Pentecost #18…Series C
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (October 2nd, 2016)
Title: “FAITH…the Power of the Impossible!!
Text: Luke 17: 5-10
In our Gospel reading for this 20th Sunday after the great feast of Pentecost, Jesus responds to the anxious prayer of his half-believing disciples, “Lord, Increase our Faith” by telling an improbable parable about a mustard seed’s worth of faith and a mulberry tree being transplanted in the sea. “If you had faith the size of a MUSTARD SEED”, Jesus says.
In order to understand what Jesus is saying to his disciples and to us who hear these words this morning, we need to know something (not much, but something) about Greek grammar. In the greek language (which is, of course, the language of the New Testament) there are two kinds of IF clauses. There are those which express a “contrary condition” and there are those which express a “condition of fact”. An example of an if clause which expresses a contrary condition might be “IF I were you” (which I am certainly NOT) or “IFI could turn back time” (which I certainly can not do). An example of an if clause which expresses a condition of fact might be “IF David Snyder is Rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Mount Holly, NJ” or “IF Jesus is Lord”. Well, as you might have guessed, the IF clause in verse 6 of chapter 17 of Luke’s Gospel is of the second variety…it expresses a condition of fact and it might be accurately translated this way… “If you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed…and of course you do have that much faith, then you could say to this mulberry bush, be transplanted into the sea and it would obey you”. So, Jesus’ response to the disciple’s anxious prayer for more faith is not a reprimand for the smallness or the absence of faith but an AFFIRMATION of the faith they already possess and an invitation to live out the fullest potential and possibilities of that small faith which they do, in fact, possess.
My friends, in light of this insight from Greek grammar, it seems to me the point of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is obvious. The quantity and size of our faith is unimportant…in fact, it is irrelevant. All that really matters is what we do with the fragmentary faith which we all possess! Jesus is teaching us that even the smallest amount of faith…faith the size of a mustard seed (which is almost microscopic) when placed in the God who, in the very beginning spoke the universe into existence, is MORE THAN ENOUGH to transplant mulberry trees into the sea or, as Matthew put it in his Gospel to MOVE MOUNTAINS!
There are, I think, three simple but important truths about FAITH which Jesus’ parable reveals:
#1. FAITH is not a noun…it is a verb. Faith is an activity…an action…something we do.
#2. FAITH is not an achievement…it is a GIFT…a wonderful gift given in the waters of our Baptism. But, like any gift, it has to be unwrapped and used if it is to be of any benefit.
#3. FAITH is not an idea…it is a MUSCLE! And, like any muscle in your body, your Faith Muscle will grow stronger, healthier and more robust and resilient only if it is regularly exercised. And we exercise our Faith Muscles through regular Worship…through daily prayer…through study of the Word and through service to the world..
So, as our Eucharistic celebration continues, as we, once again, approach the Table of Grace to enter into and experience the mystery of the Risen Christ in/with and under the Bread and Wine of the Holy Eucharist, let us pray for the courage and confidence to exercise the faith given to us in our Baptism…let us remember the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel when we are puzzled and confused by the complexities of life in the 21st century…when we are leaning toward despair and hopelessness…when we are feeling powerless and are tempted to pray the anxious prayer of the disciples “Lord increase our FAITH”…help us to remember that FAITH is still the most powerful force in the universe…with faith the size of a grain of mustard seed no problem is insurmountable…no difficulty unresolvable…no relationship unredeemable…no sin unforgivable…and with the smallest amount of faith in the God who saves, thru Jesus Christ…and by the power of the Holy Spirit…Mulberry bushes can be transplanted into the Sea…Mountains can be moved…FAITH…it is the “POWER of the IMPOSSIBLE”…