Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Taking Initiative, In Faith”

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 119:137-144

II Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10

                                                             October 31, 2010                                

by James Greene

 

           There are times when we know we are called to take the initiative in our faith.  It is one of those moments when we realize, we are to endure in spite of all that is going on around us, happening to us, and running against us. 

During a time when my Mom was in a nursing home, one of the ladies I worked with was going through the same trials with her Dad who was also in a nursing home.  It was in that time of personal pain, that I realized, that my experience was to be used to help her endure her personal pain.  It was a call to take the initiative, to take my faith,  use it, to lift someone else’s burden, and pain.  Lessons learned from dealing with institutions.

           It is in the midst of our own sorrow, that we learn to help those around us, who are grieving.  It is a time when we take the initiative.  We change our direction and stand up, and live into our faith.

           The title of today’s sermon is “Taking The Initiative, In Faith”

 

I  Know that the Righteous Live by Faith – Habakkuk

 

Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets from around 598 BC when the Babylonians first invaded Israel.  The readings are written as a lamentation and in the form of a prayer liturgy.  The word of divine revelation in ancient Israel was clothed in poetic rhythmical, and metrical form.  It was Hebrew poetry.  In this case like the psalms, it was also to be sung.

Habbakkuk is writing about the evils happening to Israel.  He laments how the law is ignored and paralyzed, and the wicked work to trap the righteous.   The second part of our reading we see him take the initiative.  He stands his watch, upon the walls of the city and looks for the answer from The Lord.  When will this time of sorrow end, and on what appointed time will the Lord bring this to an end. 

We, like Habbakkuk, are called to wait.  We are called to be faithful and to stand our watch, because God’s answer will come but in its own time and in the proper season.  We are assured that the time will come; that the righteous will live by faith.  We will wait upon the Lord, and live because of our faith through the destruction, the conflict, and the violence.  It reminds us of the words from Kahlil Gibran

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”

          

We are to take the initiative and stand our watch in our sorrows, and in our rejoicing, trusting God, and living in Faith.              

 

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II  Act of Enduring in Faith – through our Laments – Psalm - Habakkuk

 

In Psalm 119, like Habakkuk we see how God’s Righteousness is everlasting.  Like last week, the title of this section is the letter of the Hebrew alphabet “Tsadhe” which looks like a backwards ‘Y’ with a bar under it. 

We again see that God’s Laws are right, trustworthy, true, forever faithful, and the psalmist’s delight.  We also see the same lament and prayer for help like that of Habakkuk.  It shows the unrighteousness of his enemies, and their disregard for God’s Law.  The psalmist’s enthusiasm is worn out, even though he is oppressed, he does not forget God’s Laws and calls out to God to help him understand God’s greater plan in The Law;  so that in his faith, in understanding, he will endure and live.

It is in his faith that he perseveres and through his faith that he lives.

In Hebrew, the term used for faith, has several facets to its understanding.  Faith is a firmness; it is a stability.  In the King James translation the word ‘Truth’ is used for The Word.  The terms believe and trust are used to understand that relationship is implied.  It is a personal one in which God is the object.  Faith is an affirmation (like when we use in the term ‘A-Men’).  Faith is in an act to confirm or support that affirmation.

Faith means to “hold God”, it is where we get the term ‘trust worthy’ because it is something permanent or reliable as God.  It is literally acting in faith.

                                                                

III Acts prompted by Faith- II Thessalonians

 

           In our Epistle letter, we see Paul giving thanks to God for the faith of the church in Thessalonica and their love towards each other, demonstrated through the persecutions they are suffering.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy act, in faith, through their prayers that the name of Jesus will be glorified in their act of continuing through their persecutions and troubles.  Like the lament and faithfulness seen in Psalm 119 and Habakkuk,  - Paul calls them to endure in their acts of faith.  

                                                                  

IV Taking the Initiative in Faith - Luke

 

           In Luke, we see Jesus passing through Jericho.  We see Zacchaeus wanting to see Jesus, but like a lot of us he is short.  It reminds me of the song that was popular back in the early ‘80’s  “Short People, got, No Body”.   Now a days, to be politically correct, we would say he was “vertically challenged”.  So he runs ahead gets up in a tree to see Jesus.

           He models what we should do: he makes a determined effort to see Jesus. 

He takes the initiative to see Jesus.  Jesus notices him, and calls to Zaccheus to come to him, and wants to eat at his home.  This is a call into relationship.  Just as Jesus, when we seek him, calls us into relationship. There is even a play on words, when Zacchaeus stands up and talks to Jesus.

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Artillery School – example - asking a question.

 

Zacchaeus’s response is repentance.   He has a change of, his way of thinking, (renewing of his mind) and he answers the call to righteousness in faith.  Jesus’ response and action is immediate when he says -  “Today,- Salvation has come to this house”.  Zacchaeus had become a new person, by taking the initiative in faith.  He was living into the righteousness that God had laid out in The Word.   He turned and lived into his faith.

 

Conclusion

 

           We like Zacchaeus, want to see Jesus, and when we do He calls us to him.  In response to that call, we repent in our behaviors.  It is a time when we take the initiative, and we stand up, like Zacchaeus, and live into our faith.

           Just as Habakkuk and the Psalm, call us to take the initiative, and to stand our post in faith, and to remain faithful  - like God – through the destruction and violence we see around us – that we believe that we must endure and  live by faith – and the time will come in God’s righteous assurance.

 

We must understand and realize as, the people of God,

 

           It is in taking the initiative, in faith,- we seek Jesus, -

 

                      Our call from Jesus,   is for us to repent,     to turn to his righteousness,

 

      that salvation may come to us, in and through that faithfulness.   

 

 

                      In the Name of    the Father,   the Son,   and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

 

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