Rev. Heather J. Blais
Today’s gospel lesson, begins in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, who we hear cry out, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). The disciples are responding to Jesus’ teaching from the previous few verses, which are omitted from today’s lectionary reading:
“If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive” (Luke 17:3-4).
Jesus wants his followers to understand that we are called to forgive every repentant person who has ever wounded us or who might drive us mad. Not only must we do it once, but we must forgive every single time a repentant person seeks forgiveness. He uses the example of seven times, not so we get a free pass once our punch card is full; rather it’s to remind us there is no end to how much we might forgive. If a person is repentant, we are called to forgive, always.
Now can you see why our lesson begins with the disciples crying out, “Increase our faith” or as a young person in my house might say, “UGH”. Because if we are called upon to have such a depth of forgiveness within ourselves, that we might forgive any and every repentant person who has ever hurt us, that sure seems like we need to have a lot of faith. And sometimes, we might be feeling a little thin on faith.
Which is precisely what Jesus is responding to when he tells his disciples,
“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” (Luke 17:6).
A mustard seed is a speck of a seed, and yet it grows into a massive plant. The point of this tiny seed size faith being able to move a tree into the sea, is not about the quantity of our faith. Rather, it’s that even if only one single cell of our being believes, it is sufficient. That much faith is enough. Which means we don’t need to look to our neighbor and assume because they might seem to have it more together, that they are somehow a more mature believer. No. Each one of us is here because we have some tiny speck of faith. And, it is sufficient. It is all we could ever need to walk the way of love and follow Jesus.
Jesus then offers this second metaphor, which in essence is about an employee who goes about their work because it is what they are assigned to do. Their employer doesn’t say, skip your work today and instead eat breakfast with me. They say go ahead and do your work, then have lunch. The employee is simply doing their job, and when we do a job well, it brings a satisfaction and joy. And as followers of Jesus, one of our assigned duties is forgiving repentant people who hurt us. Nor will it take an extraordinary amount of faith within us to find that forgiveness, because that tiny, mustard seed size faith is sufficient. It will give us what we need to find that forgiveness.Just like it will give us everything we could possibly need to walk the way of love.
Today we will baptize Quinn Everly Butynski and welcome her into the body of Christ. We will each offer her a tiny bit of our speck of faith, when we reaffirm our own baptismal promises in the Baptismal Covenant. We’re telling Quinn, we are in this together, and we will support you and one another, as we seek to walk the way of love.
In the Baptismal Covenant, found on pages 304-305 in the BCP, we promise that...
To live into these promises, all we need is our tiny, mustard seed size faith. That little bit is sufficient. Yet if we work in isolation, we are far lonelier, accomplish a great deal less, and often find we can only grow so much. As a community of faith, we help provide the water, the nutrients in the soil, and the sunlight to help the seed take root. We are better when we come together as a community of faith to do God’s work.
Our work here at Saints James and Andrew is highly relational. From worship and formation on Sunday mornings; to Monday evening at Second Helpings where you might run into a volunteer from Whitney’s Pantry, our street ministers, Emmaus Companions, or our Faith Community Nurse; to the rest of the week when pastoral visitations happen or property needs are being addressed so our space can be shared with and used by the wider community. As a community of faith, we want to help one another draw closer to God, we want to reach those who have not yet experienced the unshakeable and life changing truth that each of us is a beloved child of God, and this idea that every resource we have as a faith community is meant to be shared--whether that be our buildings, our pastors, or our ministries.
We are currently in the midst of our annual pledge campaign, and we are asking that each person touched by the space, people, and/or work of Saints James and Andrew consider promising to make a financial contribution for the coming year with a pledge to ensure we can continue to do this work well. How might you be willing to financially support the relational work that happens through our ministries, buildings, and staff in the coming year?
And a bigger question, that I’d like to ask each of us to dwell on: How has this community of faith helped your faith to grow or blossom?
I invite you to write your answers on the back of the postcard you each have, with a picture of SsJA from this past Pentecost. Whatever you might write, know it is an offering to God, and I invite you to keep it in your home, somewhere you might see routinely so you can know you are a beloved child of God and an invaluable part of this community of faith.
How has this community helped your faith to grow or blossom? Amen.
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