The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk
O 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. So the law
becomes slack and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous — therefore judgement comes forth
I will stand at my watch-post, 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.
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.
I am grateful to God — whom I
worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you
constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling
your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith
that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am
sure, lives in you. For this reason I
remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on
of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit
of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Do not be ashamed, then, of the
testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering
for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a
holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given to us in Christ
Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing
of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and
an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in
whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day
what I have entrusted to him. Hold to
the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and
love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the
good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Here is another story Jesus told: “The
Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy
came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain,
the weeds also grew.
The farmer’s workers went to him and
said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer
‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they
‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the
wheat if you do. Let both grow together
until the harvest. Then I will tell the
harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to
put the wheat in the barn.’
Jesus prays to God the Father. 0All
mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 1And now I am no longer in the
world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that
you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in
your name that you have given me. I
guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so
that the scripture might be fulfilled. 3But
now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may
have my joy made complete in themselves.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they
do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the
world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
In September, I was fortunate enough to
travel both to a place far south and a place far north in this our European
In fact, I went further north than I
have ever been, which was exciting. Joel
and I were in the Arctic Circle, and we hiked and kayaked surrounded by snow-capped
mountains, and fjords, seemingly endless peaks that the cloud on different days
gradually disclosed. It was absolutely
I fulfilled a wish to visit the
northernmost Botanic Garden,
in Tromsø in
northern Norway. And the garden was
stunning. Even out of season it was full
of tiny alpine plants: gentians in bloom, looking
like little furled blue and yellow striped umbrellas, of all different shades,
and miniature beech trees, presumably low-growing to bear an arctic wind. Bees were still active, particularly in the
various spires of aconitum, called monkshood for the shape of the flower with
its distinctive hooded top. And we
strolled through a birch wood with bright yellow leaves not long for their
My southern visit was to Lisbon, a city
on the water’s edge bathed in sunshine and noisy with construction projects. Philip and I caught a train a few stops up to
see the Atlantic surf rolling up the sands and crashing against the walls of
the promenade. On my birthday we sailed
on a locals’ yacht around the harbour, under the copy of the Golden Gate
bridge, listening to the splash of the calm water against the side and watching
for the last hour the sun sink to the horizon, changing the sky all shades of
blue and lemon and apricot.
Well might our collect remind us: Lord
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
I want to let you know today, because I
have so recently seen it with my own eyes: from the far north to the far south
the glory of God is tangible and beautiful.
God is present.
Part of the joy of both locations was
having a balcony from which to enjoy the view. Admittedly there were 48 steps up to the
apartment in order to enjoy the tiny Lisbon balcony, but for me it was worth it
as I felt a real need to be able to look out across the landscape, both
literally and figuratively.
There are times when we need to go to
the balcony, to see the wood from the trees, to see the bigger picture, from
the far north to the far south, to understand properly, our place, our
Like our figure in our OT reading, that
wonderful little book of Habakkuk:
I will stand at my
and station myself
on the rampart;
I will keep watch
to see what he will say to me,
And one thing God “said”, was: isn’t
this beautiful? This is for you to enjoy.
From north to south to east and west,
the glory of God is tangible and beautiful, and as we hiked in Norway we saw
families and students, men and women, younger and older, making the most of a
weekend to enjoy the beauties of nature, out walking and running, mountain
biking and roller-skiing.
The glory of God is tangible around us
for us to enjoy, and in enjoying to know that God is present.
Today, as we consider our own place,
and the generosity of God in the beauty around us, we can be glad that we rely
on a God who is: Almighty, merciful, full of grace, and full of justice, whose
glory is tangible at all points of the compass.
In Lisbon and in Tromsø, we
had a chance to talk with local people, to walk around the city with them. To learn something of their own stories and
challenges. Our walking guide in Lisbon
was in fact Venezuelan, a Portuguese colonist. She was young, just in her twenties, yet she
said, as she told the story of Portugal, that she had scars on her body, from
her own protest against the regime in recent years in Venezuela before she
moved to be with her grandmother in Portugal .
She now tells the story of the
liberation of Portugal from the dictatorship under Antonio de Oliviere
Salazar.... little did we know that Harry Potter was partly researched whilst
JK Rowling was living in Portugal! ...That was the red carnation liberation, a
comparatively peaceful end to a time of control, suspicion, watching and
Northern Norway was less traumatised,
although telling the story of the history of the northernmost brewery, Macks,
Joel listened to the story of how the Norwegians under occupation, passed
valuable statistics to the British on the numbers of enemy troops, through the
amount of beer they ordered. Today,
Norway is concerned for the ecology of the earth: we had to work out 6
different coloured bags for recycling; we listened to the situation in a
tranquil and beautiful island neighbourhood, where 87 wind turbines are being
stationed, changing the look forever of a place where they enjoy the bounty of
fish-filled waters and fresh air. In Tromsø I
was interested to hear of the longevity of the struggle of artist Aase Texmon
Rygh to be recognised as an abstract artist in the 1940’s and 50’s when she was
both a woman and from the ‘looked down on’ north of the
country. Yet her story was nothing
compared to the previously misunderstood Sami people.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful a place
may be, if living conditions for the people are tainted with injustice and
suffering then it can be a vulnerable place to be. But vulnerability is
part of the Christian story: God is a generous God allowing wheat and weeds to
grow together in the field, allowing growth and development of opportunity and
character. And that will not be a walk
in the park.
The glory of God tangible around us,
reminds us of the presence of God through whose grace other resources are
available. So, Paul says to
Timothy and to us, ”rekindle the gift of God that is within you...; for God
did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love
and of self-discipline.
Sometimes a balcony view is essential,
to see what is what. We become
distracted with the process of growth and development, with the nuts and bolts
of living, that we don’t take a step up to the balcony, to consider what
treasure we are surrounded with,
Guard the good
treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
And that treasure is not just beauty
and natural resources, although increasingly they must be on our minds and
hearts and voices, but also the treasure we have been given.
Back to our epistle reading..
God did not give us
a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of
We have been given the means to make a
difference to our own character, and to the lives of those around us. That is the treasure to be most thankful for .
. . and to courageously apply ourselves
Guard the good
treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
The watchmen in Habbakuk’s day stood on
their balcony and were appalled at what they saw:
violence are before me;
So the law becomes
and justice never
God grants the wheat and weeds to grow
together, to be given the same choices, the same opportunities and resources for
good, and that means the wheat will grow up in the context of strife and
contention, destruction and violence.
And in that context, the wise, the
good, will choose the good, will receive the spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
And despite the violence, destruction,
strife and contention around us today, here in our own country and government
choices, we must fix our eyes, from the balcony, on the tangible glory of God,
we must know that God is present.
For Paul reminds us:
I know the one in whom I have put
my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I
have entrusted to him. Hold to the
standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love
that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard the good treasure
entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
We have the good treasure, the glory of
God from far south to far north, we have the character of God difficultly
produced in us by the help of the Holy Spirit.
And most importantly of all, finally,
As we guard the good treasure, so Christ guards us.
God the Almighty, the gracious, the
merciful, and the just is our Guard, our ultimate watch.
So Jesus prays:
protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as
we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you
have given me. I guarded them, and not
one of them was lost. . . I am not asking you to take them out of the world,
but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
A prayer from the Philippines:
Lord, in these times when we fear we
are losing hope or feel our efforts are futile, let us see in our hearts and
minds the image of your resurrection.
And let that be the source of courage
and strength. With that, and in your
company, help us to face the challenges and struggles against all that is born