Vicar Kelly Sandin
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 27 C
Texts: Luke 17:5-10; Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, 2 Timothy 1:1-14
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
How long, O Lord? “Destruction and violence are before me,” and justice can’t be found. When are you going to do something God? Answer!
Habakkuk was deeply troubled with what he saw, as we are today. The times have changed, but the violence remains. We’re still hoping God will fix all that is messed up and broken. We’re still begging God to stop the negativity that comes from all directions. We’re exhausted from the media reporting tragedy after tragedy, where innocent people are murdered and corruption is on every corner. And, sadly, we’re not too surprised. We know tomorrow will bring yet another story of human bloodshed and injustice. We want to trust in all this, but how can we? We want to give another the benefit of the doubt, yet we’re so aware of people taking advantage of others that it’s too hard to do. How do we walk without fear when darkness is all we see? Is there anything good in this world?
And so, like Habakkuk, we watch and wait for God to answer.
In this despair we’re rather like the apostles who cried out, “Increase our faith!” We want to believe all will turn out right, but will it? We want to trust God and love our neighbors despite what we see, but how? Even with Jesus right by their side, the apostles still felt utterly inadequate to live the life of discipleship they were being called to. They just couldn’t fathom how to live out what was being commanded.
“How are we going to do all this?” they cried! “We obviously need more faith. If you just give us more faith, Lord, perhaps we can live up to what it is you’re asking us to do.”
The great part about this gospel is the apostles weren’t afraid to ask for help. They weren’t too proud to be vulnerable and show who they really were before God and one another. They felt something was deeply missing within them to actually live out this life God was calling them to and more faith seemed like the solution.
Now, it would be wonderful if Jesus gave an easy response to their demand. They wanted immediate relief. They wanted rest from their anxiousness. Instead, Jesus talked about having the faith the size of a mustard seed – which is ever so small. You might miss it if it was right in front of you. But the smallness of it didn’t matter. What mattered was that this thing called faith was in them. What mattered was they already had it. Their little bit of trust in God was there. Their little bit of commitment to God was already planted inside them. Within that little seed of faith was power beyond themselves.
Having more faith isn’t what they needed. They had enough.
Of course we, too, feel the inadequacies of our own faith. We don’t think we have what it takes. We talk about needing more faith. We cry out to God with pleas of “Give me faith, Lord! Help me to hang in there, Lord!” This anxiety isn’t foreign to us. We live in a world full of pain and suffering and we want relief, for ourselves and for the world. We want God to fix it.
When we want increased faith, what we’re really hoping for is God to take care of it all. We’re praying God will make all things better. That we’ll have rest. That we’ll have peace. That the world will be a better place. That all things will be made right.
Isn’t wanting more faith the idea that what it is we worry about will no longer be a worry? That our children will always be safe? That a loved one will come through their illness? That our pain will go away? That there will be no more suffering?
The hardest part in this life of faith is the waiting. We desperately pray while we wait, while we’re anxious, and while we’re in fear. We wait on God because so much is out of our control. What else can we do?
Nonetheless, even in our most depressed moments we still somehow manage to cry out the smallest whimper. “How long, God? How long?” Somehow within us we have enough to at least do that.
It’s not about needing more trust or more belief or more commitment. We already have it. It’s there. But in the dark times, when a whimper is all we’ve got, we simply can’t sing a note of praise. In those times, riding on the praise notes of one another is often our only way to cope. Until, finally, the embers of our faith rekindles again.
Timothy, in our text today, needed that kind support. The author recalled his tears and reminded him of his faith, the faith that was first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. And now lived in him.
Like Timothy, it’s not that we’ve lost our faith. It’s that sometimes the darkness gets so overwhelming we simply can’t see. And in that darkness we need others who, on that day anyway, can see a bit more clearly. Who can hold our hand and help us through with their strength and prayers. Knowing that tomorrow they may stumble, too, and will need someone else to help bring them through.
This little mustard seed size of faith is there to be in service to God and neighbor. It’s a gift to see us through this thing called life. God wants us to do what we can with what we’ve been given. It may be a small seed of faith, but the size doesn’t matter. The apostles had enough and so do we. The impact from this little bit of faith on someone else is something we may never know. But, if you think about the encouragement you’ve been given from others, it’s often the tiniest gesture of caring that makes all the difference. It rekindles the embers of our faith so we can see again.
Serving the other in whatever that may look like has a promise of becoming more because God is at work in it. It’s not about us. It’s not about getting praise or for being noticed for what we’re doing. It’s about acting on the command to serve others so God can do what’s needed in this world. God wants us to be in relationship with one another because God knows what’s best for us.
In loving God and neighbor, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are intertwined as brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re not alone. With this connection we notice suffering in the world and try to do something about it. We feel each other’s pain and pray. We rally around one another with support and strength. We ride on each other’s praise notes until we can sing praises, too. And through it we are given hope that in the darkness of life our embers of faith will rekindle anew. And for that we must say, “Amen.”