October 30, 2016
Luke 19:1-10
2 Thess 1:1-4, 11-12
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144

All Along the Watchtower
Proper 26 | OT 31 | Pentecost 24

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Dean Feldmeyer
In this week’s lectionary passage, the prophet Habakkuk pleads: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Dean Feldmeyer observes that we too ask those same questions, because hateful and prejudicial ideologies have repeatedly led to destruction and violence in our world -- from racist shootings to homophobic assaults, from terrorist attacks to the utter devastation of war zones with cities under relentless siege. But while the targets of hate-inspired violence may vary widely, the underlying cause is the same: extremist ideologies born out of ignorance and resentment. And with violence being peddled by many in our culture, it’s not surprising that so many young people see extreme ideologies as an answer to the uncertainties of our world. So what can we realistically do to try and counter the evil lurking in the depths of the human heart? Habakkuk offers a way forward when he says: “I will stand at my watchpost, 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.” Dean notes that last week the Obama administration announced a new policy initiative that echoes Habakkuk in its approach to turning young Americans away from the lure of violent ideologies. Instead of relying primarily on law enforcement, the plan advocates a more “community-based” approach that relies on the watchfulness of family and friends -- who see the seeds of violent leanings -- combined with the efforts of “intervention teams” staffed by mental health professionals and others to divert nascent terrorists from violence before their hearts completely turn to “the dark side.” As Dean points out, faith and watchfulness are the greatest protections we have against the violence and destruction lurking in the human heart... a viewpoint the prophet affirms when he observes in the lection’s closing verse: “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” Here’s a preview:

All Along the Watchtower
by Dean Feldmeyer
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

“All along the watchtower... I can’t get no relief.”

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan wrote those words in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement, and Jimi Hendrix immortalized them the following year with a version of Dylan’s song on his Electric Ladyland album, released in the chaotic year of 1968 that saw among other events the Tet offensive that opened America’s eyes to the brutality in Vietnam.

Habakkuk would have understood perfectly the pain and confusion in Dylan’s obscure and murky lyrics.

The prophet has stood at his watch post on the rampart that was supposed to guard and protect the city, and has cried aloud to God for help: “Violence!” But God has remained silent.

Destruction, violence, strife, and contention are all around. Lord, do you not see? God, do you not hear? What are you waiting for? Is the city not worth saving?

How does YHWH answer Habakkuk, and how does God answer us when we cry out the same questions about our country?

Click here for the full installment.

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