Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If You Had The Faith of A Mustard Seed (and you do!)

I know a woman who at 54 her husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
She did what many people of faith do in such circumstances do she turned to her church and asked for support and prayers.
She was told by many in her congregation to “have faith”, and if she did everything would work out.
Eventually her husband died.
Her first week back at worship one of the parishioners told her that if she had just had more faith maybe her husband would still be alive.
This is one of the interruptive problems we have with texts like our Gospel from Luke this morning.
We read what is written and we make faith into something we posses and we have.
We make faith into performing outlandish magic tricks.
“If you had the faith of mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and it would be rooted in the sea.”
We read Jesus words and we believe that with faith we can cure cancer, stop death, make all the bad things in life go away.
The worse part of this type of theology is that what happens when people die, when bad things happen to good people faithful people like us?
Lots of times what happens is that people stop believing in God, because God did not come through like they were told God would.
Faith is not about magic tricks.
It is not about believing that some miracle will happen if only we can believe harder, pray more, or do a dance by the first full moon of the second week of the first month.
Faith is about trusting in God even, and maybe especially, in difficult times.

We read the Gospel for this morning and what we hear is “If you had the faith of a mustard seed…”
We take that as a challenge from Jesus to his disciples and to us to have more faith or get more faith.
Yeah if we only had more faith things would be better.
But a better translation of what Jesus is saying would be “if you had faith (and you do)…”
It is a condition according to a fact, like saying “If Jesus is our Lord….”
Not a condition contrary to a fact, like saying “if I were you…”
So Jesus is not condemning our faith.
But telling us we already have all the faith we will ever need.

We are like the disciples given the enormity of our task on earth.
Given all the factors that seem to contradict belief in an all loving God, it would seem that we would need more faith.
But all of you have been given in your baptisms all the faith you will ever need.
God has equipped you to handle all the things that happen in this life.

Think about it even if you die, through faith you are ready to handle it.
You already know that death is not the final word.
What Jesus is asking from his disciples, and what prompts them to ask for more faith is forgiveness, and care for the little ones.
Before our verses today what Jesus tells his disciples is that they should forgive anyone in the church who does them wrong.
And they should not put any stumbling blocks before people who sin or do us wrong.
We all know how hard it is to forgive and to move on.
It is no wonder the disciples ask for more faith.
We too ask for it.
Because it is hard for us to forgive as well.
It is hard for us to learn patience and meekness.
It is hard for us to learn to live in the struggle that is life.

But God has already equipped us through his word, through communion and baptism.
Every week when we worship we are reminded of Jesus love for us.
We are reminded of our need for forgiveness.
The purpose of worship is not to give us more faith.
But rather to stir up the faith already in us.

An imagine a colleague of mine once shared that I think illustrates this really well is that of a child making chocolate milk.
Have you ever watched a child make Chocolate milk.
They dump tones of chocolate syrup into the milk, and it all gathers at the bottom.
So they think that what they need is more syrup.
So they dump more chocolate syrup in, and then more.
Not noticing that all they really need to do is stir up the chocolate syrup at the bottom and then they would have more than enough chocolate syrup.
That is what our faith needs sometimes is to be stirred, to be stirred into action, stirred into remembering the awesome grace and love of God.

And our lives will turn from desperation, or being lost, or being forsaken into hope and trust.
The 54 year old woman who lost her husband to brain cancer did not need a lecture on being more faithful; she needed a community of faith that would stir her faith.
That is what we can be for one another.
We can offer the words of forgiveness, hope, encouragement, and comfort that help us to remember God in our lives.

When my father died people sent lots of letters and cards to my mom.
When she would get a letter we would read it together.
Each one was a little treasure of God’s love.
People who offered us words of comfort and hope in a difficult time reminded us what a wonderful God we had.
It reminded us that God sent people who care.
It reminded us about the power of the resurrection.
This is what faith communities are about, because this is what our God is about.

Not about trying to put on a scale the amount of faith one might have at any given moment.
And certainly not about a God who performs magic tricks instead of comforting and loving us.

This is why Paul writes to Timothy.
To encourage him in his faith and remind him of the power of Jesus Christ amidst the suffering that one often suffers in this life.
Paul knew firsthand that following Jesus Christ is not easy.
That bringing the word of God to the gentiles made his life harder.
He knew that in the Church many other apostles disagreed with his mission.
He knew that when he spoke in synagogue about Jesus welcoming gentiles as well as Jews that his life would be threatened.
Perhaps he knew that he would be martyred in Rome because of his faith.
Paul like all the great figures of the Bible did not have life without hard times.
What he had was faith in God.
Faith that God was working through his life, faith that God would use him for God’s purpose.
You all have that same faith it just needs to be stirred sometimes.

So when you suffer, when things don’t go your way, stir up your faith and be uplifted to know God has given you everything you need.
Know that in some way God is working in your life even through suffering.
And then be prepared to share your faith with others.
This week someone you know is going to need to be uplifted just like that mulberry tree.
Someone you know is going to need to hear the words of Jesus Christ.
Someone you know will suffer in some way.
What will be the words that you will speak?
I know that they will be words of comfort, encouragement, and love.
For you have the faith that was given to you in your baptism.
You have a faith that tells you what to expect in this life, and what to expect from God.
You have a faith the size of a mustard seed, and it just needs to be stirred into action.
Use that faith this week to move mulberry trees and put them into the sea.
Uproot obstacles in your way so that you can see and know God in all things.

You have the faith of a mustard see may it be stirred so you can serve God and know his power in your life.

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