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The Watchtower

October 1, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
October 2, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 17
The Watchtower

The vision Habakkuk the Prophet saw. How long shall I howl and you will not listen; and desperately scream out to you, "Violence!" and you will not deliver! Why do you make me watch wrong-doing and strife; and why do you look idly at the devastation and violence before me? Contention and conflict increase! Therefore the Divine Word is paralyzed and balance can never be attained, for villains surround the righteous, so that only bent justice prevails … I will take my stand on my watch-tower … Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1ff (DKV)

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In this prophecy Habakkuk gives voice to the question we all ask, “How long?” How long before this trouble, or that pain, or this situation is over and life returns to normal again? How long?

In Habakkuk’s day, some 600 years before the birth of the Christ, God’s people were in dire straights; and Habakkuk with a Prophet's eye sees it all, understands it all, articulates it all and utters the divine prophecy that the church still stands by 26 centuries later, so that she might always “ponder anew, what the Almighty can do.”

What was it that made Habakkuk cry out to God with his question, “How long?” There were two stressors.

The first was the international situation! The whole world was reeling because King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was on the ascent; toppling one nation after another and reducing them to rubble. Each day he was getting closer and closer to Judah with the LORD’s permission. He came to carry out God’s judgment in real time on the people’s idolatry and adultery. For nearly 400 years the LORD warned his church and pleaded with her to turn. But she would not listen, and was not listening still.

And so Habakkuk understood that Nebuchadnezzar was coming for them; to carry out God’s purposes, and the Prophet was helpless to stop it.

The second stressor was watching his people invite disaster. Beholding the visible church of God on earth deteriorate, dissolve and disintegrate as they fell deeper and deeper into apostasy.

They say that when the ship is in the water all is well. But when the water is in the ship you are sunk. That is what was happening to Habakkuk’s church. The leadership of both church and state turned against God’s Word and invited the culture into the church, not to repent, but so that they might revel in its “user friendly” ways.

Suddenly the church was “wide awoke” to every crime against heaven, and every assault against one another. Not only did each heartily engage in what God calls wicked. But each did exactly what Jesus says not to do in today’s parable.

Remember his words? “Enticements to sin are sure to come! But woe to the one through whom they come.” That exclamation, “Woe,” means, “You’re dead!” And when God utters it, get your affairs in order.

If you ask a drug addict how she got started with this “unholy communion” this “body and blood of the devil,” the answer is always the same. A friend.

We might say the same about enticement into the homosexual sin, or its duskier version the transgender sin. Children, still in their formative years, are led into temptation by false friends who plant doubt in their minds, and then affirm, shape and mold them. To them Jesus says, “You’re dead!”

That is the verdict you never want to hear. And so do as the Lord says in today’s gospel: Repent. Repent 7 times a day if needed; or even 70 x 7 as Jesus says elsewhere ... and the cysts of your sin will be drained and you will be at ease again!

But how do these things happen to the church, or to a once Christian nation, that they should adopt a bilious green agenda, blacker than coagulated blood on the street?

By committing the deadliest sin of all: the desire to make the world a better place, which is code for all out rebellion against God!

Don’t do that!

Don’t do that, and don’t heed those who do!

Don’t give them your aid or comfort or money or allegiance.

Don’t be like Miss America who: just wants world peace.

We must never expect or believe in such a thing because earth is populated by sinners, who are incapable of doing what only God does in Christ. Earth is not heaven nor is it meant to be heaven. But Paul says, “Through much tribulation it is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Acts 14:22)

Making the world a better place is the quest that gave rise to Adolph Hitler who was overwhelmingly elected president of Germany in August of 1934 by the German people; the heirs of the Lutheran Reformation. Imagine!

This is not to say that Christian charity should stop. God forbid! We must always, “bear one another’s burdens;” “give to those who ask expecting nothing in return,” feed the hungry, clothes the naked, visit the sick, and be ready to “lay down our life for one another.”

But do not try to make the world a better place because it will ruin you, and make the world that much worse for the effort.

But before we get too wound up let us also hear the answer that Habakkuk gives to his own question: how long must I endure? How long before you wake up O LORD and deliver us? His answer is this:

“I will take my stand on my watch-tower … and watch closely to see what he will say to me concerning my complaint.” (2:1)

In New Testament language Habakkuk would say, “I will station myself on top of the cross of Jesus, and watch closely to see what he will do.”

That is what we are doing today, Beloved! The cross is our watchtower. It is the view from which, and through which, we must interpret all history, including our own past, present and future.

The view from the cross is splendorous. From its heights which we scale in the Lord’s Supper today, all is well, all is calm, all is bright. From it we observe the crucified, resurrected, ascended and reigning LORD of glory as he makes: “all things work together for our good for those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

From this happy eyrie we hear the answer to the question, “How long?” in the last verses of today’s gospel when Jesus talks about the servant who gets no rest. First he plows the land, tends to the sheep, comes inside, cleans up, changes clothes and serves the master his meal; only to be named by Jesus “a lowly servant” worthy of no thanks because he was only doing his duty, move along, nothing to see here.

What is the point? This teaching is given as a contrast to Jesus himself who is the Good Shepherd; who dressed in crimson garments and sweat great drops of blood as he plowed the fields of our sins; so that he might shepherd us to the Feast of Victory For our God. This very Eucharist we celebrate today!

He revives us with the glad tidings we pray in Liturgy today. He sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies and says to weary servants: “ … the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28). We are those “many.” And so come to Habakkuk’s watchtower today, this altar, and share in his glorious vision. Amen.