Habakkuk 2: 18-20 (read congregationally) 1 Corinthians 2: 1-16
What Society Says….
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
At the end of the 1700’s and at the beginning of the 1800’s, the world started to go through a real transformational process that eventually changed the world in ways that had never entered anyone’s imagination previously. Those years are also known as the real beginning years of the Industrial Revolution. In those years, humanity had gone from generally just simple hand tools and weaponry to some pretty complex machines that harvested, wove and killed our fellow man at a much faster rate than before. A field that once took a week and a half to plow or harvest, could suddenly now be done in hours. Cotton that took weeks to clean and prepare for the mill suddenly now took only hours too. And armed conflicts that once took place only during daylight hours and had had far less casualties because of the lack of shooting precision, as well as the time it took to reload guns, suddenly became 24 hour a day events and far more deadly, especially with the 1818 invention of revolvers, an invention that quickly led to the Gatlin gun, the first machine gun. And all of this incredible change, some positive and some clearly negative, all because we wanted things faster and easier and cheaper. ..And that’s not a bad thought just as long as it’s all kept in-check and just as long as we act with some sense of responsibility. But I guess that that may be asking for too much…
To give an example to the point, in the American Revolution, our War of Independence from King George’s England which was fought really for 8 years, 1775-1783, there was a total of 4,435 military related deaths. I’m sure if we think about that number today that we’d most likely think absolutely nothing of it, although the history that was made for us would certainly lead us to think that more deaths would just have to have occurred. 4,435 deaths over the course of an eight year war. Okay. Now, almost one hundred years later, a time very much advanced technologically and industrially, we have the tragic circumstances of our Civil War. And do keep in mind that the reason for our immense slave population, which was at the center of that war, was due to our Industrial Revolution that demanded more and more production, which required more and more labor, which of course, insisted on more and more slaves, because more and more slaves meant more and more profits for the growing industrial class. At the end of the Civil War, which was a war that lasted just about exactly four years – half that of the Revolutionary War 100 years before, there was a total of 498,332 military related deaths. From 4,435 deaths over eight years of war, to just about a half million over the course of four years of war, ..that’s really incredible. And yes there were lots of differences between the two events, but there’s no doubt that war became very much a part of our industrial complex, as it still very much is today.
After the Civil War concluded of course there was, as usual one military campaign after another, and always due to someone’s greed and want of what they didn’t have before. Whether it had been the US acquiring the western half of this country or of the seizing of the Philippines and Guam, World Wars I and II or our perceived need for South East Asian rubber and Middle Eastern oil, the bottom line is that we have just become so much better at killing each other over the years, and it all started with the Industrial Revolution. Clearly humanity would never be the same.
Now obviously the Industrial Revolution didn’t just give us bigger and better machines to make war, we’ve come up with amazing additions to our lives that have made life so much easier. Could we really imagine life today without electricity, without air conditioning, cars, telecommunications, air travel, computers of every shape and size, and the list goes on and on and on. We, with the brains that God has given us, have been able to make our lives easier and more productive in ways that for sure in biblical times such concepts simply didn’t exist. Yes, today we can produce a hundred times as much as people did two thousand years ago, and life has certainly picked-up in pace compared with even just two hundred years ago. It’s really a remarkable thing.
And whereas by now you’re probably starting to wonder where on earth I’m going with all of this, and that’s not a bad thought, I want us to consider how it is that all of this has changed us overall as a people, as a culture and especially as a society. Being able to have everything put in front of us, everything that we could possibly think of and more. You know, I remember watching many years ago an episode of Bewitched, loved that show, in which Samantha’s Aunt Clara, remember her – she was the older witch with problems remembering who would always botch-up her spells somehow – but in this one episode she brought to modern times a pilgrim from Plymouth Rock. It was hilarious of course, but the reason why I remember that episode so vividly is because there are times that I walk into Walmart or into the mall or into Acme, and I really do wonder what on earth the pilgrims in their black and white outfits would think if they were able to see the way we’re living today? There was this one scene in which I’m pretty sure it was Darren, lit a match in front of this pilgrim, and the poor confused guy just completely freaked out yelling that this was obviously witch craft. ..Think about that, not that long ago, something as simple as a match was seen as witch craft, and I am sure that it would have been thought of as exactly that by the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in those early years.
And so think about where we’ve gotten to now today. How have we changed, as a people and as a society? We walk into a fast food restaurant, anyone of them it doesn’t matter, and we put in our order, and if there’s some delay in us getting our high cholesterol laden sandwich with our deep fried potatoes, we feel justified in being really taken aback. In fact I’ve even seen people demand that they get their meal for free because what they’ve ordered is taking more than five minutes to get to them. And I’m sure that we’ve all done this one, you walk into a fast food joint and see that the line is ten people thick and so you turn yourself right back around and walk right back out the door because ‘I’m not waiting on that line.’ Food, not all that long ago, used to be this process of preparation, there was thought and concern involved, there was clearly care given and pride at the outcome. Growing up we sat down at the dinner table together every night at my house, and there was no other way that we ate, and honestly up until moving to Penns Grove, that’s the way it was for my current household too. Sitting down together at a meal was your time to connect together as a family, you got caught up on each others’ day, you would learn what was going on with these people you called your family AT THE DINNER TABLE.
