Monday, October 24, 2016

"Keep On Trusting in God's Mercy" - Sermon, October 23, 2016

Community UMC, Quincy
“Keep on Trusting in God’s Mercy”
October 23, 2016
Pastor Andrew Davis
Luke 18: 9-14

       What a great joy it was last week to hear Susie preach a powerful message about prayer, faith, and patience as we celebrated laity Sunday last week.  As we pick up with our series, “Keep On,” we have talked about the need to obey - aka just do it - when it comes to what Jesus commands us to do.  We have talked about the need to keep on healing all who we encounter, even when it means crossing barriers.  We had the reminder from Susie last week to keep on praying while staying faithful and patient.  And now, we come to today’s text from Luke, “keep on trusting in God’s mercy,” which is an extension of prayer.  But whenever we pray and ask for God’s mercy, we also have this amazing opportunity to experience that mercy firsthand and share about that experience with others! 
Before we engage with our text, how many of you have been in a situation where you know you messed up big time, yet when it came time to face the music, it ended up not being as bad as you thought it would be -- in other words, you experienced mercy?  We’ve all been there at one time or another, whether it was in our workplace, our relationships, our community involvement, or even right here in the church.  Let's face  it, we have all messed up at one time or another.  Or there are other times we may have come into something, thinking that it’s going to be so great, only to have the train come off the tracks very quickly, in which we actually need to ask for a mercy.  
I recall almost seven years ago coming into work in my previous job one morning expecting it to be a really great day, maybe an easy day since it was a Sunday and Sundays tended to be a little more relaxed.  Or so I thought.  When thinking those uber-positive thoughts, which we should strive for each day, my own cockiness, and perhaps my righteousness caught up with me very quickly.  Instead of a great day that was easy and relaxed, things unraveled very quickly and I ended up having a really stressful day where it felt like Murphy’s Law was in full effect, anything that could go wrong did go wrong.  In some ways, it became like Judith Viorst’s book Alexander and the Awful, Terrible, Horrible, no good, Very Bad Day where the main character had that kind of a day, where nothing went right. Pretty much as the shift went on, nothing went right that day.  I had a long list of things to do, was being pulled in what felt like a thousand directions between customers, other departments, checking up front, then had an unexpected visit from one of the district managers - on Sunday of all days.  And to cap it off, I made a huge mistake towards the end of my shift, which messed things up on both the store’s end and the customer’s end, being costly to both. 
I was so glad to be off the next couple days, as I really needed it.  But, I really couldn’t relax and enjoy those days off because my stress and anxiety was at a very high level, and I knew things would not be good when I got back to work a couple days later.  Tossing and turning a lot at night and worrying for two days straight, I actually wondered if I was still going to have a job  since I tended to be prone at making a careless mistake here and there and seemed to be in that season of doing so at that time.  But, I decided I would do the right thing and take full responsibility for my mistake, pay the store back any losses out of my own pocket, and if it meant being terminated or suspended, would understand that they’re having to do what they have to do. 
However, to my surprise, instead of being chewed out and interrogated, or suspended or terminated when I started my shift after my days off, my department manager and the store’s manager ended up showing compassion and mercy, letting me off with just a stern verbal warning to pay more attention to what I’m doing.  Even the father of the customer who I made the mistake with was more than kind and forgiving towards me, showing me great mercy.  Plus, my young customer still allowed me to help him amidst that mistake.  Instead of being self-righteous and by humbly owning up to my mistake, by taking full responsibility, and by being willing to accept the consequences of my mistake, management was more compassionate than I expected from them.  And maybe it was an example of God’s mercy being shown through our store manager, as I know some managers would not have been as generous in showing such mercy.
That moment stands out as a valuable lesson along my faith journey, and perhaps some of you have had similar experiences along the way during your journey of faith or in the journey that led you to the Christian faith.  It’s in these experiences where we need to keep on trusting in God’s mercy, as God gives us mercy when we ask. God even gives us mercy when we don’t ask in the same way my managers did, even amidst careless mistakes that we make along the way.  So it’s no surprise that we deal with God’s mercy in today’s text from Luke, as we extend this theme of prayer and encounter a Pharisee and a tax collector both praying to God, but in different ways.  As we talked about in an earlier sermon, the Pharisees were religious leaders in Jesus’s time who loved God, but also LOVED the law and kept the law very strictly, avoiding those who they saw as impure.  See, “the Pharisees separated themselves from others to maintain their purity before God,” which is why we see the Pharisee and tax collector standing at different places when they pray.[i]  Meanwhile, tax collectors in Jesus’s time were not always held in high regard either, yet Jesus still reached out and even dined with them much to the Pharisees’ dismay (Lk. 5: 30).  For Jesus, he was crossing another boundary that met the Pharisees’ objection. 
As we observe the prayers of the Pharisee and tax collector in the text, we also see a contrast.  The Pharisee stands out by saying “I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector,” but then goes on to say “I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all my income” (Lk. 18: 11-12, NRSV).  Like his love for the law, the Pharisee is still doing his duty to God, fasting and tithing, but makes himself look like he is without fault or sin, like he doesn't mess up while prefacing each petition with “I.”  Meanwhile, the tax collector prays to God, but humbles himself by beating his breast when he says “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk. 18: 13, NRSV).  It takes a great amount of humility to be able to tell God, “I am a sinner.” It’s very much like having to own up to our mistakes and shortcomings, as it takes a lot of humility to do so, no matter with who it is and even before God.  On the other hand, the Pharisee tries to justify himself in what he does FOR God, but not necessarily asking for mercy or confessing his sins, per se. 
Of course, when Jesus talks about the righteous, including the Pharisee in this morning’s passage, it’s like Jesus is holding a mirror up to the righteous. The Message’s translation says in verse 9, “some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance ... looked down their noses at the common people” (Lk. 18: 9, MSG).  Jesus explains to the disciples and for us as 21st century disciples why we need to be humble and why it is necessary to keep on trusting in God’s mercy, not being being righteous, but merciful.  He's showing us about compassion, not looking down our noses at others.  When it comes to the righteous that Jesus is pointing out, the author of “Luke takes great pains, however, to identify the true basis of righteousness and distinguish it from misplaced pride in obedience to God’s commandments.[ii] That’s one of the differences that distinguishes the way the Pharisee and tax collector pray before God, as the Pharisee tells God all about his own deeds, while the tax collector simply begs for God’s mercy, confessing that he is a sinner.  The Tax collector’s humble attitude is what Jesus points to when he tells the disciples and us in verse 14, “for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk. 18: 14, NLT).  The Pharisee trusts himself and his own righteousness, while the tax collector seeks out God’s mercy, a very stark contrast in prayers, but also the difference about trusting in ourselves and trusting in God’s mercy.[iii] As New Testament scholar David Lose puts it,
there is no note of repentance in the tax collector’s speech, no pledge to leave his employment or render restitution to those he has cheated, no promises of a new and better life. Nothing, except the simple acknowledgment that he is utterly and entirely dependent on God’s mercy. The tax collector knows the one thing the Pharisee does not: his life is God’s -- his past, present, and future entirely dependent on God’s grace and mercy.[iv]

