“Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? … Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.” Whether it is news about environmental degradation, or about the undermining of the democratic process, news about migrants dying as they try to reach a place of safety or news about the violence in Yemen or Syria or Hong Kong, news about increases in gun violence in Toronto or about the recent spate of suicides in New Brunswick, my response echoes the cry that Habakkuk gave voice to over 2500 years ago. Over and over I read articles or hear interviews asking if there is any way to counter the growing societal despair. Like Habakkuk, we are questioning whether there is anything for us to look at other than wrongdoing and trouble. And today, like Habakkuk we receive the response that God still has a vision and a plan and the counter to despair is to keep working toward that vision and that plan no matter how impossible it seems.
We have been named children of God. That identity is enough to assure us that no matter how difficult life may get, there will come a time when, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” Every choice that we make should be with that certainty in our mind.
In the gospel reading the apostles appear to have lost that certainty. They ask Jesus to increase their faith. Based on Jesus’ response, it appears that they were asking for an increase in faith as reward for what they had done and as motivation to keep going. Jesus compares their request to that of a slave who wants to sit down and relax before the master has eaten, something no master would offer. Since we do not live in a society that accepts slavery, I will suggest an alternative comparison for today. When we feel like giving up on the gospel and say that we need more from God to keep us motivated to make sacrifices to care for the poor or reach out to the stranger or act as good stewards of creation, when we threaten to stop trying because we have “been there and done that,” we are like employees who work for the morning and then say to the boss, “I’ve done as much as I feel like doing for the day, I will need a bonus if you want me to do anything other than play computer games for the afternoon.”
When I complain to God, I’m acting as if I expect God to work a little harder to earn my vote. Today’s scripture readings remind me that God is not a politician up for reelection and faithfulness is not a vote for me to bargain with. It is not God who has stopped working to change the world and bring about a kingdom of peace, justice, compassion and equality. It is me who becomes so caught up in my own perspective that I want the rest of the world to change around me without having to change myself. “Look at the proud person! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous person lives by their faith.”