Sunday school lesson for the week of October 5, 2014
By Rev. John Brantley
Lesson scripture: Habakkuk 2:1-14; 3:17-19
2:1 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. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 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. 4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. 5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own. 6 Shall not everyone taunt such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them, "Alas for you who heap up what is not your own!" How long will you load yourselves with goods taken in pledge? 7 Will not your own creditors suddenly rise, and those who make you tremble wake up? Then you will be booty for them. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, all that survive of the peoples shall plunder you— because of human bloodshed, and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them. 9 "Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses, setting your nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm!" 10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. 11 The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork. 12 "Alas for you who build a town by bloodshed, and found a city on iniquity!" 13 Is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor only to feed the flames, and nations weary themselves for nothing? 14 But the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. 3:17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights. To the leader: with stringed instruments. [NRSV]
Focus: Even though sin separates us, we can rejoice because God never leaves us.
Reflections: The prophet is the watchdog who remains on alert for the household. Our two sweet little rescue dogs sound terrible but their bark is actually a call to come play. As harsh and repetitive as the message sounds, it may be the persistence that gets our attention. Habakkuk calls for the people of God to see what sounds like salvation in pride, wealth and power are distracting noises that leave us far from the God who claims us.
It is a common experience, at many United Methodist churches, that have been around for a few years, to know the voice of plaster that the prophet describes: Dodging chunks from the ceiling in the sanctuary, water stained cracks in the wall and impending emergencies hidden behind the surface. Things that are on the Trustees to-do list but the necessary resources seem elusive. And yet the problems are in plain sight. The prophet calls for us to reaffirm whether we are people of God or people of our god.
The measure of fruitfulness of our relationship with God and one another can be seen in what is present or what is absent. The Habakkuk sees the fig tree with no flowers, vines with no grape, empty olive presses and acres of what was bread for the many and barns and fields that have no livestock. In the fall of the year this might make a lovely puzzle scene to pass out time away with an old empty bard and weathered silos among the yellows, reds and orange leaves. But this is will sustain us for only a season.
The prophetic voice may sound small, but it is with boldness in God’s strength, that our voice can rejoice and share hope for the community, the world and ourselves. The implied instruction is to coming together singing praise to God for God’s faithfulness. So no matter how much evil we see and hear in the news, God is greater. If we hear only of illnesses, disasters and threats of war, God will see us through.
Homework: When you hear conversation of doom and gloom among your friends and neighbors, share with them God’s faithfulness and share a song of praise to replace their fears and worry.
Prayer: Mighty God, you are our strength and our nourishment. Without you we are left alone. May we share your love, power and grace and find hope with those we share your songs of praise. Amen.
Rev. John Brantley is pastor of Rock Springs UMC in the North Georgia Conference. Contact him at email@example.com.