October 2, 2016
Luke 17:5-10 and 2 Timothy 1:1-14
“Supersize My Faith”
We live in a world that believes bigger is better. Fast food restaurants encourage us to Supersize our meal for a few cents more. I have to confess that I get caught up in that thinking that if small is good, big must be better. If a single scoop of ice cream is good, wouldn’t a double scoop be better? If $100 is good, wouldn’t $1,000 be better?
Along comes Jesus who says that faith the size of a mustard seed is a powerful thing. A mustard seed?? Does he know how tiny they are?
What is it in us that always wants more? What is it that keeps us from seeing that we have enough? I think Jesus wants us to see that we ARE enough.
Both of the texts today are about faith. We have images of mustard seeds, mothers and grandmothers to remind us that faith is in us whether we know it or not. Jesus wants us to understand that we don’t need more faith. We need to use the faith we have. The thing is, faith isn’t about us. It’s about God. Faith is a way of letting God be God. Faith isn’t belief, it is more a verb than a noun.
We can understand Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request for more faith as “If you have faith…and you do.” He’s telling them to dig deep. It makes me think of the coach who tells the runner that she can go faster than she ever dreamed, and then she does. The coach can see her potential whereas she tends to focus on her limits. Jesus sees the potential of their faith and he knows that faith isn’t about them; it’s about God. He’s calling them to dig deep and discover that they don’t need lots more faith, they need to use the faith they have. Faith is not intended to be put into a storage unit, but to be lived. It is like a muscle. It gets stronger with use.
There is a scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy is racing to get to the Holy Grail. His father is near death and Indy must hurry. He steps through a door and looks across to another door. Between him and the other door is an enormous canyon. There is nothing there. He steps out and discovers that there is an invisible bridge. He makes his way across the chasm on the bridge. I wonder if faith is like that invisible bridge. We don’t know that is there until we step out on it. We didn’t build the bridge, but we are trusting in something we cannot see. Perhaps God is a bridge that helps us cross the gulf between where we are and the next leap we will take.
Today we consider the phrase Fearless Living. In the Bible, we hear “do not be afraid” repeatedly. That seems to be a clear recognition that fear is real and there are reasons for fear. It also seems to tell us that fear should not have the last word. I almost wonder if God is saying to us, “Of course you are afraid. But I am here and I am more than enough. Trust me more than your fear. Step out onto the bridge and you will find me there.”
To help with this, Timothy is being reminded of the faith his grandmother and mother had. That same faith must live on him. Paul or the writer of 2nd Timothy calls him to rekindle the gift of God within. I love that! It assumes that there is something to be rekindled. It does not refer to a vacuum, but to a small, dim spark that needs to be tended and grown. Maybe it is the size of a mustard seed. Maybe when planted and tended, it has enormous power.
I read a prayer once that said, “O God, I don’t pray for faith to move mountains. I can get dynamite and a bulldozer to do that. What I ask for is enough faith to move me.”
Kathleen Norris left the church for many years. When she returned, she found nourishment that she had not expected. In her book Amazing Grace, she says, “Faith is still a surprise to me, as I lived without it for so long. Now I believe that it was merely dormant in the years I was not conscious of its presence. And I have become better at trusting it is there, even when I can’t feel it, or when God seems absent from the world. No small part of my religious conversion has been coming to know faith best thought of as a verb, not a ‘thing’ that you either have or you don’t.” (p. 169)
The writer of 2nd Timothy ends today’s reading with the exhortation to “guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” I tend to think of this as a call to look within and find this treasure. I don’t think guarding it means keeping it locked up, but using it well. But I think it might be a call to the faith community. What is the treasure within us? How is the Spirit moving among us today? I think you are the treasure here. I mean you with all your beauty and all your flaws. What if each of us is a mustard seed and together we form an amazing source of food and healing for the world? How many have gone before us and how do they enrich our faith?
Many faithful examples look like mustard seeds at first, but somehow they find themselves in God’s hands and the results are amazing. We do not stand alone in this journey of faith—we have parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors, we have one another and we have people all over the world who accompany us. Some of it comes to us as a hand me down, but the rest comes to us as a gift. On this World Communion Sunday, we remember that faith is much bigger than Albuquerque, faith is greater than the United States, faith is flourishing in the ends of the earth. Together we place our faith in the One for whom nothing is impossible. Faith in God enables us to imagine a world where no one is hungry, where we live peacefully together, where all are loved and welcomed and whole. From our imagination, we step out to make it happen empowered by the One who takes our mustard seed faith and heals the world.
On this day, we remember that the table is not ours—it is Christ’s table and it comes with an invitation to all: Come to the table of love, the table where everyone is welcome, the table of our ancestors. Come to the table Jesus prepared for all of us, a table he prepared even for the ones who hurt him. This table knows no limits, it knows no boundaries or borders, languages or nations. Yet at the same time, it recognizes all of these. There is no language that is not understood at this table. This is no land so distant that God’s call to partake is not heard there. There is no person so evil that the invitation is withdrawn. Jesus Christ invites all to his table. Come to the table—here you will find faith the size of a mustard seed and that is more than enough.