As followers of Christ, it is good to remember that our lives are also God’s and depend on God’s mercy.  It definitely takes a lot of humility to seek God’s mercy and like prayer, faith, and patience, trusting in God’s mercy when we come to depend on God is absolutely crucial.  I was once told before starting seminary to learn to trust God more than myself and trusting in God’s mercy requires that we trust in God more than ourselves, not mistaking righteousness for that misplaced pride. 
Just as I did in my previous career and in other instances in life, we’re all going to mess up at times and make careless mistakes.  It's part of our human nature. We’re even going to have those awful, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days or weeks.  Yet no matter how badly we think we have messed up or bad we think things are, the good news is that God’s mercy is there and available for us when we come before God and like the tax collector, we too can say to God, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk. 18, 13, NRSV).  As we think about what it means to keep on trusting in God’s mercy, how do we show it in the way we live our life each day?  Do we act like the Pharisee, feeling so right and so overconfident that we look down at others who don’t see life in the way we do?  Or do we live our lives like the tax collector, being willing to ask for mercy from God and trusting in God’s mercy?  Then as we experience God's mercy, are showing that same mercy to others who we encounter day to day?  Just like obeying Jesus’s commands, healing all who we encounter, being persistent, faithful, and patient, in prayer, we can have a small part of changing the world for the better when we keep on trusting in God’s mercy. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen. 



