Seeing the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has been hard. After twenty years, two trillion dollars, 2,448 Americans killed, 47,245 Afghan civilians dead, the Taliban are back in power. How could we abandon Afghan women to their medieval rule? But how could we continue to send our soldiers – including several children of this congregation who were deployed there – into harm’s way to fight a war, which our leaders knew years ago, could not be won? How could we leave so many of our Afghan friends, translators, and allies behind?
Seeing American power recede and Taliban power succeed was sad. Maybe it will sober us up so that next time one of our leaders cry: “Let’s go invade another country!” we’ll be wise enough to know the full cost and likely outcome before going in.
This week we got to see what happens when one power leaves and another moves in to take its place. One regime fell and another regime arose and began dictating how life was going to be under its rule.
Add in the escalating pandemic, the rise of the delta-variant, and the daily dose of bad news we regularly get: All this is enough to make you want to run home, turn off the light, crawl under your bed, and suck your thumb in the dark.
But the prophet Habakkuk reminds us that there is something better that that we can do. Instead of slavishly giving in to despair, we can defiantly hold onto hope.
Like us, Habakkuk was confronted by the wrong outcome of a war. Judah had collapsed before the tyranny of Babylon. Jerusalem had fallen; the Temple was destroyed; the best and the brightest were forced into exile.
The Book of Job hollers at God: Why did this happen to ME? The Book of Habakkuk hollers at God: Why did this happen to US? Why do tyrants triumph? Why does evil prevail? Why do our best intentions often fail so miserably?
Habakkuk never gets any answers. All he gets is an assignment: Write the vision! Put it on a billboard so speeding cars can easily read it. The vision – God’s vision – for the future, for humanity, for salvation, justice, and peace shall come. My will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The wicked are going down. You can count on that. The righteous, the penitent, and the forgiving will be lifted up. So, keep the faith; hang onto hope; and know that my vision will be your future.
Like Habakkuk, our assignment is to remember that of all the powers on this earth, the ultimate power is God’s. In the end, God is gonna get what God wants. We need to remember that and keep doing what God has told us to do: Act justly, love kindly, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Share with the needy, forgive readily, and never, ever give up.
I can’t control what the American government does in my name, but I can donate to a refugee relief organization to help our Afghan friends. I can still make a difference – and so can you. I can’t stop the pandemic. But I can get vaccinated and wear a mask and encourage others to do the same. You can, too.
Like Habakkuk, we, too, can stand watch – eagerly, on our tip-toes — waiting, watching, hungering for God, knowing that God will come through because God is who God is supposed to be and God is gonna do what God is supposed to do. Living your life anchored in that truth is what the Bible calls faith. Doing what God has asked us to do is what the Bible calls discipleship. Knowing that God will carry the day and living your life accordingly is what the Bible calls hope. Put all that together in a life of love and you’ve got it: You’re who God wants you to be. You’re doing what God wants you to do. You’re part of the Body of Christ; you’re an antibody of goodness in the world combating the disease of hatred, indifference, cruelty, and despair. You’re the Easter presence of salt, light, and bread that Christ calls you to be to be in this Good Friday world that is so tasteless, dark, and hungry.
The light – the light of Christ and your light – shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not, is not, and will not overcome Christ or you. That’s our hope and victory – and that’s our calling and challenge.
So, for God’s sake, do something. You don’t have to do it all – you can’t do it all — but you can do something. Mentor a child; donate to a cause; pray for a friend; bury a grudge; share your blessings; forgive your enemies. If and as you do that, you align yourself with the greatest power on this earth. Like a snowflake adding itself to a glacier, your one, small, invaluable life will be added by grace to the unstoppable, glad, gospel force moving mountains and displacing deserts, ushering in the Kingdom of God’s love and justice and peace.
That is the vision. Write it on your hearts. Share it in your lives. Broadcast it to the world. Stand on the promises of God and live that future today.