Monday, 11 November 2019

22nd Sunday after Pentecost ----- 10 November 2019

Luke 20:27-38
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her." 34 Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
·       The Gospel reading today can be a bit confusing since the sort of marriage tradition mentioned is no longer common and the group that asks the question no longer exists.
·       The Sadducees were a religions group within the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time. They included most of the Temple authorities and they differed from the Pharisees in that they did not believe in a resurrection.
·       Their question was an attempt to trip up Jesus by posing the absurd situation where a woman died childless after marrying each of seven brothers. The custom, called “Levirate Marriage”, stated that a widow was to marry her deceased husband’s brother in order to continue the husband’s bloodline. It also provided a provider and protector for the wife in a society where women had few or no rights of her own. It also insured inheritance for the deceased man’s family. This custom can still be found in some places in the world.
·       The Sadducees posed the question - In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? – not out of concern for any woman but to trip up Jesus on the issue of the resurrection. This is the equivalent of the modern nasty question “Are you still beating your children?” To answer either yes or no puts you in a seriously bad place.
·       Jesus neither side-steps the question nor directly answers it. He knows the malice of the questioners and knows they do not understand the concept of resurrection. So he confronts them with Scripture: “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
·       God is alive and death does not have the final word. All the Christian scriptures - the Gospels, the Epistles, the Book of Revelation – all point to the resurrection. Our celebration of Easter, where we honour the Resurrection of Christ, celebrates our own participation in that resurrection.
·       It’s been said that where Jesus goes, we will follow. Paul writes: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Rom. 6:5-8)
·       I can’t begin to tell you what it might be like or when. I don’t know and my guesses are silly; I’ve said I’m holding out for a better body when that the resurrection comes.
·       But again Paul wrote: as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9)
·       There are a few things we can surmise for ourselves. We know that we are not spirits temporarily given a body, for humans are both body and spirit together. Our bodies are not inferior or just temporary annoyances. That is how God created us and that is how we will be resurrected. After his Resurrection, Jesus was changed and yet he was known to be Jesus. He ate with the apostles, yet he was not hindered by such things as locked doors. He was not simply revived, but resurrected and, like him, all will be changed.
·       No matter what we might say or think, we don’t know what is to come… except that such a resurrection is coming. The Sadducees had their agenda and it was a hopeless one. The Good News of Jesus Christ always leads to hope. It also allows us to follow Jesus in this present world with hope, courage, and faith. That faith calls us to give hope to the world and to work for reconciliation and peace, an especially appropriate intention as we find tomorrow as Remembrance Day.
·       Our God is the God of the living, for to him all of them are alive. The resurrection of the body our Creeds speak of remains a mystery and a hope. However we are sure that the God who sent his Son for our redemption will not leave us orphaned. Why else would Jesus be raised from the dead? Why else would the Spirit be sent to live in the Church? Why else would we be assured that death is not the end? Death is NOT the end and our God is the God of the living.
… the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

Monday, 4 November 2019

Sunday of All Saints ---- 3 November 2019

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
1 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2 I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.

15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17 "As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever."
Ephesians 1:11-23
11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory. 15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Luke 6:20-31
20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. 27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
·       What Jesus speaks of in our Gospel passage does not seem possible to us. How can the poor be blessed if they are poor? Why are the rich and the satisfied and the happy told that woe is theirs? Our own experience of the world says that this doesn’t seem right.
·       Our readings today are loaded with things that don’t seem right. The prophet Daniel has dreams of monsters rising from the sea – although our reading did not describe those monsters. They represent four earthly kingdoms as the writer uses them to make a point.
·       Paul speaks of Jesus as raised from the dead and enthroned over all creation - he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things…
·       Finally Luke tells us of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of true blessing, which seems to go against reality as we know it. What we call “the Beatitudes” bring a message of hope for the poor and the suffering, many of whom have no hope in this life. It also proclaims ‘woe’ to those who have it all now. Our world and our society see those-who-have as blessed with all anyone could want in creation.
·       What we see however is an illusion. The four kingdoms of Daniel’s dream all collapsed sooner or later – Babylon, the Medes, Persia, and the empire of Alexander and his successors. We confirm the resurrection and Jesus’ existence while others doubt his life has any meaning for anyone. Finally all the money, comfort, respectability, and self-centered security are passing and sometimes they crumble quickly.
·       When we remember our passed loved ones on All Saints Sunday – as we do today – we look to the lasting realities of God’s love and God’s mercy. Riches and worldly fame fade. Cash slips through our fingers despite our best efforts. The beasts that rise from the sea – the powerful empires - in Daniel’s dream pass into history. The topsy-turvy promises of Jesus stand and stand fast. The kingdom of God is promised to the poor, the hungry, the mourning, and the excluded, not in some dim future but now. The kingdom is even promised to the rich, the satisfied, the laughing, and the respected who realize that all they have is from God’s grace and is to be shared. What a person is before God is all they are and nothing more. (Francis of Assisi)
·       Those who have passed from our sight and whom we have commended to the mercy of God are remembered here today. They are saints because Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. It is the grace of God that makes saints and those who abound in God’s grace might not look or sound like the plaster saints we imagine. Saints are all real people and every last one of them depends on God’s grace… and every last one of us depends on God’s grace. It’s what make us all “The communion of saints.”
·       As a pastor, I’ve buried a large number of people. At funerals, I add a short prayer of my own. It’s from the remembrance card given at my mother’s funeral and it is an old prayer used in other Christian traditions. It brings together the communion of the saints in a way few others do: "May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city Jerusalem. May the choirs of angels receive you and with the once poor Lazarus, may you have eternal rest."
·       I also add another prayer from the traditions of the Eastern Christian Churches: Christ is risen from the dead; by death, he conquered death and to those in the tombs, he granted life.
·       Today can be a sad day for remember what we’ve lost. It can also be a bright day of hope for we look forward to what we have been promised.
“…the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever."

