Saturday, October 5, 2013

You have enough faith!

Lamentations 1:1–6; Psalm 137; 2 Timothy 1:1–14; Luke 17:5–10

What are some bad things that happen in our lives? …
I think it’s a common experience. Something really bad happens in our lives, and we feel like we don’t have enough faith to get through it.
Jesus has an answer for us. We DO have enough faith. We have all the faith we need, even if our faith seems as small as a mustard seed. The size of our faith is not up to us, anyway. Our faith is planted and watered and made to grow by the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is the tough times that help our faith increase in size, as we learn the hard way that it is our faith, large or small, that gets us through whatever is going on, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Faith is a theme of all four of our texts today. Jesus sets the standard in the Gospel. How much faith we have is not important. It’s as matter-of-fact as doing the job we are supposed to do.
In the text from Lamentations, the timing is after the fall of Jerusalem. The whole city was destroyed, including the temple. Jeremiah the prophet is lamenting the loss of their home and all that was familiar.
There is real pain, grief, sadness in this text. The people are being exported to Babylon, walking 1,000 miles to their new home. There are no options, other than death. There is no way of knowing if they will ever return, and there is nothing left to return to, anyway. They are afraid their children and grandchildren will not know the joys of Jerusalem.
In this text, Jeremiah weeps for all the people, expressing what they are all feeling. As bad as conditions are, the majority of the exiles held onto their faith, finding ways to be Jewish in secret, and hoping for a return to the homeland. As it turns out, the Jews will live in Babylonian exile for over 40 years.
The Psalm is an appropriate response to Lamentations. Once in Babylon, the reality of the exile hit the folks hard. Their captors taunted them: “Sing one of your religious songs. We know how much you love to sing!” Of course they don’t feel like singing! They feel a lot more like bashing the heads of the enemies’ infants against a rock! Even so, their faith remains strong, begging God to help them remember their Lord by remembering the city and faith the Lord gave them.
 In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he is writing with words of encouragement in the current situation. When we look back to the first letter, we discover that Pastor Timothy is dealing with some folks who believe Jesus is coming very soon. They figure they can just sit and wait for Jesus, and let other people take care of them in the meantime. Timothy has been trying to correct this belief and running into conflict with the members. It has challenged his faith. But Paul assures him he has plenty of faith.
It’s interesting to note that Timothy is a third generation believer – brought to faith by his mother and grandmother. He can rely on the memory of these family members to strengthen his own confidence, because God gives us courage, not cowardice. So, Timothy should boldly proclaim the Gospel as Paul and his mother and grandmother taught it to him, and have no fear. The Holy Spirit has his back, as we might say today.
… Today, as we face cancer, surgery, aging, loss of a loved one, loss of memory, conflict, financial challenges, relationship challenges, we pray that we have what it takes to get through them. And Jesus reminds us that we have enough faith, AND we have the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy spirit has our back, too.
We have enough faith to know that Jesus is always with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have enough faith to receive the gift of love and friendship of our friends as we live through the current crisis. We have faith enough to forgive, even if the deed seems unforgivable. We have enough faith to heal, to allow ourselves to be healed.
We also have enough faith to try new things for the sake of Jesus. We can try new worship services. We can try new schedules. We can try a new Bible study class. We can try to reach our neighbors in new ways.
… The Mower Guys have enough faith. They realized that the city of Detroit did not have money for mowing the grass on city parks. They began taking care of a few of the parks, concentrating on the ones with playground equipment, so kids could play there. They began with a few guys, and a few tractor mowers and weed trimmers. They go out every other Wednesday and take care of a few parks. A few businesses and individuals support them with equipment donations, and volunteers show up to help.
When they began, they weren’t sure it would work. Detroit isn’t the safest place, after all. But the donations include bullet-proof vests, and they pack enough heat to ward off attacks.
Good things are happening as a result of their mowing. Local folks are forming groups and reclaiming their neighborhoods. They contact the mower guys and partner with them in cleaning up the closest park. Although lots of folks have left Detroit, those who remain are beginning to take back the city, beat back the blight, and seek the hope Jesus promised them. They are learning they have enough faith to make their city livable again.
… Hope does lots of things to bring hope to others: food for the food pantry, bags of food for children on weekends, shoeboxes, quilts, diapers, cash. We have faith that the small and larger ways we are able to help will have great impact.
We try new things, and have faith that God will prosper us, even if it takes a while. We may squabble with each other, but at the same time we have faith that God is leading Hope into a great future.
Please pray with me. Lord, some days we feel like we don’t have much faith to get through the tough days in our lives. Help us know we have faith enough for whatever happens to us. And, Lord, we ask that you will grant us the wisdom and courage to go forward in ministry, reaching out more and more to those who seek you. Amen