Have you ever asked God ‘Why?’ , or even been angry with God? This might be because of the state of the world, the fact that there is so much poverty and hunger, war and oppression, or it might be because of natural disasters, floods or fires. I know one man who was born with a disability, and who is furiously angry with God because of it.
Today’s reading from the Jewish prophet Habakkuk starts with this ‘Why’ question, even a bit of anger. God, you will not listen, you will not save. God, why do you put oppression, injustice, tyranny, and violence before me? What did I, what did my people, do to deserve this?
God’s answer in the first reading is ‘be patient, all will be fulfilled in time, be patient’.
Maybe this is what’s behind the apostles asking the Lord to increase their faith. Their patience is running out. They see the injustice and oppression all around them. The way in which farmers lost their land, the taxes by which the Roman conquerors and their own religious leadership worked together to enrich themselves at the expense of the ordinary Jewish people, the way in which the pious people, the Pharisees, treated those who didn’t keep all the details of the Jewish law. They feel ripped off by the rich, and judged by the religious. Jesus, they say, help us to have faith here, help us to believe that there is such a thing as justice, that this love of God you talk about is real!
Jesus answer to his apostles is a bit of tough love. If you really had faith, this wouldn’t be a problem. And then he basically tells them that they should be the ones doing the work of God. If you want to follow me, you will need to do some work. You will need to be love in action.
This is our vocation, our calling, as followers of Jesus - to be love in action. This doesn’t mean we won’t ask the ‘why’ question of God when we look at the world, or we won’t be impatient when we see or experience injustice or suffering. I’m sure that God understands my disabled friend’s anger, that God weeps with us in grief. In the end though we are still called to be patient, and to work for a world where love is seen and experienced.
We have a choice. On the one hand we can follow the path laid out by a friend of mine, a person I pray for regularly. Once he said to me ‘Jim, you’ve got to realise the universe is a cold and unloving place.’ Well, if my friend is right, then all of us in this church are wasting our time, and love is at best an effort to make sense of the senseless, to put some temporary warmth into a cold world.
The other choice is to believe, as I read recently, ‘Faith begins with trust in the ultimate goodness ( or love) at the heart of being.’ Trust that to love means that we share in the life of the cosmos, the cosmos created by God as an expression of God’s love. Trust that in the life of Jesus we see love in action, and that his passion, death and resurrection show us that love can’t be killed, that the universe is not cold and unloving, but is created by God as a place where love lives. From this choice flows our love in action to make a better world, the everyday kindness and forgiveness we are all called to by our faith, as well as working for justice for all our fellow men and women, and for our world. This is our vocation as Christians, to be the hands of a loving God in this world.