November 15, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session

No! To Get to Yes!
Habakkuk 2:18-20

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As I write this in early November in the United States, it is apparent that we have some uncertain days ahead. A winner in our presidential election has been declared, but in the coming weeks there may be recounts, protests, lawsuits. Anxiety may continue and even increase long after the election season is over.

Kate Bowler, a Canadian from Winnipeg who teaches the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School, observed that we are living in “apocalyptic time.” Ordinary time is circular. Seasons come and go, rituals are performed and repeated in predictable cycles. But apocalyptic time has a broken horizon. We feel like we are approaching the edge of a cliff. Our structures are shattered.

Bowler knows about living in apocalyptic time. As someone who is experiencing this pandemic with a compromised immune system and stage four cancer, Bowler is grateful for the church’s language of apocalypse. She uses the word apocalyptic in the literal sense of truth being revealed and reality being uncovered. This is a time of reckoning with what had been denied.

The prophet Habakkuk pronounces woes against the nation of Judah. He reveals injustices that sound very much like our national evils: greedy creditors and those who barricade themselves behind walls, profit from violence, exploit people sexually, destroy the environment, and promote idolatry. Habakkuk invites us to look outward at our nation’s failings. But that also leads to looking inward to ask what we can do in response.

Bowler offers a similar invitation. She says, stand still in this apocalyptic time and ask yourself whether, given your current resources, anything is calling you to action. If you can do that thing, commit yourself to doing it. If the answer is no, allow yourself to take a deep rest and tell your whole body to move back from its clenched fist feeling. Know that God is present whether you act or rest.

Bowler’s movement from national to personal, from anxiety to stillness, has a similar shape to Habakkuk’s movement in this week’s study. After his pronouncement of woes, he moves to the quiet reassurance: “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!” (v. 20).

  • How does our awareness of God’s presence silence us? How does that awareness invite us to speak and act?
  • How is an individual responsible for the systemic injustices of one’s nation?

—Gwen Groff,

© 2020

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Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

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