A Lectionary Blog
The Rev. Leslie M. St. Louis
There is always so much rich fodder in the lessons we have each Sunday and sadly since most preachers only have fifteen to twenty minutes to preach we have to pick and choose what we want to say and where we are being called to go. There are always many, many places that God’s word might be speaking both to and from our hearts. Did you know that in the not too distant past the Episcopal Church was known for its preaching and prophetic witness? Did you know that in a place and time not too very long ago or far away that preachers actually preached sitting down at a very large desk at the front of the assembly and sermons could be over an hour long? Even then I rather imagine that the clergy had a difficult time distilling all that they heard and all that they read and all that they wanted the people to hear and feel and know into an hour sermon.
As part of last Sundays’ lections, if you were in Track 2 of the lectionary, the Old Testament lesson was from the book of Habakkuk and toward the end of the lesson we heard these words:
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
When I first read this text, my mind wandered to my travels in Israel, to a late afternoon at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the city of Jerusalem--the city that embodies the longing for the justice cried out for in this scripture. Just as the sun began to set and the long, fingered shadows slowly overcame the city, my companions and I began to hear the opening prayers for Shabbat rise up from the Western Wall, shortly after that the call to worship coming from the mosque at the Dome of the Rock, and just as those two prayers intertwined, the bells at St. Mary of the Domitian Lutheran church began to ring announcing the evening prayer service. It occurred to me then, and again in my memory and now as I write these words, how strong the visions, the prayers, and the hopes and dreams for peace and for justice have been in just that place for thousands of years…..and yet.
My mind wanders from that place to the place we live here and now—to the current political campaign, to the pandemic of violence shattering lives across the nation, to a world that is anything but peaceful and just. What might it look like if we all took the time to seek out the vision God has for us, to take a tablet, write it down, and make it plain? Are you a list maker? Most of us are at some point in time, either when things get too stressful and overwhelming for us to keep track of or when we have some goal we want to achieve or something important we want to remember and share with people. Writing it down makes it real. It empowers the idea and us to move in some way.
For the Hebrew people knowing the name of something, speaking it, writing it gave you power over it. Words matter. They have power to convey meaning and to change lives—ours and others. I wonder what might change if we all took our own vision for peace and justice and commanded the language of our hearts to write the story of the end. God’s intended end for us. An end that is about abundance not annihilation, green pasture not deserted wastelands, palaces not prisons.