Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Pentecost 21, Ordinary 31
November 3, 2019
Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon
In the musical Hamilton Aaron Burr doesn’t come off looking great. Especially not compared to the eponymous Alexander Hamilton. In comparison, Aaron seems too uptight, too willing to compromise and of course - spoiler alert! - he’s the guy who shot him.
And tucked into the storyline is the added detail that Aaron had an affair for years with a married woman, Theodosia, who is married no less to an officer in the British army.
As I mentioned, Aaron is presented with a few flaws.
But in the middle of the first act, Aaron sings this haunting song that humanizes him, complicates him.
In it, he reflects on his love for Theodosia and his being orphaned as a youth and, of course,
his frustration with/competition with Hamilton.
He is looking for reasons - why love strikes as it does, why death strikes as it does, and why Hamilton seems so driven and so charmed, and so much better liked than himself.
If there is a reason, he sings, then I am willing to wait for it, wait for it, wait for it. [Play song]
Aaron is no saint. All the better that he, then, speaks of a common human struggle. What do we do when we are up against questions that have no answers? Where do we go? Who do we turn to? What’s our response?
“I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what God will say to me and what God will answer concerning my complaint.” says the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk posts himself atop the citadels of war, the watchtower and rampart - those very places from whence comes the violence that has torn his people apart - “destruction and violence, strife and contention, the wicked surround the righteous.”
He posts himself up there in order to wait and to wait and to wait. He wants to hear from God.
He wants to know that God is listening.
That God is interested in what happens.
That all the cries for help, for rescue, will not go unnoticed and unattended.
Habakkuk is willing to wait for it.
We all come here with questions. Questions that we are suspicious have no answers - or at least no answers that mean anything, or are of any help.
We don’t want simple, canned, tripe that sounds like it was taken from a poorly written Hallmark card.
We’re bringing the grit of our lives and out of that we are wondering what kind of hummus God could possibly compost. Many times we hide the questions, if not from ourselves then at least from each other.
But every once in a while, like Aaron, like Habakkuk, we hear ourselves wondering out loud. Asking the questions that are sometimes scary to admit. In an unguarded moment that grabs us, we voice them aloud. How long, God? Is there any sense, God? What is going on here? How can I manage? Why do I even call upon you? Are you really there?
Aaron Burr never gets his questions answered. Not in any way that helps heal him - and so we watch him foolishly duel his intellectual opponent - duel to the death. That is one way the story can go.
But for Habakkuk, we see glimmers of something different. Who knows how long he has to sit up there. Who knows what his vigil was like. Did he eat or drink? Was he under attack? Was he lonely? Despairing?
He sits there long enough that God offers this tenacious prophet a vision. One that he has to write in such big, bold font that everyone can see - as they pass, and perhaps as they charge past in war.
We don’t get what the vision is here. In fact, God says that Habakkuk is supposed to keep waiting. But there are signs of an answer.
In other words, there are signs of hope.
Friends, we might carry our questions - those nubby, stubborn sources of dis-ease - all the way to our grave. It might be that we are not gifted with an answer to what haunts us in the night.
But, in community, we have more than our questions. And we have more than our own answers.
And in this community there are people among us who will be able to make it plain, when we see only more fog and more doubt and more questions. There are people who are willing to wait for the answers by our side. There are people who in spiritual companionship will partner with us.
And maybe we will be that person for them too.
I am grateful that this life of faith is not lived alone.
I am grateful for the moments that catch my breath in honesty - where I and you and any one of us is freed to say what is haunting our hearts.
I am grateful for communal faith that can be such a stolid companion when one’s questions are too big to carry alone.
I am grateful that together we can wait for it and wait for it.
And I am grateful for God who teaches us to write in large font when the time comes - so that we might all grow together in faith and wisdom.
This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on November 3, 2019 at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.