The parable for this week references the “mustard seed faith”, but this is Luke’s version [Matthew and Mark expand on the concept]. In Luke’s version, Jesus continues the lesson by reminding us that we have a charge to behave in a specific way—and it is what we are supposed to do. From “Lessons that work” (a product of the national church), “Each of us . . . has clear duties to perform. Jesus points out that it is not a big deal to simply do our duty. Our choice is whether we grumble and whine or whether we do our work with gratitude and in faith.” We profess our belief so what does that mean we can (and should) accomplish? And doesn’t Jesus also suggest that, when we do what being a believer commands that we do, then we have done nothing more than what is expected of us. What is expected of you, child of the Light?
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The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 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.
“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 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’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 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!'”
From sermon4kids.com: “Jesus was not suggesting that you and I go around trying to move trees just to prove that we have faith. What Jesus was trying to teach his disciples—and what he wants you and me to learn—is that it doesn’t take a great faith to produce great results. Why? Because the results don’t depend on us, they depend on God.”
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflection: What is faith?
Ear Worm: “Give me the wings of faith“, poem by Isaac Watts set to music; “Come, labor on” sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (lovely to hear the mellow sound of seemingly hundreds of men to start); “The mustard seed“, instrumental from the soundtrack of “Mary Magdalene” movie
Contemporary Parables (aka Movies): “The Cider House Rules” (1999), “spiritual practice of self-esteem”; “The Messenger: Story of Joan of Arc” (1999), “unusual French interpretation”; “Finding Nemo” (2003), “youthful independence”.
Think about the choices you have. For example, you can choose to brush your teeth. What keeps you from brushing your teeth? Conversely, what makes you choose to brush your teeth? Just like brushing your teeth, you have a choice to follow Jesus and put his teachings into practice. A number of things we do are done without thought of being thanked for doing what we should. And that’s what this lesson is about. Doing what we should. So what things do you do because you should?
Today’s liturgy focuses on faith. In the gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. His response is to teach that faith is expressed by being God’s obedient servants, and not doing so in expectation of a reward.
The prophet Habakkuk, writing at a time when powerful enemies threatened the very existence of Israel, also speaks of faith. After describing the terrible power of their foes, he brings a message from God that the day is coming when God will intervene on the people’s behalf. The prophet says that, while the proud will be destroyed, the righteous will live by their faith.
The second reading is from the second letter to Timothy. The writer, after reminding Timothy of his heritage of a faithful family, speaks of his own vocation. Paul as a herald, apostle, and teacher has persevered, certain that God will be faithful to the promise to all people.
We gather as people on pilgrimage toward God. Like our forebears, the outcome of our journey cannot be seen now, but we trust that it will bring us to our true home with God. Faith is not merely a vague yearning for God, nor is it summed up in believing the correct doctrines about God. It is remaining true to God’s call as we persevere in the journey as obedient servants.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.