Monday, 28 October 2019

Reformation Sunday ---- 27 October 2019

Romans 3:19-28

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
·       Has the message of the Reformation really gotten through to people? Has the message of the Reformation really gotten through to me? Those are questions we each have to answer for ourselves; they are that personal.
·       One of the hinges of the Reformation is a concept of what is called the “5 Solas.” These are 5 ideas or statements about vital points of the Christian faith. Lutherans hold to these as do most Christians in the tradition of the Reformation, although the list was not completed and accepted by many theologians until about sixty years ago.
·       The “Solas” are statements in Latin which was the language of theology at the time of the Reformation. They are short, simple, and powerful. In English, they are
·       “Scripture alone” (Sola Scriptura)
·       “Faith alone” (Sola Fide)
·       “Grace alone” (Sola Gratia)
·       “Christ alone” (Solus Christus)
·       “To the glory of God alone” (Soli Deo Gloria)
·       In short, Scripture alone carries the message that is grasped in faith. It is by grace that we are saved and all grace comes through Jesus Christ. In and through him, all glory is to God.
·       If we rely on understandings and beliefs about God that are not found in the Scripture, the Reformation message has not gotten through.
·       If we believe that there are other means of salvation other than the grace and mercy of God known to us in faith, the message has been lost.
·       If we hold that salvation can be earned or bought or achieved, we need to hear the message again… and again!
·       If we say that Jesus Christ is not enough, we haven’t been listening.
·       If we say how we live and what we do has nothing to do with God, something is missing.
·       Part of the on-going issue is the fact that we humans like to achieve and we like to do it ourselves. If fact, many believe that we can save ourselves by “banking” good deeds and then showing our resume or coupon book to God when we meet face-to-face. Grace and faith are forgotten and the “ME” is worshipped.
·       We say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the Scripture alone and it is grasped by “faith alone.”
·       God alone acts to save the sinner.
·       Good works are important as an expression and result of faith. They do not determine salvation. Faith does not ignore doing the right things; if anything, it directs us to them.
·       Jesus alone is the only mediator and without him, there are no sacraments. The sacraments are what Jesus as left us as a church to celebrate as a way to show and acknowledge the presence of God’s grace in a sensible way.
·       All glory is due to God alone, now and always. There is nowhere else to find the glory of mercy and grace. There is nowhere else to turn.
·       Since faith, grace, and the glory of God in Jesus Christ are the main points of the Reformation, they are just as valid and important today as they were in 1517. The Reformation has not passed; it is with us today and will be so long as humans are intent on doing their own will and not the will of God.
·       Now almost every Sunday, we recite and hear something that hits the target of the Reformation:
·       Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen. Then I say these words, words I need to hear for myself and I get to hear them once in a while:  In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us and, for his sake, God forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
·       We’d do well to remember Jesus’ first words in the Gospels, his first statement about his mission. A simple and repeatable call, daily or even hourly: Repent and believe in the Good News. (Mark 1:15b)
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift…

