Will You Hear? Hab. 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Proper 22 Pent 17C October 2, 2022, St. John, New Orleans
Some of you know that I recently served on a Grand Jury.
The purpose of a Grand Jury
is to ensure the state has enough evidence to indict a person
for one of several serious crimes which, if convicted,
would send them to prison for a long time, perhaps even the rest of their life.
In Louisiana, these crimes are murder, child abuse, and kidnapping.
I can't tell you anything that happened in those hearings
but based upon the subject matter you can imagine the difficult things we had to see and hear.
And I can also tell you at the end of the day your soul is drained.
But one doesn’t have to serve on a Grand Jury to experience that kind of depleting energy.
I know some of you are very worried about the violent crime in our city, to the point it exhausts you.
Whether it's home invasions, carjackings, or identity theft,
anytime our personal space or property is invaded or violated it is traumatic.
Some of you have experienced it firsthand already
while others of you live in fear that it might.
In reality, violent crime is very unlikely to be visited on anyone specific person, yet we are wise to be vigilant.
Perhaps more concerning to us are the personal worries and concerns that plague us.
Health issues from cancer to dementia to heart attacks and stroke become more likely as we age.
And I know many of you have had previous experience with such issues.
And you always wonder when the next problem will surface?
Family relationships can be fraught with anxiety when they are not strong or broken.
Whether it’s a fight over family allegiances, or a perceived slight or insult,
whenever we are in a relationship that has been damaged it hurts.
Or perhaps it's something more physical or earthly that wears you down.
Maybe you struggle to make ends meet.
Perhaps you haven't saved anything for your retirement?
Or maybe your house needs repairs, and you just don't have the means to complete them?
When we struggle to heal or become whole, it takes a lot of energy from ourselves.
Like the body generates heat around a wound to fight infection or inflammation,
our minds expend a lot of energy in worry, anxiety, and fear to protect us as well.
And we expend this energy because we don't know what the future holds. Or do we?
All three readings speak to times God's people were faced with what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles.
Habakkuk feels like he is under attack because he’s been asked to preach an unpopular message and that God doesn't hear his cries for help.
Paul's letter to Timothy leads us believe Timothy is doubting his ability and role as a young pastor to the church.
And the disciples of Jesus are concerned they won't have the faith required to forgive other believers repeatedly.
Across multiple ages, we hear about God's own people struggling with the faith they profess during challenging times asking God, “will you hear?”
Are you surprised to hear this? Is it really any different for own experience?
Given that we are all sinful human beings, we would rationally say, “of course not!”
Habakkuk, Timothy, and the disciples are just like us with the same worries, doubts, and concerns.
But when our heart gets involved, it wakes up emotions.
And when emotions are concerned, they can be influenced by things other than reality, facts, and truth.
And we start to think of ourselves differently.
And by the powers in the world and even Satan himself,
we begin to retreat from truth, the reality, including other real people,
and we begin to create a walled off area of fear, or anger, or hatred,
which, on its surface, we erect to protect ourselves.
But which only isolates us from that which can help us.
And in a desperate cry, we shout out like Habakkuk, wondering why God doesn't intervene, and assume the worst:
That, you aren't loved by him, or that he doesn't exist to hear us.
We think of ourselves as unworthy of God's attention.
Or we think that we are in some way less than the believers we hear about in the Bible.
The reality is that we hold the same faith in the same God as do those in the scriptures.
Habakkuk was prophesying the deportation of Judah to Babylon, and he felt alone.
Timothy was challenged by others because of his youth and inexperience, feeling disrespected and unloved.
The disciples are sure bad days will come, especially the temptations that Jesus predicts.
And they are afraid they won't be up for the task.
Each of them thinks, “surely, things couldn't be worse,” and yet, they will be.
And each of them probably wondered of God, “will you hear?” as they prayed and worried.
Each of these believers cried out to the same God that you and I cry out to.
If that were the end, we would know nothing of them.
They would have come to despair, never recovered, and met a miserable end and no one would think twice about them or write about them.
