Preaching text: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ Luke 17
Oct. 2, 2016
Last week the Grand Canyon, this week a teeny, tiny, mustard seed. You’d think we (or at least I as the preacher/pastor) am fixated on size. But actually I am here to give you the good news that size doesn’t matter.
In our world of fat shaming, air brushed super skinny models, HUGE conglomerates of corporations, global trade, big deficits and super small microchips, I would hope that hearing that size doesn’t matter is a relief. Specifically that this is very good news to us, the church. Because for way too long the church has kept it’s own dirty little secret. Not all of us are spiritual giants, not all of us have or feel like we are standing tall on rock-solid faith— trust in miracles, sacraments, even in God (herself). This truth can come from several reasons. Some of us are—for whatever reason—wired operate left-brained and logical like Spock. Linking faith with trust can also be problematic, as those of us who for whatever reason feel like even the ability to trust stolen from us, or we’ve been betrayed one-too many times. Our faith can feel microscopic nowhere even close to the size of some mustard seed.
For too long, reading and hearing passages like our gospel this morning have made us feel worse about ourselves. There’s no way, if for some silly reason, I could ever say to a mulberry tree go plant yourself in the sea. For me, and others like me, looking inwardly and honestly, I totally get the disciples plea, “Increase our faith!”
All too often the church has seemed to ignore or overlook people like me, as if we just didn’t belong. There are the good or the bad, sinner or the saint, spirit from body. We thrive to divide. Faith is simply something we all have—to a greater or lesser degree, and if we don’t oh well, there’s no room for you in the pew.
Are we as Jesus seems to be saying “worthless slaves”? Or could there be a whole different way of hearing these words this morning. The first thing we as people of a Lutheran way of looking at things do, is we look at the context. Where does this request for bigger faith come from?
So, between the story Jesus gave us last week of the nameless rich man and Lazarus the poor man:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith”.
So, Jesus tells his disciples (and remember that’s not just a handful of guys 2000 years ago — that’s us) we are responsible for the “little ones” whether those are children or others new to following Jesus. Key to that relationship is repentance and forgiveness. Now this makes a whole lot more sense, because I can honestly tell you there are plenty of times that I don’t feel like forgiving, I am not in either a repenting or a forgiving mood for that matter. Who of us is can say we are totally on top of this business of forgiving. Or put another way—by show of hand’s— who could use more faith?
Now here’s where I think we can listen to Jesus in a whole new way: what I call, “Drill Seargent Jesus”
“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
I will admit that doesn’t sit with my usual picture of Jesus. We want the gentle shepherd, the meek and mild; we don’t want Drill Seargent Jesus. But maybe that’s what we need. and that’s exactly what the Spirit wants us to hear this morning. I don’t think Jesus is going to answer our request (prayer) for bigger faith. I don’t think Jesus is going to just zap with a giant faith making ray.
Next week when you are all sitting here again in these nice comfy seats I will hopefully have run 10 – 11 miles of the Twin Cities marathon. That means I will not even be halfway done. But I’m already looking to what’s next. You see, this my 7th marathon, and it might just be my last one. Of course, I’ve said that a couple of years in a row. But maybe I need to really diversify my training? So I’ve been wondering what will work for me? What will motivate me to get up really early in the morning, go out in the cold to work-out. There are gyms, studios, fitness boutiques just about on every corner, and offering cross fit, martial arts fitness, spinning, yoga, hot yoga, personal training, boot camp. What is going to motivate me to not get back in my warm bed, or whine about how early, or how cold it is, or how old I am, or whatever other myriad of excuses? What is going to make me just do it and literally get off my butt (and just do it)?
And that’s what Jesus is telling us today. The size of our faith doesn’t matter. What matters is doing? So even if we don’t feel like giants of faith, with spiritual superpowers. We do the stuff of faith. When we feel doubtful we pray anyway. When we feel persecuted and angry we forgive and stand up for justice. When we feel lost, we go find someone to sit with and listen to, to make a meal for. And by doing we become. Think about it, you don’t become healthy or fit just by thinking about it or feeling like it. You don’t become educated by thinking about it or waiting till you feel like it. What we know is true in the physical world reality is true in the spiritual. Fake it till you make it.
So perhaps the good news is that Jesus is telling us we don’t need to have faith the size of even a mustard seed to be the church. By doing the following of Jesus stuff, by doing the stuff of disciples (even when we don’t feel like it) that can be all that matters. So size doesn’t matter really is good news. Amen