Sunday Week 27 Year C

The word I hear echoing around and around these readings today is “faith“. And the way that faith is talked, it sounds like a fragile thing, a thing in short-supply, or at least something you have to work hard to keep. Faith is like the ashes of a fire that have to be stirred into flame. Like a rich treasure that has to be guarded. Like a message that has to be written in big, careful letters so you can’t miss it. Or like a tiny seed that has to be planted and grown.
But what is it? What is this faith we are talking about? Well here’s the gospel image of faith—faith is like standing in front of a towering sycamore tree and wondering how on earth you’re going to uproot it and throw it a dozen miles into the sea. Imagine it. Not with tools and trucks, not even with bare hands and elbow grease, but with a word. This is the fundamental experience of faith; this is where faith grows—or doesn’t. Faced with that sycamore tree, searching for that word of unknown power, we either experience faith or we experience despair—because the only difference between them is in what you do. And it’s a tiny difference because what you need do is tiny. What makes all the difference is that despair does nothing but faith plants a tiny seed in the hope—just the hope—that it will make a difference. Faith is planting an insignificant seed in the suffocating shadow of a sycamore.
We get a glimpse of that seed planted in the words of Habakkuk the prophet. There the prophet stands overshadowed by the sycamore tree but he doesn’t hold back—he’s going to make so much noise that the tree will fall. He sees the violence in his society—the ruin, the misery, and the destruction—and while the politicians are looking outside Israel for enemies and among themselves for scandals he sees the enemy on his own doorstep: the violence inflicted by his own friends, by his own community. Violence enshrined in his own legal system, condoned by his own religious leaders, sanctioned by his own government. Habakkuk sees the violence that no one else will name and he names it. He names it, stands before it, lets it tower above him, and he refuses to despair, refuses to be silent. He calls on God, shouts at God, berates God until he gets an answer. “Why do you let me see ruin, why must I look at misery, why don’t you do something?” Isn’t that our question so often? Wouldn’t we yell it out loud at God if we had a little more courage? If we had Habakkuk’s faith? “God why do you tolerate this? Don’t you care? Do something!” Well, eventually God does something: God answers. And the answer is “Habakkuk, you do something!”
That’s our model of faith. Faith isn’t a thing you have, but a thing you do. And that’s why you have to stir the ashes into flame, that’s why you have to write the message in big letters, that’s why you have to take a tiny seed and plant it in dirt and hope it will grow.
Faith is what happens when you experience the immovable violence and injustice all around you—and within you too—and still do the one thing necessary, however insignificant it may seem. Faith is sitting down on the bus because your feet are tired. Faith is bringing your dream of justice down from the mountain top into the home of violence. Faith is knowing the gap between the way things are and the way God means things to be, and feeling the gap like fire in your bones—feeling the ache like God feels the ache. Faith is letting yourself feel as helpless as God feels and yet doing the impossible because not to do it would be betrayal.
But truth is, I hate this. I’m frightened by faith. I’m not sure I can hold fast to the one noble thing. Even if it’s a tiny thing no bigger than a mustard seed. … Which is why I’m glad I’m not alone this morning. Thank God we are not alone in our faith. Thank God that faith is not mine, that faith is not yours, but that faith is ours—because if it’s not it’s nobody’s. Thank God we don’t face the sycamore alone.

3 replies on “Sunday Week 27 Year C”

  1. Where verse and chapter do u refer to in Habakuku making a lot of noise that the tree will fall

  2. Tima: The reading from Habakkuk for that Sunday is 1:2-3; 2:2-4. Of course he’s not talking about a tree but about oppression. I was borrowing the tree from the day’s gospel.

  3. “God why do you tolerate this? Don’t you care? Do something!” Well, eventually God does something: God answers. And the answer is “Habakkuk, you do something!”


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