But the church has remembered them all for one reason; they heard the Lord in faith.
And even this is not a great accomplishment. For how much energy does it take to listen?
What harm can come through hearing?
Rather, it was simply a gift they embraced, and by embracing faith, they received what it offered.
Communion with God himself, forgiveness of sins, eternal life with God, and salvation from hell.
And that faith is what not only made them heard, but allowed them to hear.
As we look at all the figures in the Bible, not a one of them were self-made men or women when it comes to their stories of faith.
Even the great warrior kings, prophets, and preachers, had nothing spiritually powerful before they received faith.
Even if they had fame or wealth, like Samson or Solomon, when they strayed from faith, their lives were miserable.
But if they held on to the faith deposited in their hearts their circumstances did not bring them down.
And listening to God through the lens of faith,
they were able to not only function in life, but to flourish.
When they said, “will you hear?” they already knew he did by faith
and were awaiting his answer in faith.
You see, you can’t hear God if you don’t have faith.
And I don’t mean as an audible voice that speaks to you like Siri or Alexa when you ask for information.
It may not even be a feeling or anything that reveals itself to you.
But when you have faith, you just know because faith informs us.
Yes, we know right from wrong as we receive the Law and the Gospel
But we also know the difference between condemnation and salvation
We know the difference between conflict and peace.
And so, when we find ourselves in trouble, like the people in the Bible,
we'll ask the same question they did, “will you hear?”
but instead of addressing it to God, we address it to ourselves. “Will you hear?
“Will you hear?”
Will you hear the call to repentance that places obstacles between you and God?
whether it’s our own selfish wants and desires or our indifference to others,
they can place a veil of darkness over faith that prevents us from following Jesus.
“Will you hear,” the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness for you when you repent
so that you can walk away from your past sinful life
and walk, chin up, into the new lifestyle he has in mind for you?
“Will you hear,” “pick up your cross and follow me”
knowing that, walking in the cool shade of Jesus’ love, the burden will be light
and the road he takes us on will lead to his heavenly Kingdom.
“Will you hear” Jesus say, “go, make disciples of all people”
so that faith may not stop with me and you
but will continue to multiply over and over until all who will be saved have heard the good news about Jesus?
While each of us is given faith to hear God, He also calls out to us collectively as his church to hear him.
Sometimes I hear people say they don't watch the news anymore
either because it's too depressing,
or it's given from a skewed perspective they don't agree with.
But what if God is speaking this bad news, or fake news, or even accurate news through these various outlets?
If we aren’t attuned to what is going on in the world,
we can’t know what they world needs from us as God’s people.
When we heed the call to faith, we heed a call to action, especially when we gather collectively as the church.
When all our ears bring in outside perspectives from multiple sources
and as our individual concerns for the world coalesce into the concern of us all,
it becomes our mission to meet that concern through the lens of our shared faith in Jesus.
But of course, the primary place we hear God is through the scriptures.
And when we listen to them within the context of what we see and hear in the world around us,
we become emboldened to act by the strength of our faith to do as God calls.
Whether it's through our school, worship services, or our presence in Mid City, New Orleans,
God is asking Saint John, “will you hear?”
Will you hear the families who need solid, safe, Christian education?
Will you hear those who are looking to worship God in ways old and new?
Will you be a beacon of truth and love in the middle of the city?
Or is there something more or different God is calling us to?
In the coming weeks we will be calling out to God, “Will you hear?” as we deal with many important decisions.
And as we ask God to hear us in our prayers and deliberations, I'd ask you to listen and hear God in your heart as well.
Ask him to fill you with his love of forgiveness and his Holy Spirit so that you may lean on your faith.
Listen for his word of instruction and encouragement as you respond to his marvelous gifts.
While we may not feel or observe his action or answer, we know he is here with us, nonetheless.
Because he has given us faith in him above all things.
And no matter the course he's he sets before us; he will see us through it to eternal safety.
May his voice be strong and clear in our hearts and minds through the lens of our faith.
In the name of Jesus.