Messages, Meditations, and Musings on the Life of Faith by Rev. Dr. Scott E. Olson, Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Mankato, MN

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"The Righteous Shall Live by Hope" - Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

The Righteous Shall Live by Hope
Advent 1 – Narrative Lectionary 1
December 2, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
Habakkuk 1.1-4; 2.1-4; 3.3b-6, 17-19

Well, here we are basking in the glow of Cora’s baptism, proud parents, grandparents, family and friends all gathered together. We are delighting in the enactment of this age old sacrament in which Cora now stands, just as countless generations before her. We are comforted in the knowledge that Cora has been claimed as a child of God in a new way than previously. And we celebrate that Cora has a whole new family that will help Jason and Jackie nurture her in the life of faith. Finally, we can now rest assured that whatever happens to Cora that she will always be God’s and God will be hers.

But there is more serious side to what we are doing today that must be acknowledged. So this is where ask Jason and Jackie in all honesty: “Do you realize what you are doing here?” I ask because some people would look around the world as it is and question the wisdom of bringing a child into it. Millions of children are dying around the world due to war, disease and hunger, including our country. And our elected leaders seem unwilling or unable to address the most serious of our problems. Just as shocking, some of them are making things worse, much worse.

In fact, 2,600 years after the prophet Habakkuk spoke to the Judeans our situation hasn’t seemed to improve at all. “Violence is all around,” he says. “Death and destruction are nearby, injustice and corruption rampant.” The Babylonians are making their life a living hell and it appears that God has taken a powder. Habakkuk stands on the ramparts, asking God where he as why is he not doing anything about it. The future looks bleak for the Jews and, in fact, it may be that they don’t have any future at all.

Yet, in the midst of Habakkuk’s lament God, sends a clear, albeit less than satisfying word to them. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, God tells them that they do have a future although it’s a different one than they imagine. But, God tells Habakkuk, that future is going to come in God’s own timing and in God’s own way, so they must wait for it. However, this waiting is not a passive, twiddle your thumbs, kind of waiting. It is an active waiting that trusts in God and God’s promises. Here we see the interplay between faith and hope: faith is the foundation upon which hope rests and even gives rise to hope. It is hope that sustains faith.

So, here’s what else you are doing, Jackie and Jason, by bringing Cora into the world and the font. You are trusting God’s promises that Cora has a future, albeit uncertain, yet one belonging to God. In voicing the renunciations you are spitting in the face of the devil saying evil will not prevail. In promising help Cora learn to be a follower of Jesus, to love God and love neighbor, you are declaring that her values of love and service will be different than those of self-centeredness.

The season of Advent reminds us that we live in the meantime, in the “already, but not yet.” The candle of hope reminds us that the future belongs to God and that hope pulls us into it. Like Habakkuk we wait, but we do so knowing that our future is secure. However, unlike Habakkuk the Messiah has come and so we have the additional assurance through Jesus Christ and his presence as we wait. Well done, Jackie and Jason, for bringing Cora into this world and to the font, a beacon of hope to us all. Amen.

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