- Lamentations 1:1-6
- Psalm 137
- 2 Timothy 1:1-14
- Luke 17:5-10
Luke brings us two short sayings from Jesus: one about faith and the other about power. In both he confronts assumptions his disciples then and now bring to him.
Self-improvement is a mantra in our culture. Every day, we hear hundreds of offers from companies who want us to buy their product or service to improve our lives or our skills in some way, often by promising more of what we already think is a good thing. This is what many advertisements do, and the average American is exposed to hundreds of them across multiple media platforms every day. So for us, the disciples’ question “Lord, increase our faith,” (that is, “give us more”) may seem quite reasonable.
But Jesus doesn’t answer their request as they put it. It’s not more faith that they need. It’s a different kind of faith: Mustard weed faith.
Mustard weed was the scourge of farmers in Palestine. It grew wild. Birds would ingest but not entirely digest its seeds and drop them everywhere. It would take over fields and vineyards. It would compete with existing crops. Pulling it up did little good, because more birds would just bring more seed from somewhere else, and you’d be back in the same place in a few weeks. It was persistent, irritating, and fast-spreading. It would be there whether you liked it or not.
That’s the kind of faith we need: Faith that is small enough to be carried everywhere by folks living like birds. Not more. Not bigger. Not even deeper. Just contagious enough to be caught, dropped and then take root.
Who has that kind of faith in your congregation or community?
This Sunday is also World Communion Sunday. We remember the faith we share with other Christians around the world. We must also remember those who have no faith. And how we can plant seeds of hope within them. Perhaps we are Christians today because of mustard seed faith. That’s how we’ll continue to survive and spread, too.
But only, Jesus, reminds in the rest of this week’s reading, if we keep this point straight: HE is in charge, not us. The faith does not spread like mustard weed if we think we’ve got all the strategies down just right, or if we think we control the mission and act accordingly. The mission is God’s, not ours. We get to help, even as we’ve been helped. We go and serve at the bidding of Jesus, not because we feel like it or because we want to increase our own realms. And when the day is done, ours is to say, “We have done your will, O God.”
(The above reflection is adapted from “Gospel Stream: Learning from the Master” from the General Board of Discipleship, United Methodist Church).
The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.
- Recall times in your life when your personal faith has been increased. What were the particular circumstances in which your faith was empowered? What role does your faith community play in the growth of your faith?
- What gets in the way of nurturing your faith? How are you able to overcome these obstacles? What does the parable in Luke 17:7-10 tell us about our relationship to God?
- What do we learn about the cost and the reward of faithful discipleship in today’s lessons?