This Week

Crime, Punishment and Justice

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Psalm 37:1-9

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

Prayer of the Day: Benevolent, merciful God: When we are empty, fill us. When we are weak in faith, strengthen us. When we are cold in love, warm us, that with fervor we may love our neighbors and serve them for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
   and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
   and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
   and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
   strife and contention arise.
4 So the law becomes slack
   and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
   therefore judgement comes forth perverted. Habakkuk 1:2-4.

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Do not fret because of the wicked;
   do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
   and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
   so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:1-4.

So who are we to believe? The prophet who tells us justice never prevails or the psalmist who tells us it always does? The psalmist advises us not to get worked up over the outrages of the wicked. Habakkuk is nothing if not worked up. I have to confess that my sympathies lie with Habakkuk. I will not waste my breathe reciting how often in recent times I have seen, in the public realm and in my own personal life, wickedness rewarded and righteousness punished. And this from a white, straight, solidly middle class man who has lived and breathed privilege for all his days. Unless you are living under a rock, you cannot escape the reality of justice denied in the work place, in our schools and in our justice system to people of color, women and LGBTQ+ folk. So what are we to make of the psalmist who seems to think that the triumph of justice is just as sure and predictable as the next sunrise?

As it turns out, Habakkuk and the psalmist are not as far apart as one might think at first blush. Read more