October 2nd, 2016: "Sayings of Jesus - Part 1"

Text: Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137;     27th Sunday in Ordinary Time                        Sandy Nuernberg

2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10             20th Sunday after Pentecost                           Pastor

Title: “Sayings of Jesus--I”                        World Communion Sunday

1st Presbyterian Church                              Sunday, October 2nd, 2016                        Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, O God, you are faithful in your promises to us; you give us all the faith we need in order to do what you ask of us. As we hear and try to comprehend your Word this day, assure us in the presence of your Spirit that any mustard-sized bit of faith is enough to follow your commands. In our believing, grant us that you will not leave us alone, but that you will teach us, give us all we need to receive God’s gift of faith.   AMEN.

 

            “Increase our faith!” say the apostles to the Lord, as they literally are crying out to Jesus. It’s almost a demand kind of plea or tone of voice directly to Jesus. In these past weeks we’ve been hearing Jesus’ sayings, teachings (instructions) to his followers, to us, on our ‘behaviors’ toward one another. We’ve learned about the intricacies of the poor and the rich along with living in a world where we get lost and are found.

 

            I have a question of us; have we ever thought about, like Jesus’ disciples, asking for more faith? I had a dream this week (smile) of going to the grocery store, perhaps Costco; it was a very large store, I remember in my dream, and I went looking for the usual food items—I don’t shop much for food because my husband is so gracious about purchasing our food needs. He does a great job too! Rick knows where foods are located in the store and what they cost. But, in my dream, I thought I was in an aisle way in the back, out of the way, that had an area where a large sign read, “Faith, purchase as much as you want, all you can take, and it’s FREE!” But what I especially noticed was there was nothing visible, and no one around me. Of course, then I woke up from my dream wondering if a person could purchase this gift, this intangible item off a shelf at the store!

 

            There are, it seems to me, a few areas here in Luke’s text that catch our glimpse of Jesus’ tone and temperament (his manner) with his apostles. Jesus isn’t describing ‘more’ faith that will help them, like ‘the more you have the happier you’ll be.’ No, it’s the quantity of our faith as much as the quality; knowing what the tools of faith are in order to live and to love in God’s kingdom. Paul teaches his friend Timothy gifts of God’s power, grace for authentic faith (2Tim. 1 vs. 8, 10, 12). The gifts we receive from God (in the form of commandments) are given to us in order that our confidence is in the faith we already have, the care and concern we have for each other, and the cooperation we experience and gain with each other as we face changes in our lives.  

 

            If we read 2 Timothy it’s person-to-person, it makes sense—authentic faith! If we then read Luke it seems like jumbled words; they don’t make sense. But digging deeper, we see there is much to learn and remind us of our Christian faith in practice. I think Jesus’ heart-less tones in his voice are really, indeed, empowering his apostles to reach for something they can attain---their faith is not in need of being increased; it is just that they might utilize their God-given good gifts to the best of their ability in reviving their faith. Now, you might ask, how so?

 

            Jesus answers their question by relating an oft mentioned example in the gospels of ‘mustard-seed faith’ (remember the mustard-seed bracelets our Moms, Grandmothers had). They were small seeds, then developing, growing into something larger, as in Luke it’s a mulberry tree. In Matthew Jesus reminds them of ‘so little faith’ as a mustard-seed that can eventually move mountains (Matthew 17:20-21). Yet we hear these words first as being able to do anything we please with our faith, and then being condemned in so little faith. Our guilt-feelings well-up in us when we hear God’s threatening (wrath) voice, not in God’s loving voice---it makes us, even us as pastors, not enjoy these and other scriptures, just in their harshness. I think there’s more to it than this.

 

            What I think Jesus tells us is that we have all the faith we need and have been given by our God; Jesus’ example of enough faith is the mulberry tree where all the birds come and are welcome to eat the seeds of growth. It’s like our homes where everyone is cared for in the nest; then the branching out for strength to grow as we live. The mulberry’s roots are firm and planted initially, like we are planted in our homes, churches, communities. We cooperate with each other most of the time, caring, praying, forgiving one another. Our faith makes us well, so to speak, in God’s commandments that we obey.

 

            As seasons, things change, Jesus’ tone changes as well. That same faith we received is uprooted, planted differently sometimes, like the mulberry tree at sea, or the slave vs. servant (service) scenario, when Jesus asks, “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?” They relate to this, and so do we---we want to be servants to others and not remembered as slaves. As God’s people we have in our behavior the empowerment of the strong over the weak, but isn’t Jesus telling us we have the confidence in our faith to endure, to overcome (overturn) things in a different way than they’ve always been? Yes, we do have the ability to transform the negative into positive human behavior, like thanking others for being our friend and in helping us. We hardly realize what has transformed us, but for the love and grace of God Almighty in us. No, faith is not what we purchase on a shelf at the food-store, faith is what we receive from God and what we practice in our Christian lives.

 

            Our Gospel’s good news on this world communion Sunday as we gather together around the Lord’s table is in Jesus’ tone and ‘tune’ to us in reviving and practicing our faith, living in God’s kingdom of faith, hope, love. As small as a mustard-seed as our faith might seem, it is in knowing we have all the faith we need in its growth, strength, being given us by our God; we can find confidence in our walking in God’s ways together. In our ever-changing world in which we live, we need nothing more. 

 

           

                                                                        Thanks be to God.                     AMEN.

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