Friday, October 4, 2013

Reflections on the text – Luke 17:5-10

Read the text here: Luke 17:5-10

Just Do It
The disciples really have it tough in the Gospels.  In this passage from chapter 17, Jesus is continuing on the road to Jerusalem that had begun back in chapter 9 and he has been pushing the disciples hard.  There have been parables like the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Dishonest Steward – all of which have turned their world upside down: forgiveness that is freely available, turning away from the pursuit of riches, a hated Samaritan as a model of faith.  In addition to that, Jesus has bluntly condemned the accumulation and focus on wealth and possessions and has even suggested that in order to be a disciple one needs to give up ALL one’s possessions.  He has taught that family obligations are to be secondary and that to follow Jesus is to pick up a cross and follow to crucifixion!  And he has continued his distressing and alienating habit of healing on the Sabbath and eating with tax collectors and sinners!  In this context the cry from the disciples at the opening of this text – “Increase our faith!” – is completely understandable.  How can they possibly accept and do all of this stuff that Jesus is calling them to accept and do.  They just don’t have enough faith, they don’t understand it, and some of it even offends them.
Can’t we also identify with the disciples in this context?  We know that to be faithful Christians we too are called to follow, to open our hearts to others, to be willing to forgive, to disengage our lives from wealth and possessions and to pick up our cross and follow.  But our society and any number of talking heads constantly tell us – oh no, Jesus wants you to be rich and successful; oh no, Jesus thinks it is ok to reject THOSE kinds of people; oh no, faith is all about me, myself and I it has nothing to do with anyone else.  But then we encounter the Gospel and we realize that those voices are lying and like the 12 disciples we too are called to discipleship which calls on us to open and give of ourselves to others in some deep and profound ways.  And this prompts us to join the disciples in crying, “Lord, increase our faith!”
Jesus' response to this cry is surprising and perplexing.  Jesus essentially dismisses the request!  Using the metaphor of a mustard seed he is basically saying, “You already have enough faith.  You already have all the faith you need, so stop whining and just do it!” 
So what is faith? Faith in the Bible is always active and not passive.  In other words, faith is found in how we act; in our behavior; in the priorities we set and how we act on those priorities.  It is easy for us to get seduced into thinking that faith is only a mental activity. When this happens the measure of faith can become whether or not we can “believe” something that is otherwise unbelievable. Convincing oneself of the believability of something that is otherwise unbelievable is not faith.  It is mental gymnastics that are more like Jedi mind tricks than real faith.  Faith is found in action, in our behavior and how we live our lives.  We confess that we love Jesus and we wish to follow Jesus – how, then is this manifested in the choices we make and the way we live in the world?  How is our faith in Jesus reflected in our stewardship of the gifts that God has given us?  How do we use the financial resources God has given to us?  Do we tithe and support the ministry of the church appropriately? Do we offer financial support to organizations that seek to offer food and assistance to those who are in need?  Do we use the gift of time to participate in ministry opportunities? Do we make Word and Sacrament worship the foundation of our lives in Jesus?  Do we share our talents in ways that allow God’s grace and love to shine through us?
This is action and this is faith!  It is how we live our lives and act and reach out to others that reflect our faith.  And Jesus says, you already have enough faith to live a faith-filled life – so just do it!  Just do it! 
Do what?  Live gracefully!  Live in ways that reflect Jesus’ life, ministry and priorities.   The simplest acts of kindness – a comforting word, a favor, a touch, an anonymous gift – these are acts of faith.  The simplest things constitute acts of faith.  And I am willing to bet that each and every one of us performs many, many acts of faith each and every day.
 “Ultimately what the Gospel is teaching us is this: Faith isn’t an idea, it’s a muscle, and the more we use that muscle, the stronger it gets. Jesus tells his disciples -- both then and now -- that we’ve got all that we need to be faithful.  It’s all the ordinary stuff we do all the time and, taken together and blessed by God, it’s pretty darn extraordinary.
“But faith is not only a muscle, it’s also an adventure. Faith is putting one foot in front of the other and walking toward a future we do see yet but trust God is fashioning. Faith is heading out the door each day looking for opportunities to be God’s partner and co-worker in the world. Faith is imagining that the various challenges put in front of us -- whether solving a problem at work or forgiving someone who wronged us -- are actually opportunities that invite us to grow as disciples and witness to God’s presence and goodness in the world.
“This is everyday faith -- the ordinary, extraordinary faith that we’re invited to practice day in and day out. It’s not heroic, but it is essential. And so what Jesus is reminding us today about faith through this lesson is this -  Just Do It!"
Quotations at the end of this meditation are from the essay “Everyday Faith” by Dr. David Lose.

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