A friend of mine who had her first child when she was seventeen, it was an unexpected teen pregnancy, announced at the dinner table to her family that her and her boyfriend were going to be getting married. There was silence and her parents looked at each other deciding who was going to pounce first, and then she added, “…because I’m pregnant.” She said her parents nearly fell off their chairs while her little brothers started laughing. But those moments all seemed to happen at the dinner table, and today, how many families are still eating together at the dinner table like that? How many people are still coming together in such a way that promotes a society that can express it’s care and concern for one another? I don’t think it’s the majority by far. We’re all so busy and pulled into varying directions, we need our food fast, and cheap, so that we can get onto the next thing, there are places to go and people to see and television to watch.
…And my observation, is that now today, what we have turned into as a people, what we’ve become, starting with the momentous inventions and attitudes of the Industrial Revolution, is essentially a really big community that is simply existing instead of living. And we unfortunately bring that into our churches with us whenever we show up. And truly, it’s not something that we can necessarily help, our churches are reflections of ourselves and of the communities in which we live. …But should we be coming to God and his church with a ‘fast food’ attitude? - Let me see what I can get out of it? How long is this going to take and how much is this going to cost me? Commit, oh what’s that? I’m sorry but I’m just too busy for God, I have places to go and people to see and television to watch. …And you would think that as people who refer to ourselves as Christians, that we would be a heck of a lot more willing to stand up for something that we try to claim is actually so important to us. And I say this as my observation of not just where we are, but of our society in general. Our society says that we are simply too busy to be able to focus on anything except for ourselves. And remember what I mentioned last Sunday, that there really does seem to be this belief that people have that says that if there really is a loving God, well then clearly that God would only want for us, what we want for ourselves. How long is this going to take? How much is this going to cost me? Commit, oh what’s that? And the end result….? Isn’t just about every aspect of our society in free fall now because our priorities have just gotten that amazingly screwed up?
Let’s think about the Old Testament lesson now first, we all read it together. Here, Habakkuk, who was a prophet at the time of Jeremiah and very possibly knew Jeremiah, was trying his best to speak out to his people who were not living faithfully to the law of God that was put in front of them. They instead were living in ways in which they themselves found to be most convenient and most comfortable, without taking into consideration not only God their Creator, but also how their actions were affecting the people that lived around them. Their lives weren’t about what was important in life, they were moreover only focused on themselves and their own perceived wants. They were inventing things to give praise to so that they could put their faith into something that would only want for them what they themselves desired. I guess some things never actually change though, no matter what kind of technology we develop and how smart we tell ourselves we are. God first had this situation in Scripture during Noah’s time, he was so fed-up with people that he decided to wipe them all out and start over again realizing that he’d created a whole bunch of little monsters. And then we have the example that was taking place during this time of Habakkuk and Jeremiah; the people are rebelling against everything that they do know is correct and good, unless of course it’s good and convenient for them. God’s solution..was to kick them out of their land, sending them into exile slavery. He took away from them everything that was most important. And then he did this another time too, once again at the hands of the Romans after they crucified Christ. ..Is it just me, or does it seem like we just have to be getting close to another major lesson coming from up above?
And then onto the New Testament reading, our real lesson for today:
Those verses can sound a little confusing I know, but what Paul is telling us is that God’s amazingly loving plan for us is actually not so difficult to comprehend. IF we who claim faith in God through Christ are able to focus our spiritual energies and understandings on the bigger pictures of life, and relying for that on the complete help of God’s Holy Spirit, then at the end of the day, there will never ever be anything to fear. Paul tells us, if we can do that, we will just naturally be showing and living love, we will act in love toward all others and we will not see ourselves as our most important focus. Wisdom will come naturally and joy will be a part of our everyday. And Paul tells us that for those of us who can do this, the reward is far more than a simple human mind can comprehend, that earthly kings for all of their privilege will be nothing near to what we will know because of the privilege given to us in the life to come. Is there really any way that we could want or expect more?
Take a look around, take a look at our society, I don’t think anyone will say that things aren’t pretty messed up. Come to Christ’s church to see how you can be a part, not like so many others at so many churches who simply show up to see what you can get out of the hour or so experience. We’ve been talking in the last weeks about where God is in our world, how we see God and what we think God is. I beg you, make God real in your lives, God and his church is not just a nice thing that you do when it’s convenient, God and his church is an everyday puzzle piece, no matter what you may do, or what you may be doing. God is present with you if you just reach out and pull him in. God is waiting there for each and every one of us to say, walk with me in all that I do. Don’t miss or throw away that opportunity.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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