Sunday, 20 October 2019

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 20 October 2019

Genesis 32:22-31
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 
“You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”
·        Have any of you ever wrestled with God? Have you ever struggled with questions about how or why God does thing… or how or why God DOESN’T do things? These are really hard questions, questions that have caused any number of people to leave their congregations, their church, their faith.
·        Compared to that, what Jacob does in our first reading today seems like a breeze. Grapple with some guy on the river bank, get punched in the hip (what sort of wrestling rules were they using?) and then get a new name.
·        A little background is necessary here and I’ll try not to bore you. Jacob on the run from his brother, Esau, who is coming with his gang intent on killing Jacob… who has, in truth, cheated Esau out of his inheritance from their father, Isaac. (It cost him a bowl of stew or maybe, chili.) Jacob has divided his family and his belongings into two groups in the hope that if Esau and the boys catch him and one of the groups the other will get away and Jacob’s line will survive.
·        So Jacob waits by the river Jabbok and then wrestles with “a man” all through the night. Is it a man? An angel? God? It’s hard to say although we have clues. In any event, Jacob is called by a new name- “Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.” Jacob limps off and eventually works thing out with his brother. He ends up having twelve sons and the family, the “Israelites”, end up in Egypt during a famine with the help of one of the sons, Joseph.
·        So have any of us here wrestled with God? How often have you grappled with the Almighty? Did it leave you changed? Do you still “limp” from that encounter? Remember that Jesus also wrestled with his Father… in the Garden of Gethsemane… where his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) I’ll tell you that I’ve wrestled and it was not easy. God won in the end (which means I won, too.) and I have a new name and I limp.
·        The wrestling is an interesting idea. It wasn’t an argument or a discussion; nor was it a test or a simple disagreement. It was part of a larger relationship.
·        Jacob is told you have striven with God and with humans.] and have prevailed. Jacob’s opponent asks to be let go since it is almost sunrise, but Jacob will not let go until his opponent blesses him. Jacob becomes Israel and, in the Bible, a new name means a new person; not an alias or a new identity, but an entirely new creation.
·        Israel has a new name as a new man and asks the name of his opponent. The opponent answers mysteriously: Why is it that you ask my name? Does it mean “Don’t you know already?” Or does it mean “Why do you want power over me?” To know someone’s name gave you power over them… and no one can have that sort of power over God! (Hence the commandment not to use God’s name “in vain.”) Still the fight has to end before dawn, so Israel cannot see the face of God; even in a close-up hand-to-hand struggle, the mystery will remain. "he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20)
·        No matter the outcome of the wrestling match on the riverside, the dawn WILL come. No matter what we contend with, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual, dawn will come to such “dark nights of the soul.”
·        Now we need to be real. Just as Jacob/Israel limped away from his grappling with God, we have no promise that the wrestling will leave us unhurt. We will have to struggle to meet the challenge and there is a good chance that such a struggle will change us and scar us. If it really is a face-to-face meeting with God, we will continue our way as a transformed person. Like Jacob/Israel, we may receive a new name and be a new person. As many of us know, bringing a new person into this world is not an easy task. It has its risks and its pains and it can even be a terrible joy.
·        There is another sure thing. Wrestling with God can make God very real to us. When we wrestle, we really can’t ignore the one wrestling with us. The British writer, C.S.Lewis wrote “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.”
·        Through all of this, we still depend on the grace and mercy of God, whether we wrestle with God at the riverside or sit in the Garden of Gethsemane and ask that the cup pass us by. Even in the struggle, there is grace. As people of faith, we await the new dawn even if we limp like Jacob/Israel did. Every dark night holds the promise of a new dawn as well as a blessing and we can look forward to that with both wonder and joy. Remember the words of the mysterious figures at the tomb of Jesus: He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. 
Then the man said: “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,] for you have striven with God and with humans,] and have prevailed.”  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”
-- Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas… “Do not doubt but believe.”

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost --- 13 October 2019 -- Thanksgiving Weekend

