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Why is There Evil Among Us? October 6, 2013

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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You’ll actually find two sermons here.  They are variants of the same.  The first was preached at our local nursing home, the latter at our church on the day we celebrated the 30th anniversary of our preschool.  God bless you!

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

October 1st and 6th, 2013

Focus: God has put a plan in motion, a plan to save us, and He will carry it through to the end.

Function: That the hearers trust in God to get them through life’s struggle unto life everlasting.

Structure: This is the historical situation in the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

Why Is There Evil Among Us?

 

Have you ever wondered why?  Have you ever stopped and asked, why?  Why, dear God, does evil exist?  Why, O Lord, do we suffer?  And perhaps more than that, why does it seem like evil is winning?  Where is God in the midst of all of this?  Why do the wicked surround the righteous?

You know that feeling…that feeling of loneliness as you sit in your room by yourself for hours on end.  You know what it feels like when suffering, sickness, and pain are getting the better of you.  You know the feeling…the feeling that death is winning.

One glance at the news, and you will see evil at work.  One read through of the newspaper, and you will see war and hardship.  You don’t have to look far to see the wicked surrounding the righteous, to see destruction and violence, strife and contention.  But are we really any different today than in the past?

The prophet Habakkuk would tell us, “No.”  Habakkuk was God’s prophet in the seventh century BC.  God’s nation, His holy people, had already divided themselves into two kingdoms long before: Israel and Judah.  The Assyrian army had already conquered Israel and carried them into exile.  And Judah, the smaller nation, was left reeling.

Judah’s king, Manasseh, didn’t help the situation.  He built altars to false gods like Baal and Asherah.  He worshipped the stars and he replaced the holy things of God’s temple, God’s house, with idols.  He dabbled in the dark arts, with fortune-tellers and necromancers.  He even burned his son as an offering to one of his new false gods.  The people of Judah followed him.

This is where we find the prophet Habakkuk.  Why, dear God, does evil exist?  Why, O Lord, do we suffer?  And perhaps more than that, why does it seem like evil is winning?  Where is God in the midst of all of this?  Why do the wicked surround the righteous?

Habakkuk has seen it all.  He’s seen the people turn away from God and he’s seen destruction and violence first hand.  And in the midst of it all, he cries out to God.  He cries out, “how long?”  Habakkuk has seen enough suffering, enough injustice.  Why God won’t you just fix this?

How does God respond?  What does God do?  Does He give Habakkuk the answer to his prayers?  Well, not quite in the way Habakkuk was hoping for.  “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

What vision is God talking about?  He’s talking about what Habakkuk feared most…the Babylonians.  You see, God already had a plan in place.  He already knew what He was going to do.  God was about to work through the evil of this world to bring about His plan.  God would work through the wicked Babylonians to punish Judah for their idolatry.

At first glance, that seems odd doesn’t it?  Why would God want to bring punishment upon His people?  What good could come from this?  Why should He let the wicked prosper in it all?  That’s not justice!  It just doesn’t seem fair!

Fairness and justice…two things we think we know, but we really don’t.  God had a plan in place already.  He knew that His people of Judah would be unfaithful, that they would abandon Him for someone else.  But God works through the Babylonians to bring about good.  Because through slavery in Babylon, God’s people remember, and they start to return to Him, to return to the true faith.  And the whole time, God never leaves them.

Babylon, the wicked captors, don’t get off clean.  God would later destroy their nation and set His people free.  The Judahites return to the Promised Land, they rebuild their homes and God’s home, His holy temple in their midst.  They rebuild their community and their lives.  But most importantly, the discipline has brought them back to faith in God.  God never left them, never forsook them.  He had a plan, and He carried it through to the end.

So how does this history apply to us?  What do Habakkuk and Babylon have to do with any of us today?  Do you remember those feelings?  Feelings of suffering, sickness, and pain, of loneliness and death.  Without a doubt, there is evil among us.  That’s why we pray it in the Lord’s Prayer, that God would protect us from that evil.  It’s out there.  Is God protecting us?

Like we see in history, so we see today.  God never leaves us, He never forsakes us.  He is somehow working through the evil we see around us.  There’s another way we can hear the prophet’s words: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”  We can hear this about Christ.  He will surely come, He will not delay.

That’s God’s ultimate plan of salvation for His people, for you and me.  That’s how God had already decided to make things work in this world.  That despite our sin, and our evil, He would send His Son Jesus Christ to us.  You can’t get any more “with us” than that.  God became a man and walked among us.  It is only through His Son, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, that evil could be defeated.  In Jesus’ blood, we are rescued from loneliness, sickness, pain, suffering, and death.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice, sin and evil are done away with.  Defeated.

