Yesterday’s sermon! We had a wonderful celebration of World Communion Sunday with bread, bread and more bread! I think I could probably go run ten miles today.
This was one of those sermons that I struggled with on Friday afternoon, struggled with on Saturday night, struggled with again on Sunday morning, finally just gave it to God and preached it and got a ton of positive feedback. Sometime I think the struggle is in me trying to control it and God wanting me to move over and make room for the message.
Anyway – enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
October 2, 2016
Your Faith Is Enough
This may sound like a strange statement to make, but I spent a lot of time fighting with scripture this week.
I was actually initially scheduled to preach on a passage from 2 Timothy today. As we got into our planning for World Communion Sunday, however, I felt that, for a number of reasons, that passage was just pulling me in a different direction from the spirit of World Communion Sunday. So I looked through the lectionary for this week and found this passage from the Gospel of Luke, the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Great, I thought to myself. I love the Parable of the Mustard Seed! This parable says that our faith, even if it is the size of a mustard seed, can move mountains!
Then, of course, I started thinking about that song from Cinderella, There Is Music In You, where the Fairy Godmother sings, “Move a mountain, light the sky, make a wish come true,” and you know how excited I get when I can relate scripture back to Broadway.
I thought this change in scripture was really going to set me up nicely for a sermon about the capacity of our faith to do inconceivable things both here and around the world. I put together the bulletin, sent everything off to be proofread and printed and went on with my week.
But then, about a day or two later, I sat down to start outlining my sermon and read the text a little bit more carefully. It was at that point that I realized two things:
1: The metaphor about faith the size of mustard seeds moving mountains is actually in the Gospel of Matthew, not Luke. The metaphor in Luke talks about faith the size of mustard seeds uprooting a mulberry tree and replanting it in the sea, which just does not have quite the same poetic je ne sai quoi that “moving mountains” has.
There’s no song about it, either.
2: After the mulberry tree is replanted in the sea, Jesus goes on to use a kind of terrible slavery metaphor as he is explaining what it means to be devoted to God. And it is not that I am opposed to terrible metaphors (because I make them up all the time), but I am opposed to slavery and struggle with scripture that can be used to justify oppression against people as was not sure how I preach this text and still come back to grace.
I actually thought about changing the scripture again or even preaching the Parable of the Mustard Seed from the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Mark (Mark records this parable saying that mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds one earth, but when it is sown in the ground grows into the “greatest of all shrubs”). But then I remembered how important it is for us to wrestle with texts that challenge us or do not make a lot of sense to us. Part of my job, when I preach, is to model that struggle for you; to show you how important it is to lean into difficult texts and not run away from them. In the end, for better or for worse, these texts are what we have to learn and grow in our faith.
This is my longwinded way of not only introducing my sermon, but also putting a slight disclaimer on the whole process.
So – let’s talk about this text, shall we?
Have you ever wanted more faith? Have you ever either had doubts in your faith or seen someone else that outwardly expressed their faith in a strong way and felt like you wanted (or needed!) more? The disciples wanted more faith, something I would argue we do sometimes, as well. They asked Jesus if he could be the one to give them more faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Instead of saying, “Sure, here you go!” Jesus responded by sharing two metaphors. First, he talked about faith and how size really does not matter. With faith even as small as a mustard seed, Jesus said, you can uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. Jesus essentially said here that the disciples had asked him to increase something that did not need to be increased. Their faith was enough; their faith already had the power and potential to do great things.
Then Jesus goes into this metaphor on slavery.
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’? Would you 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.”
Here is the point I think he was trying to make: What the disciples have is enough. Their faith – the size of their faith – is enough.
The scripture is saying that a slave enters into a relationship with their master with certain expectations. Those expectations do not often include a friendly invitation to dinner. A slave is supposed to do the jobs they are ordered to do and not ask for anything more. What they are given is enough.
You can see why I struggle with this text.
But I read several commentaries that reminded me that there are cultural nuances to all scripture. Slavery was simply a metaphor Jesus could use that he knew the disciples would understand. Jesus wanted the disciples to believe that what they had and what they were given was enough to equip them to do the ministry God was calling them to do. Jesus knew the disciples did not need more faith or bigger faith or greater faith; they needed to believe in the faith that they already had. Their faith was enough.
And our faith is enough, as well.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of always wanting more or to compare yourself and what you do to others. This scripture actually makes me think about the ways I have fallen into that trap in my own life. You see, I am a runner (sort of) and love being part of online running communities. They are a great place to follow other runners to see what races they are doing, how they are cross training, fueling, recovering, etc.
But one of the downfalls of participating in these communities is that sometimes I look at what other people are doing and compare my speeds, distances and workouts to theirs and feel like I am not a good enough runner.
We all fall into these traps at one point or another.
But God never wants us to feel like we are not good enough. The reality is that we are enough. Our abilities are enough. Our faith is enough.
Part of me thinks that the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith because they did not think their faith was enough. As it turns out, even 2,000 years ago, the disciples struggled with this notion of keeping up with the Jones.
I think this is something we all battle with sometimes when it comes to our faith. It is easy to look at what someone else is doing within the church or how much they know about the bible or how easily prayer comes to them and think that we are not good enough or strong enough Christians or passionate enough church members, but this scripture reminds us that we are enough. Our faith is enough. We do not need our faith to be massive, because faith the size of a mustard seed has the ability to make a formidable difference.
We live in a society that tells us we always need to buy something bigger and better or upgrade to something newer. But the slave metaphor in this parable teaches us that we do not always need more, that what we have is enough. We do not need to increase our faith, we should trust in the faith that we have.
Because God is using your faith – your faith, whatever size, shape or form it is – to stir up something within you and faith is trusting that, even if you cannot see it or know what it is, God is using you; and your faith is enough for God to achieve the impossible.
As you leave worship today, I want you to remember one thing: You are enough. Your faith is enough. Do not look at what someone else is doing or what they have and seek to live out their faith, use your faith to live into the life God is calling you into. Do not try to micromanage the details (because, God knows, I have tried and it does not work), but trust that God is working out the details.
Friends, do not look out the window and look for more or something else. Look into a mirror, admire the beautiful reflection that is staring back at you – the reflection of a faithful person who is imperfectly, but gracefully living out God’s call – and say the words, “I am enough.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed as told in the Gospel of Mathew teaches us that it is not the size of our faith that matters, but the power of our God to use that faith.
And our God is powerful.
Thanks be to God!