Destruction and violence are before me: Strife and contention arise.

The law becomes slack and justice never prevails.

The wicked surround the righteous…


Then the Lord answered me and said:

Write the vision.  Make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it…

…There is still a vision for the appointed time…

It will not delay….

No, I will not rehash recent headlines. Habakkuk could have been talking about our own day. We know little about him. Probably he was a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. Northern Israel had already been subjugated by the big powers of that time. Soon it would be the time for the Southern part of Israel – including Jerusalem itself – to be subjugated. Sometime around 605-610 B.C., which is about the time this prophecy was written.

Someone will ask (if only to themselves) “Why isn’t this about Halloween? This is Halloween and we’ve got a big event with a special service scheduled for tomorrow. It should be a great evening!

A couple of Sundays ago I missed church. I went to my high school reunion in Texarkana, Arkansas. The Arkansas High Class of 1960. A friend of mine went with me, one who had also graduated from that class. As we drove to Texarkana we spoke of our classmates, our friends. It has been sixty-two years since we graduated. As I drove, we would name various classmates, talk about them, did we know about them in recent years? Were they still living?

Jimmy mentioned Duke Harris. I had known him; we had even been in grade school together. We were acquaintances, not close friends. Yet I remembered him, I remembered that his dad had worked at one of the banks. I remember that they lived on County Avenue.

Jimmy said that he had heard that he had died. He had retired at 65 and died shortly after retiring.

The funny thing was that I saw Duke – l was seeing Duke in my mind’s eye as I was talking. I could see him in my imagination. I could even hear him talking – in his voice – talking.

Our class has not had that many reunions. I might have gone to a couple – and he might have been there. But I could see him as I drove along – could hear him. How remarkable is that! How remarkable that just by hearing a name, a name we haven’t heard for years, a person we haven’t seen for years, we can bring them forth from within our memory – vivid, real – just as they were, years and years, decades ago, we can remember them, we can see them – as they really were even someone who is gone.

I shared this story with friends recently at lunch. One started talking about her dad. She was six or seven, maybe. She and her dad were standing in a field. It was a windy day. A gust blew her dad’s hat off. Men wore hats more commonly in those days. She ran and retrieved the hat for her dad – proudly returned it to him. And he graciously thanked her.

And she has never forgotten that day.

As I was writing this, the memory of another day, a Halloween, came to me.

I was a young man, living and working in Texarkana. I was a member of a men’s civic organization – the Jaycees. It styles itself a young man’s organization. Accordingly, when you reach a certain age, you are “aged” out.

One year someone in the organization had the great idea that we could raise a lot of money by going door-to-door on Halloween and asking whoever answered to donate money to some worthy cause. The worthy cause I cannot recall.

Like a chump I agreed to help out.

So here I was going door-to-door in the midst of all the kids of Texarkana out trick-or-treating.

The house I especially remember had a clear glass storm door, then a regular wood door. I rang the doorbell. A kindly looking older lady with grey hair opened the door. I gave her my spiel about the good cause for which I was collecting money.  She listened, said nothing, she then took the door in her hand and slammed it shut in my face with all the strength she could muster.

Yes, I remember that Halloween pretty well.


I have been to Jericho.

Our group left Jerusalem, traveled by bus through pretty rough looking country – rocky, hilly, dry, not much vegetation – maybe a village or two – fitting terrain for Jesus’ story we call “the Good Samaritan.” Finally, we reach Jericho.

Jericho – where Luke tells the story – and only Luke tells it –of Jesus traveling through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.

Somehow word had gotten out.

That day there was a crowd, a large crowd, a crowd of the poor and ordinary people of that day well acquainted with the destruction and violence of their times. A crowd well acquainted with the strong arm of the Roman occupying Roman power. Acquainted with laws that favored the rich and powerful – a system of justice that was not just.

And they had heard about Jesus. The miracles, the kindly wisdom, the love and concern for the least of them..

Maybe he is the one, they thought. Maybe he is the deliverer, the vision spoken of years ago in the prophecies.

And now Luke tells us the story of one man who particularly wanted to see Jesus.

And he happened to be short. So short that the only way he could see Jesus would be to climb a tree. And so, he did. It happened to be a sycamore tree.

Luke adds a little more detail.

He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

In the New Testament we hear of several tax collectors. Matthew was a tax collector. But this man of Jericho is the only one described as a “chief” tax collector.

He was one who had collaborated with the enemy, who had dirtied his hands in the deepest corrupt dealings with the occupying powers – not just a tax collector but a chief tax collector…

Earlier I have gone on at some length about how remarkable, how amazing, each of us are. As an example, each of us – without thinking about it particularly – or even thinking it particularly amazing – we can recall from the depths of our memory, our minds, maybe even our souls, people, things, events from years and years ago. And we can do this for just the flimsiest of reasons – going to a class reunion and recalling a casual acquaintance from years ago.

In Luke’s story we hear of a man who is powerful, who is rich -yet whose hands are stained with evil. He is rich, he is powerful, because of his collaboration with an occupying and ruthless power. And yet he is unhappy – deeply unhappy. There is something empty in him. And there is something in him that is telling him there is more, there is right, there is goodness, and it is telling him that he needs to be a part of it. He has a restless and seeking heart.

From time to time someone needs to change the lightbulbs in these light fixtures high above our heads. Thankfully I have never been asked to help in that job. I really would not care to climb a rickety ladder fifteen or twenty feet into the air and change one.

And yet this man of Jericho climbs a tree high above the crowd to see Jesus.

Saint Augustine said one time: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

I park my truck in a garage at home. It has a remote that I can just push a button and it opens or closes the door.

Recently the door went on the blink.

So, I called a repairman. This was on a Friday.

I thought it would be the next week before someone could come out.

The repairman said he could come out Sunday morning.

I said that was great but if he knew me, he would know that I really don’t need to miss church. Could he come out Sunday afternoon?

He said he could so that Sunday I hurried home after church.

Not long after he was there. He had brought his wife.

We talked as he repaired the door, replacing that tightly wound coiled spring that powers the door going up and down.

He asked what church I go to.

I told him St. Luke’s Episcopal on JFK in North Little Rock.

He said his wife might have an aunt whose sister came here one time. I sensed that his interest in church was more than casual.

I invited he and his wife to come to St. Luke’s – we have two services on Sunday, one at 8:00 and 10:30. He seemed to be interested. Will we see he and his wife at St. Luke’s? I pray that we do. Regardless, I sense in him a restless and seeking heart.

Our challenge as followers of Christ – and our joy – is to live in recognition that God lives in our hearts. And sometimes that’s not easy in these angry and contentions times. Even so, let our hearts have ears to hear restless and seeking hearts – and to remind them that St. Luke’s is a place where they will find God and an answer to their restless heart.

Then the Lord answered me and said;

Write the vision. Make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it.

…There is still a vision for the appointed time…

It is now. And it is here.



Richard Robertson