Luke 17:11-19
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.
·       It’s a blessed coincidence that this reading from Luke’s Gospel is done today, on this weekend we put aside for the festival we call Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in Canada is based more or less on the time of the harvest and that is truly a time to be grateful. These readings are not chosen for the festival; they would have been done on this Sunday, Thanksgiving Day or not. We should just say God is good.
·       There are quite a few things we could speak about today. Some Sunday readings are tough to preach on, while others – like today’s – are an “embarrassment of riches”, as it were.
·       Jesus is faced by ten lepers who ask for a healing. He tells them to show themselves to the priests, the officials of the Temple who would see that they were healed and then could re-admit the men to the community from which the disease had separated them. One returns to express his gratitude to Jesus and that man was a Samaritan, a man from outside the Jewish culture. Yet he is the one who expresses his gratitude in word and posture. (He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet…)
·       This story emphasizes the mission of Jesus and his disciples to all the world. The Samaritan was outside what was understood to be God’s people… and so were all of us, but he and we were sought out and found by Jesus the Messiah. That is something to be grateful for. Not just today, but every day. In response to the call of Jesus, the Church continues to offer the Great Thanksgiving when it gathers. The Great Thanksgiving is a translation of the word for ‘thanksgiving’ in the language of the time, namely “Eucharist.” We may call it the Lord’s Supper, but it is the way we give thanks.
·       One way to think about it is to say that those who are aware of and respond to the goodness of God with gratitude understand how creation works and in that gratitude, show that salvation is present and working in their lives.
·       Gratitude and thanksgiving are part and parcel of the Christian life. We are led to say ‘thank you’ for whatever we might have, even the blessings we have received in our lives to this point. If we are thankful and don’t express it, we are not completing the cycle of gratitude as it were. To refuse to be thankful or to withhold gratitude could even be a way to hurt someone.
·       In the past, various things have been said about gratitude and thanksgiving. Many of the Psalms are based on the attitude of giving thanks. There is even an old saying within the church about the value and the power of prayers of gratitude. This one come from a teacher and theologian, named Eckhart von Hochheim who died in 1328. He is known in Church history as ‘Meister Eckhart’ and this saying is attributed to him: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "Thank You", that would suffice.” It appears that prayers that are simple, meaningful, and sincere mean the most.
·       In this holiday dedicated to the attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude, to simply pray “Thank you” would be the absolute best place to start... and to end.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost ---- 6 October 2019

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
1:1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. 2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4 So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous— therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
Luke 17:5-10
5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 The Lord replied, "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. 7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here at once and take your place at the table'? 8 Would you not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!' "

"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.”
·       How much faith does a person need? Can we measure it by the bushel or the litre, by the meter or the spoonful? The apostles ask Jesus to “increase our faith”, almost as if they considered it a commodity or a substance that could be measured and added to.
·       Often times, faith is measured by how strong or how weak it is perceived to be. Again, how can it be measured? How many of us have moved mulberry trees recently by the power of our own faith? (… and why would we want to, for that matter.)
·       How much or how strong is not the question. Jesus is assuring the apostles that the faith they have is more than enough to do what is needed.
·       We know that God is not concerned with replanting trees and bushes in the middle of the sea. Really now, how would that help anything or anyone? What we are called to do as Christians does require faith because faith is the steering wheel of what we do. The grace of God is the motivator and the power behind all we might do. The prophet Habakkuk reminds us but the righteous live by their faith. (Habakkuk 2:4) It is the way a disciple walks and does whatever they do.
·       In response to the apostles’ request for a “topping off” of their faith, Jesus tells them that faith the size of a mustard seed would be enough to do amazing things. If we couple this small saying with the examples used in what follows – we could call them the servant stories – Jesus could be saying that his disciples can take the faith they have - whatever size it might be – and apply it, doing what Habakkuk spoke of when he said the righteous live by their faith. It may be that living by faith and living out the faith we have is the norm and not some astounding act or event. It may even cause a disciple to say We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!
·       This is not a ‘put-down’ or an expression of self-hate, even though it sounds a bit like one. Jesus is not despising what his disciples do; what he is actually doing is making it the norm. Doing what you are supposed to do, fulfilling your obligations, even if self-chosen, is not out of the ordinary. Jesus made it very clear on a number of occasions in the Gospels that he dearly loved his disciples and the fact that he died for them - and for us – attests to the infinite worth of each and every disciple.
·       He’s simply stating that living by faith is what they are to do in the general course of their lives.
·       It is still worth continually praying and asking for the gift of faith. It might be worth praying that we be put into situations where our faith might show. I’ve used the example from the movie, “Evan Almighty” before. The character who embodies God in the movie responds to a question about patience and love with this: “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?” To me, it seems that grace is found in the moment.
·       There are times when my faith is weak, when questions overwhelm me, and I wonder what it is all about. At those times, I depend on you. When I am weak, you help strengthen me and show me the grace of God in action, in what you do and have done, in where you’ve been and where you wish to go. I can only hope to do the same for you and for others.
·       We need to lean on each other when it comes to faith. For us to support one another in the grace of God might be a greater sign of faith than flying mulberry trees.
"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.”