Sunday, October 6, 2019

More than enough faith

Luke 17:5-10


More than enough faith


When we hear this kind of saying from Jesus, that if we have enough faith we can move trees or mountains, we say, hmm, not me. I don’t have that kind of faith! But I am willing to guess that you all have at least some faith, at least a mustard seed’s worth of faith. In fact, Jesus says that if you have even that little amount of faith, you can work miracles in his name.


Since Holy Spirit plants faith in us, we do actually have enough faith. It may be courage we are lacking, or trust that Jesus God will provide what we need. Jesus says in this parable that contrary to our fears, we have more than enough faith to do whatever it takes.


We probably would not ask God to move a tree, or a mountain as the same story in Matthew suggests. But we have faith enough, and more, to work to fulfill God’s purposes. As a congregation, we talked a couple weeks ago about service to the community. Each table at the Visioning Retreat came up with suggestions about how to reach more people, more neighbors, with the good news of Jesus Christ, risen, who loves and forgives us.


What, exactly, should we be doing? The Council and the Outreach Committee will work to choose a few, maybe only one or two, things to focus on, to put lots of energy into. Working on these service projects will require energy and commitment.


And it will require faith that we can do it. Rather than saying, we’re too small, we can’t do that; rather than saying, I’m too old, I can’t do that; rather than saying, been there, done that, not gonna do it anymore … it will mean we all begin to say, yes, we can, with God’s help. When we make up our minds together to do something, we will be given the ability, the finances, and the faith to make it happen.


In the meantime, let’s think about those things you know you already have faith enough to do.

I’ll bet that the first time you went to visit someone, to take communion to her or him, that you were afraid. But you went anyway, and God spoke through you to give comfort to the person you visited. At the same time, God spoke to you, to assure you that you could do this visit, that you had faith enough for this ministry.  And then you discovered it was enjoyable to bring Jesus to others in this way.


I’ll also bet that the first time you read the Scripture or assisted with communion or any of the dozens of things connected with worship, that you were a bit worried that you would mess up. You may have worried about pronunciation of strange names, or putting things in the wrong place, or forgetting to hand someone a bulletin. But, over time, you figured out that you do have faith enough to assist in some ways with worship, that if you do something wrong, there is grace enough to cover your mistake. And you have learned that you do have faith enough to assist with worship and more.


Giving generously, or as I have been saying recently, giving with fearless generosity, takes faith. It used to be that putting a dollar or two or five or ten in the offering plate each week kept the church running well. But that’s no longer true. It takes tens and twenties and fifties and hundreds each week to keep the church running.


One of my heroes is Rasma. She and her sister Lydia came from Latvia, escaping just before the Russians invaded in 1945. Lydia’s son had been gifted, but he was mugged and suffered a brain injury, so he was not able to work much.


I don’t know everything about their finances, but I know they lived together in a little house not far from the church. Rasma worked multiple jobs with small salaries for decades to keep them all fed and clothed and sheltered.


Rasma baked daily. Strudel. Raisin bread. Cheese sticks. She made apple slices on a crust when someone gave them apples. And she gave it away. She brought it to Choir practice each week. She brought it to church on Sunday. She probably gave to her neighbors as well. Now, I was also told she left the baking mess for Lydia to clean up, which I’m sure made for some tension in the household.


Before I went to seminary, I was on one of the teams that counted the offering. So, I know that her offering to the church was a few dollars each week, tucked in the weekly envelopes. Sometimes the envelope was not there one week, but it was included the next week, to keep her offering current with her pledge. Rasma had faith enough to be fearlessly generous.


Our culture today seems to be filled with hatred. It has become popular to voice our distrust of those who differ from us. We pick on their political party, their religion, or their lack of religion. We disdain their country of origin or their skin color. We criticize the way they dress or style their hair. And so on. We forget that all of creation, therefore all people on earth, are made by the same Creator, the same God.


What can we, should we, do about this atmosphere of hatred? It certainly isn’t what God planned for us. It certainly isn’t what Jesus taught us when he reached out to the lepers, the tax collectors, or the foreigners! Can we summon faith enough to be different from our peers and remind ourselves and others that God loves us, all of us!? Can we speak out and say that we are called by Jesus to love others as we love ourselves?


We have faith enough to forgive! This image of Brandt Jean hugging Amber Guyger has gone viral – it has been seen all over the internet and on TV. Amber has just been found guilty of killing Botham Jean. Brandt is Botham’s brother and he wanted to hug Amber and tell her he forgave her. While it may take Amber a long time to forgive herself, she knows from this moment that she is forgiven by the family of the man she killed, whether it was intentional or accidental. I pray that she will find the faith to know she is forgiven and to forgive herself.


In our human sense of justice, forgiveness sometimes feels all wrong. We want punishment for those who hurt us, we want to hold onto our anger and resentment. But forgiveness is not about the person who harmed us. It is for our own heart. The refusal to forgive eats away at our insides and prevents us from having faith that God is at work in our lives and in the life of those who hurt us. If we trust in God, we can find faith enough to forgive and to remember that we are forgiven.


This quote from Martin Luther speaks to his level of faith. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Luther had faith enough to believe that even if the world went to pieces, God would still be active in putting it back together. Even though the US seems to be falling apart, on the brink of disaster, we can have faith that God is in charge.

Lastly, you have faith enough. Holy Spirit has given it to you to use. God put you here to be God’s hands and feet in the places where you live and play and worship and serve. Even if you believe that your faith is as small as a mustard seed, you can still accomplish wonders in Jesus’ name.


This image is a mustard seed on the tip of a finger. The quote says, “I have a mustard seed and I’m not afraid to use it.” 


Let’s say this together. “I have a mustard seed and I’m not afraid to use it.”