3rd July 2022
Habakkuk, like Thomas, has a question for God. We have to go back to the first chapter in Habakkuk to learn what it is. Habakkuk is dismayed at what he sees happening in the world around him, where it seems that wrongdoing is being rewarded, and that the wicked thrive. He has repeatedly called on God for help. Whilst it seems as if God’s response is slow in coming, Habakkuk is still hopeful that God is noting all that is happening and will mete out judgment and punishment accordingly. So it is that today’s reading begins with Habakkuk faithfully stationed at his Watch post. God replies that a time of salvation and satisfaction will come. Habakkuk should not doubt because there will be a resolution in due time. God has a vision for how things will be and it will vindicate the faith of the righteous.
We may have a lot of sympathy for Habakkuk, for looking round the world today it does seem as if things are going from bad to worse. There are heat waves of unprecedented scale across the globe. Even in Europe rivers such as the Po are dried up due to a lack of rain and snowfall. Harvests of rice in Italy and Spain are threatened. The war in Ukraine has disrupted grain supplies, hiking the prices worldwide and putting millions of people in Africa and the Middle East at risk of starvation. Floods in Bangladesh, in Brazil and Peru. Record temperatures in the arctic and Antarctic. Again triggered by the war in Ukraine, a rush to reopened coal power stations and to explore and tap new oil and gas fields in complete opposition to undertakings made last November to reduce carbon emissions. Amongst the global South foreign debts are rocketing, and Sri Lanka is effectively bankrupt.
It is not surprising that António Guterres, president of the UN, has warned that humanity is facing a prefect storm of crises, widening inequality between the north and south, which he describes as ‘morally unacceptable’!
Do we, can we, still believe that God is concerned and that God wills a just and equitable solution? And how is such a resolution to be brought into effect if humans continue wilfully and carelessly to frustrate efforts by a minority that would curb the effects of the climate crisis and provide for the well being of all peoples and living things?
Can we take hope from the example of Thomas? He, not unreasonably, has been asking for evidence before he can believe what is surely unbelievable? Thomas is neither too frightened nor too timid to express his doubts. Perhaps it would do us good to openly express our concerns about a) the dire state of the world, and b) our lack of hope that things can improve? Once we are honest with ourselves, it should be easier for God to find ways of reassuring us. We do want to be able to echo Thomas, shouting out with assurance, ‘My Lord and my God!’
The suggestion from psalm 117 is that we should praise God and in that way be reassured of God’s faithfulness. The letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we are not just the household of God but also a spiritual dwelling place for God. Our faith, our commitment to God, are important and are means by which the world can be transformed. We have a moral duty to live and act according to God’s will, and to do that which establishes heaven on earth.
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.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.
Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love towards us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Praise the Lord!
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’