Are we there yet?
"How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save?" Habakkuk 1.2
For Scottish rugby fans, yesterday's win at Twickenham will stand out as one of those "where were you when...?" moments. Like every other spectator who was "there" on this occasion, I watched the game from the comfort of home but I was "there" in the sense of being physically present the last time it happened, 38 years ago. I was still in my schoolboy rugby-playing days and happened to be in England for a University interview and was given a ticket. It feels like a lifetime away!
And that's waiting for you: longing for something that seems like a lifetime away. For an excited young child that might amount to waiting for a birthday or for the arrival of a fat man in red, squeezing down the chimney with a sackful of presents. In the Bible it is typically focused on imploring God to act to bring about an end to undeserved suffering, to lash out in judgment on one's enemies, or to liberate the oppressed. These longings are shared by people of all origins and faiths and they reflect three things in particular: our sense of fairness, our awareness that things are not as they should be and our hope of redemption.
Where we look to for these aspirations will depend on our beliefs: agnostics and atheists must rely on human progress, adherents of animistic religions will depend on their rituals and oblations, the current and so-called "world faiths" all have their ways of expressing their hopes for the future. For Christians, it is about anticipating the return of Jesus and, in the meantime, being about his work as his witnesses and his agents. And to do that faithfully, despite rather than because of our circumstances, which may be benign or hostile, we need persevering faith.
Fortunately the Bible is replete with role models - like Job, who refused to give up on God even when God, unbeknown to him, allowed Satan to strip him of everything that made Job's life sweet. Job's ordeal reflects the titanic struggle between good and evil, God and the Devil. That struggle continues but it is on the wane because victory has been secured - by Jesus through his perfect life, his victory over temptation and death and his resurrection. The final stage is his return and it is in the conviction of this ultimate resolution that our faith is sustained...