27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

You don’t get Habakkuk that often.  But when you do get it, you get this passage.  “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”  Israel is in the midst of a literal panic.  They had always believed that they were protected as a chosen people.  Now they are threatened with invasion, with exile, with destruction.  They have lost all hope.  Imagine how reassuring the prophet’s words must have been. “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” 

While Israel’s situation is ancient, its reaction is modern.  The feeling that there is no way out is shared by all of us at some time.  In my ministry, I am truly blessed that so many come to me at times when they feel the deepest of troubles. They feel panicked, anxious and even depressed.  It is easy to sympathize because we have all dipped into those feelings. 

And it seems to me, that those who are suffering all share in a lack of vision.  When we deal with the worst things, the specter that appears ready to swallow us alive, we can see nothing else but the thing right in front of us. We have no perspective.   Like walking right into a wall, nothing else becomes visible.   Your whole life becomes your problem.  It is like the band in Animal House that is led down the alley and cannot move. 

How do you regain the vision?  By finding perspective.  If you are up against it, you must take a step back.  You have to take in what the wall in front of you has blocked.  In our crisis and too often even day to day, we must step back to find a reality greater than ourselves.

For example, so many times people who are suffering panic or depression feel that they are all alone.  That no one has ever survived the path they are on.  Take a step back.  Find some perspective.  You are not alone.  Someone accompanies you on your journey.  Where you have been, others have returned from.  That does not minimize the pain or diminish the difficulty of the journey.  It simply means others have been there and have emerged whole and loving.  Their example is your hope.  We can never be alone, because too many people care about our destination to let us not continue the journey.

Often, in the midst of our greatest pain, we feel unloved and unlovable.   We believe that if we cannot handle or are not up to that haunting challenge, we have no worth. Our failure makes us feel small and unimportant. Take a step back.  Find some perspective.   You are loved.  It is not possible that you are not cared for, prayed for and loved. You might not be aware of it and you might not feel it, but it is happening.  After all, have you ever stopped loving someone when they were struggling?  Why would your friends do that to you?  Know that you are loved and you feel the strength and peace that only come from knowing you are loved. 

And for people in the darkest of times, they feel like Israel did – where is God?  God seems to be the closer of doors, not the opener.  God’s answer always seems to be “No.”  But take a step back. Find some perspective.   What is it that we are feeling in the midst of our deepest pain?  Guilt, hate, hurt and above all fear.  These are not the things of God –they are not God’s work.  Indeed, they are everything that Jesus came to defeat.  Perfect love casts out all fear.   God’s presence at these times is powerful and silent. I have seen people with the greatest pain I can imagine, the loss of a child and they understandably ask me where is God.  And I tell them a miracle happened to them. They got up that morning.  They tried that day. They still loved.  All those things must seem impossible.  God is giving grace to do it.  God is the strength they cannot explain.

All these moments of anxiety and sadness beg a question if it all matters.  Where is meaning to be found and what is my value when I cannot begin to see it for myself?  Take a step back.  Find some perspective.  Look upon the cross.  That is the moment when I know I am counted, that I matter.  It makes sense of the world to know it has been loved completely.  It makes sense of my life when I know I have been loved perfectly.  The cross is the evidence that God has been to despair and knows the way home.  The cross is the promise that our feelings of smallness and inadequacy pale before the brilliance and sacrifice  of the cross.

And still we must have one more belief.  That it will be ok. That God will be there for us.  Take one last step back.  Find some perspective.  Rejoice in the resurrection.  It is the moment when our fears melted in the brilliant light of Easter Sunday.  With death defeated and eternal life promised, we are meant for love and peace.  Our destination is heaven wherever we are on the journey.  It is the confidence that gave Julian of Norwich the wisdom to pray, “All will be well. All will be well. And all will be well.”  Knowing that Jesus has saved us is the ultimate perspective. Our promise lies in forever.  Our love will never die.  After all, “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”

Where do you end up on this five step boogie to salvation?    Perhaps, it is described in the strange last line of the Gospel.  ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’  Sounds like a great motivational speech, doesn’t it?  Just place a poster directly over the bed that says I am an unprofitable servant.  Now go out there and get them. 

Yet, perhaps we walk into the wall by trying to create our own vision.  What if we were to just trust in the vision of our God?  What if doing only what we are supposed to do meant loving one another?   What if the Gospel was our only measure?  What if it was God’s work and we were only the workers?  Then we would be in a kingdom that could not fall. Then we would be in a place where peace would prevail.  We would allow the vision its time, to press on to fulfillment.  And it will not disappoint.

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