So why do we still have evil among us?  We’re still waiting.  We’re still waiting for Jesus to fulfill His promise that He would return to us.  When He comes back, evil we stamped out for good.  And if Christ comes back before we die here on earth, we will never taste death.  Because at that time, there will be no more death, no more sickness.  We will be with God, forever.  If it seems slow, wait for it.

As we wait for that glorious day, we get to share these gifts, these blessings.  There are people here at the Care Center that don’t know about Jesus or what He did for us.  We get to share the good news while we wait.  We also remember that we are God’s people, made righteous and clean not by what we do, but by what God has done for us.  He makes us righteous by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  We remember that He is always with us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  So we spend our days waiting, waiting together as God’s people.

Why Is There Evil Among Us?

 

Last week, Hannah and I attended a new worker conference sponsored by the Minnesota South District.  For two days, we gathered together with other new pastors, teachers, and DCE’s in the southern portion of our state.  In the midst of the various topics we talked about, we were invited to play a game with our new community.  If you’re new in town, stop in for gas at a local gas station.  Head inside, and simply ask the attendant the following two questions:  Hi, I’m new in town and I’m looking for St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Can you tell me how to get there?  Do you know anything about the church?

The point of this little experiment is simple.  It gives us a read of where we are in the community, at how we’re doing reaching out to our community. Admittedly, I haven’t tried it yet, but from my initial impression of this church and community here, I’m pretty sure I know what the answer would be: St. John’s, that’s the church with the Wee Care preschool, right?

Today we are celebrating our Wee Care preschool.  We are celebrating three decades of Christian education, thirty years of ministry to the Stewartville community.  Thirty years of ministry right here at St. John’s.  Let’s do a little experiment to see just how much of an impact Wee Care has even among us.

If you’ve attended Wee Care, thirty years ago or yesterday, please stand up.  Remain

If you sent your children to Wee Care, please stand up.

If you sent your grandchildren to Wee Care, please stand up.

If you’ve ever taught, subbed, or volunteered at Wee Care, please stand up.

If you’ve ever volunteered for one of Wee Care’s events, the carnival yesterday, the open houses, the picnics, the graduations, snack time, you name, please stand up.

If you played a role of any kind in building the education wing, including voting for it, which has now housed Wee Care for the last fifteen years, please stand up.

If you’ve ever donated a memorial to the tuition assistance fund, please stand up.

If you’ve ever shopped at our One Stop Christmas Shop, please stand up.

If you’ve ever placed an offering in the plate at any point in the last three decades here at St. John’s, please stand up.

 

Look around you.  Do you see everyone that’s standing up?!  That’s Wee Care’s impact on our church alone.  You are the men and women who have helped support Wee Care these past thirty years.  You are also the men and women that Wee Care has ministered to these last thirty years.  We’re not two separate ministries, but one.  St. Johns’ Lutheran Church and Wee Care Learning Center.  The two are intertwined.  And it goes beyond just these walls, the ministry of Wee Care has reached the community of Stewartville.  Over those thirty years, Wee Care has been home to over 2500 kids…think about that.  Stewartville just topped the 6,000 mark for population, and we’ve had 2500 kids from over 1000 families! We’re reaching this community for Christ!  You can sit down.

But we can’t say that Wee Care hasn’t faced its share of challenges.  Like any other school, there were a number of struggles when the doors first opened, even struggles to get those doors open.  There have been space issues, and we’re having them again.  We’ve had our share of drama.  We’ve seen enrollment numbers rise and fall.  Now, we’re being challenged for kids by the combination of Tiger Time and the Stewartville Early Childhood Center.

And the world these kids live in isn’t the same.  We’ve seen a shift in our culture the last thirty years.  The homes of that first Wee Care class looked nothing like the homes of our current class.  Families are struggling like never before.  The broken homes, the advertising, the gadgets, the bombardment of “stuff.”  Kids today are different, no doubt, and that’s a challenge that we must face as our Wee Care continues to try to teach these kids about Jesus.

Really, it’s an age old problem.  We’re trying to do a good thing here.  We’re trying to share the good news, to teach little children about the God who loves them so dearly.  So if our hearts and minds are in the right place, why do we have these struggles?  You can connect this to your own lives, too.  If we’re on the right side, God’s side, why do we struggle?

Have you ever wondered why?  Have you ever stopped and asked, why?  Why, dear God, does evil exist?  Why, O Lord, do we suffer?  And more than that, why does it seem like evil is winning?  Where is God in all of this?  Why do the wicked surround the righteous?

One glance at the news, and you will see evil at work.  One read through of the newspaper, and you will see war and hardship.  You don’t have to look far to see the wicked surrounding the righteous, to see destruction and violence, strife and contention.  You know the feeling…the feeling that evil is winning.  But are we any different today than in the past?

