Sunday, October 6, 2019
Text: Luke 17:5-10
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
If only we had more …
More time to spend with family and friends … more ability to do the things we want to do … more help, more opportunities, more recognition …
If only we had more children and families in worship … more people sitting in the pews … more money to balance the budget and pay for all the things we want to do here in this place …
If only we had more …
In today’s gospel, the disciples asked for more. They asked for more faith, “Lord increase our faith!” They asked for more faith, because Jesus presented them his expectations for what it meant for them to live together as disciples. Those powerful expectations are spelled out in the four verses that precede our gospel reading this morning.
In those verses, we find Jesus asking the disciples to stay strong in faith and to not stumble, warning them against putting up stumbling blocks between them that would cause them to fall.
Jesus asked them to rebuke sin among them, that if one of them sinned, the sin needed to be rebuked and they needed to hold one another accountable.
Yet, at the same time, Jesus asked them to forgive each other, that if seven times a person sinned, and seven times the sinner asked for forgiveness, then seven times the sinner must be forgiven.
In response to these high expectations, Jesus instructing the disciples to stay faithful, to rebuke sin, and to forgive each other, the disciples asked for more faith.
It was then, in response to the disciples asking for more faith, and in response to us when we seek more, Jesus offers the parable of the mustard seed … “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.”
The intent of the parable was to recalibrate the disciples’ expectations. To reset their mindset. To focus them away from what they thought they lacked and what they thought they needed, to turn them towards appreciating what they already possessed!
While this is a nice parable, and perhaps in a Sunday School class at some point you even were given a mustard seed … do we really believe this parable?
Do we really believe it?
Do we buy it?
Do we trust Jesus when he says all we need is a mustard seed sized faith?
I don’t think we buy this parable, because a mentality of scarcity is too deeply ingrained among us. A mentality of scarcity is an outlook on life that focuses on what one lacks, on what one thinks one doesn’t have. A mentality of scarcity worries, frets, and agonizes that there isn’t enough to go around.
The ironic thing, is that a mentality of scarcity often grows stronger the more people have! The insidious thing about a mentality of scarcity, is that it prevents us from giving thanks for what God has already done, and is doing, in our lives. It chokes off our imagination about what God might do in our lives. A mentality of scarity turns us to anxiety and worry, and away from the liberating and life-giving and on-going work of the living Christ among us.
A mentality of scarcity whispers to us:
“You don’t really believe God will take care of you – do you?”
“You don’t really think that even as God calls you down this path that God will actually provide for you – do you?”
“Don’t you think just to be safe, you should take care of things?”
Into this mentality of scarcity, into this sin and the devil’s work turning us from the power of God working in our lives, the parable of the mustard seed speaks. When we, along with the disciples in today’s gospel, feel the responsibility is too big, the burden too great, the requirements too difficult for us to bear based on all that we think we lack for the tasks before us, the parable of the mustard seed speaks faith and the good news:
“We already have more than enough!”
As individuals, don’t we each at least have a mustard seed sized faith?
As a congregation, don’t we at least possess a mustard seed sized faith among us?
As a congregation, and through the resources, passions, and talents of all of our members, and of all of those who participate in some way in this community of faith, don’t we have more than enough, don’t we have an abundance of all that we need?
And yet, the truth is, a mentality of scarcity clings to us like the skin on our bodies. You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill?” So deeply ingrained is this mentality, is that it makes a boulder out of a mustard seed.
We turn the mustard seed into a boulder, when we think the seed is up to us. When we think we must find the mustard seed, or plant the mustard seed, or grow faith at least into the size of a mustard seed – in these ways we turn it into a boulder. We make a boulder out of a mustard seed, when we think the mustard seed is something we do, something that depends on us, rather than receiving the mustard seed as gift of grace from the Holy Spirit working in us.
Jesus did not say to the disciples, “All you need to do is go out and find a mustard seed.” No. The mustard seed of faith was already given to them, AND the mustard seed of faith is already given to us as gift! In the water and word which leads us from death to life, in the bread and cup which fills us with the presence of the living Christ, here today mustard seeds are planted in us!
Faith grabs hold of that promise and of that good news! Faith celebrates that faith, even the size of mustard seeds, are already planted all around us and in us! Faith recognizes the awesome possibilities, that if faith as small as a mustard seed could cast a tree into the sea, then think about what a congregation of mustard seeds could do!
Faith lives in a mentality of abundance! In a mentality of abundance, we recognize and celebrate all the gifts, all the blessings, all the resources already poured out upon us! Faith alive celebrates the abundance of all that God has done and is doing, faith looks with joyful hope and anticipation, to all the amazing things God will do!
Friends in Christ, We. Do. Not.Need. more!
In the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, We. Already. Have. What. We. Need.
Alive in faith, let us celebrate the abundance already poured out upon us! May we grow, may we thrive, may we increase, not because we need more or because God will give us more, but because as a gift of unconditional love and grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, we have already been given more than we can imagine right now!
Thanks be to God.