, volume one (pp. 497–498). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
 Wright, T. (2004). Luke for Everyone (p. 204). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.