The prophet Habakkuk would tell us, “No.”  Habakkuk was God’s prophet in the seventh century BC.  God’s nation, His holy people, had already divided themselves into two kingdoms long before: Israel and Judah.  The Assyrian army had already conquered Israel and carried them into exile.  And Judah, the smaller nation, was left reeling, struggling to survive.

Judah’s king, Manasseh, didn’t help the situation.  He built altars to false gods like Baal and Asherah.  He worshipped the stars and he replaced the holy things of God’s temple, God’s house, with idols.  He dabbled in the dark arts, consulting with fortune-tellers and necromancers.  He even burned his son as an offering to one of his new false gods.  And because he was their leader, the people of Judah followed him.

This is where we find the prophet Habakkuk.  Why, dear God, does evil exist?  Why, O Lord, do we suffer?  And more than that, why does it seem like evil is winning?  Where is God in all of this?  Why do the wicked surround the righteous?

Habakkuk has seen it all.  He’s seen the people turn away from God and he’s seen destruction and violence first hand.  And in the midst of it all, he cries out to God.  He cries out, “how long?”  Habakkuk has seen enough suffering, enough injustice.  Why God won’t you just fix this?  Why God won’t you just fix our broken homes…fix our anti-Christian culture!

How does God respond?  What does God do?  Does He give Habakkuk the answer to his prayers?  Well, not quite in the way Habakkuk was hoping for.  “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

What vision is God talking about?  He’s talking about what Habakkuk feared most…the Babylonians.  You see, God already had a plan in place.  He already knew what He was going to do.  God was about to work through the evil of this world to bring about His plan.  God would work through the wicked Babylonians to punish Judah for their idolatry.

At first glance, that seems odd doesn’t it?  Why would God want to bring punishment upon His people?  What good could come from this?  Why should He let the wicked prosper at all?  That’s not justice!  It just doesn’t seem fair!

Fairness and justice…two things we think we know, but we really don’t.  God had a plan in place already.  He knew that His people of Judah would be unfaithful, that they would abandon Him for someone else.  But God works through the Babylonians to bring about good.  Because through slavery in Babylon, God’s people remember, and they start to return to Him, to return to the true faith.  And the whole time, God never leaves them.

And Babylon, the wicked captors, don’t get off clean, either.  God would later destroy their nation and set His people free.  The Judahites return to the Promised Land, they rebuild their homes and God’s home, His holy temple in their midst.  They rebuild their community and their lives.  But most importantly, the discipline has brought them back to faith in God.  God never left them, never forsook them.  He had a plan, and He carried it through to the end.

So how does this history apply to us?  What do Habakkuk and Babylon have to do with any of us today?  We’re supposed to be celebrating, right?  There are certainly things here that give us reason to celebrate.

Like we see in history, so we see today.  God never leaves us, He never forsakes us.  And we saw in Babylon how God could work through evil to bring about good.  It’s an extreme case: if He can do that, what can’t He do?  And let me make myself clear here, I’m not saying our Wee Care staff is evil like Babylon.  But, He works through all kinds of things in our life, good and bad, to bring about His purpose for us.  No matter what struggles we’re facing, we can trust that God’s plan comes through.  And as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, He protects us from evil.  Whether Wee Care struggles or flourishes, God’s will will be done.

But, there’s another way I want you to hear the prophet’s words: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”  We can hear this about Christ.  He will surely come, He will not delay.

That’s God’s ultimate plan of salvation for His people, for you and me.  That’s how God had already decided to make things work in this world.  That despite our sin, and our evil, He would send His Son Jesus Christ to us.  You can’t get any more “with us” than that.  God became a man and walked among us.  He chose to work through the evils of this world to bring about His plan.  There’s nothing good about death.  There’s nothing good about being hung on a cross.  But, it’s only through His Son, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, that evil could be defeated.  In Jesus’ blood, we are rescued from all our struggles, from war, destruction, government shutdown, and death.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice, sin and evil are done away with.  Defeated.  God worked through the wickedness of this world to bring about His plan, His plan of salvation in Christ Jesus.

So why do we still have evil among us?  We’re still waiting.  We’re still waiting for Jesus to fulfill His promise that He would return to us.  When He comes back, evil we stamped out for good.  There will be no more death, no more struggle.  We will be with God, forever.  If it seems slow, wait for it.

As we wait for Christ’s return, we celebrate. We celebrate because we get to share this gift, this blessing. There are people here in Stewartville that don’t know Jesus or what He did for us. Wee Care gets to be the little gospel light in our community, the righteous are in the midst of the wicked. God works through us to reach out into Stewartville.  We thank God for that!

We celebrate while we wait by remembering that we are God’s people, made righteous and clean not by what we do, but by what God has done for us.  He makes us righteous by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  We celebrate by remembering that He is always with us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  So we spend our days waiting, waiting together as God’s people, waiting together as St. John’s Lutheran Church & Wee Care Learning Center here in Stewartville.

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