On the Ramparts with Mr. H

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4  – The 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 3, 2013

“I will stand at my watchpost and station myself on the rampart…” (Habakkuk 2:1)

habakkukIt would have been easy to write about Zacchaeus.

You know Mr. Z’s story, right? He was the height-challenged guy in Luke’s Gospel that scrambled up the sycamore tree to gaze over the crowd for a gander at Jesus. A tax collector, his popularity rivaled a trip to the dentist. And Mr. Z was rich enough to be considered the Warren Buffett of first-century Jericho.

That’s enough clues. I’m sure you recall his story in Luke’s nineteenth chapter, but I decided not to reflect on Mr. Z. Why? He seemed too easy, so predictable.

After years of writing these lectionary ramblings—weekly wondering which of the listed Gospel, New Testament, Old Testament and Psalms verses I’ll choose—I’m happily in a rut. 93.4%* of the time, I’ll tackle the Gospel passage. Hey, I’m a Christian, and follow Jesus, and his ministry first inspired and continues to inspire me. I love to read and re-read Jesus’ parables. I may question the literal veracity of a miracle or healing account, but they continue to fascinate and invigorate my faith. Therefore, I usually discarded the three other weekly lectionary options. Sometimes they seem less interesting than the Gospels. Sometimes my ignorance about (for example) the Psalms or 2 Thessalonians means they intimidate me. Way back in seminary, we only had so many hours to study the Bible . . . a whole mess of the Holy word was wholly ignored. Furthermore, during my years of weekly preaching in churches, didn’t the pewfolk prefer to hear about Jesus than, say, Jael going zombie-hunter on Sisera and pounding a tent peg into his noggin (Judges 5:24-27) or all those prickly laws beyond the Ten Commandments?

And so this week, with a dose of trepidation, I ignored Mr. Z in order to pay attention to . . .

Habakkuk. (Go ahead, say the name out loud.)

Mr. H was a prophet. His eponymous work is the 35th book of the Old Testament, nestled between Nahum (Who?) and Zephaniah (Huh?).

Mr. H was mentioned twice in the entire Bible. And both times the name popped up in—wait, wait—Habakkuk! (Check out Hab. 1:1 and 3:1.) Jesus never mentioned him. Paul didn’t quote or misquote him. I’ll bet if you asked a pastor to give you, quick as she can, the names of any five Old Testament prophets, Mr. H would be absent from her list. Mr. H sure wouldn’t appear on my Top 5 Prophets List: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Ezekiel and Moses. Oops, I can’t count Moses because he wasn’t one of the official “major” or “minor” prophets! Drats! I’ll go with Lamentations, then. Oops . . .

I know so little about Habakkuk.

Nearly anything related to his prophetic role, about his place in the pantheon of prophets, or how he might’ve influenced Jewish or Christians traditions, would involve a cursory, furtive search by me in Wikipedia. Or I’d need to get off my arse to scan my office’s dusty library shelves for TSIHRSS** resources. Continue reading →