Reflection for Sunday – October 2, 2022
Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8; Luke 17:5-10
Preacher: Irene Goodwin
“How long God? I cry for help but you do not listen.” Have you ever felt that?
The prophet Habakkuk wrote this sometime in the late seventh to early fifth century BCE. As so many times in history there was turmoil both in Israeli and the world. Yet as bad as it was it would get worse before it got better. It is believed that he wrote this just before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.
What we read is a reflection on the prophet’s view of God’s ways with Israel. Habakkuk is not writing from an historical view but a theological view. Can or will God remain faithful against the overwhelming power of great empires? In our reading Habakkuk questions God, concerning how he does justice and how he treats the wicked. He reacts to what he feels is God’s silence and lack of action. However, we then hear of God’s response. “Write down a vision…for the vision still has its time.”
I, like Habakkuk, sometimes complain to God. So much violence in our world. We read of war in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Congo and many other places. In our country we see hate growing. Sometimes we feel that discord moving into our families. Often, we wake up only to hear that another person has been killed in our city. We call out to God, where is your help? Everywhere I look there is strife and discord. God’s reply remains, “Write down a vision…for the vision still has its time… Have faith and the just will live.”
In today’s Gospel we are told to have a vision and faith that could move a mulberry tree. We want change in our world, we want a miracle and we want it now. When first looking at these readings, I thought to myself: “When have I seen a mulberry tree moved on its own?” I of course was thinking of an amazing miracle. However, then I thought, yes, I have, it just took years! Looking back, I realized yes, the impossible became possible.
I was reminded of this when I watched Michelle Obama’s speech several weeks ago at the White House. This was during the unveiling of the portraits of Michelle and Barak Obama. She spoke. “A girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolly Madison. What are we looking at today? A portrait of a biracial kid with an unusual name and the daughter of a water pump operator and stay-at-home mom can end up on the wall of the most famous address in the world.” That did not happen by one single bright moment. They set visions for themselves and worked very hard to attain them.
Many of us can look back at our lives and say, “wow, look how that mulberry tree moved.” I have often said to myself, “how is it that the shyest person in the class went on to preach before hundreds and lead three parishes?” No teacher, or even parents would believe that would happen. It did not happen overnight. It happened by creating a vision and working each day with a vision in mind. At first the vision was small but as life went on it grew.
However, like many we need to write down a vision and rewrite that vision. The work never ends. Like in our Gospel, God tells us the work is not done. There are more mulberry trees to move. We have worked all day in the field, however there is more to do before we rest. Retired from ministry, I ask, what is next? What is it we want and what would I be willing to work day and night to make happen.
This Gospel also reminds us not to expect to see a reward. I was reminded of a hospital visit. The man I was visiting told me of his great love of music and particularly the violin. He told me how his mother worked extra hours to buy him a violin. Years later he was able to buy himself a better violin. However, one day after performing a recital a young man came up to him and was very interested in his music. The older man ended up giving the younger man his old violin. I asked him if he had ever heard from the young man again. He told me no; he would have liked to know if the young man went on to use it or sold it for a good meal. But it was okay. God’s message today. Make a plan, go do it and just let it go. We have only done what God has asked of us.