[i] The New Interpreters Commentary, Vol. IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 341. 
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ministries, Discipleship. ‘Lectionary Calendar’. 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016. http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016.
[iv] Lose, David. ‘The Pharisee, the Tax Collector, and the Reformation by David Lose - Craft of Preaching’. October 21, 2013. http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2813.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Keep on Healing All" - Sermon for October 9, 2016


Community UMC, Quincy

“Keep On…Keep on Healing All”

Pastor Andrew Davis

October 9, 2016

Luke 17: 11-19

 

        I love a good medical drama on TV!!  There’s something about the intensity of it, the subplots, and all the intriguing storylines that move us to tears or leave us on the edge of our seats.  When some of my friends would watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix in the lounge while living on campus at Wesley, it was so easy to get hooked in.  Or I would find myself equally captivated when ER was still running on NBC, being glued to the show each week to see what was next.  I have also been rather intrigued by the NBC show, Chicago Med, which I first thought might be the second coming of ER.  Nevertheless, even though the action on these TV shows is fiction, it portrays stories and plots of both healing and sorrow that take place in the ER and hospital, which happens in real life too, but without all the soapy subplots.  Away from TV, we are fortunate to have healers in our world through our doctors, nurses, physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, holistic healers, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, and anyone who is a healing presence or works in a healing profession. 

        So naturally, as we encounter the text this morning, we come across healing.  As we continue our journey in keeping on, we will be thinking of what it means to keep on healing all, as we come across a section of our Gospel from Luke in which Jesus is not addressing anyone in particular.  Instead, we have a little transition in our story in which Jesus is continuing his journey to Jerusalem which began back in Luke 9:51 when Jesus “turned his face towards Jerusalem.” Even amidst not addressing anyone in particular, Jesus is once again showing us how he breaches boundaries as he crosses somewhere between Samaria and Galilee and encounters ten lepers, Samaritan lepers too.  Nevertheless, Jesus does not reject the lepers, even though the lepers keep their distance from Jesus.  Like the Samaritans in Jesus’s time, lepers were oftentimes shunned in society.  And partially because there was a great fear about their disease, leprosy.

        Now if you’re wondering what exactly leprosy is, according to WebMD, leprosy is “an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs.” It could be a little disconcerting to those in Jesus’s time and earlier such as what we heard in 2 Kings, as there was not the understanding and treatment for leprosy available at the time as we have today.  But that does not deter Jesus, nevertheless.  On the the other hand, unlike other accounts of healing that Jesus does in the four Gospels, Jesus surprisingly does not do the healing by himself in this passage from Luke, but instead tells the lepers to “go and show yourselves to the priests” in which they were healed upon their visit to the priests, much in the same way that Naaman was healed from his leprosy in our reading from 2 Kings (Lk. 17: 14, NRSV).  However, Jesus doesn’t flinch or turn these ten lepers away when they call out to him.  He still heals them all, even when it means crossing boundaries and comfort zones. 

        The fact that Jesus was willing to heal everyone he came across says a lot about how Jesus was willing to transcend differences and boundaries, particularly with the Samaritans and the Lepers.  But the fact that Jesus also healed without thanks by the other nine lepers in this morning’s lesson shows us about the need to keep on healing all, whether or not they give thanks.  It’s like last week’s message of obeying and just doing it.  Even though only one of the lepers healed comes back to thank Jesus, Jesus tells this Samaritan that “your faith has made you well” in the same way he has done in other passages in the Gospels that pertain to healing, particularly in Mark and Matthew.  On the other hand, we may want to be quick to condemn the other nine who were healed, yet did not return to Jesus to say thanks. However, “the story is not about moralism,” but is instead “about ritual and boundaries and spiritual realities. And it’s about the underlying call of Jesus to all disciples to keep on healing all people—including people who are deemed beyond the bounds by cultural or religious assumptions or leaders.”[i]

Jesus sees beyond people's scars, their baggage, and flaws.  Instead, he sees people for who they are and acts with compassion. I don’t think once, Jesus has ever uttered the words, “sorry, can’t help you there.” Even though Jesus did not heal the lepers by himself, he still saw them as fellow human beings and had mercy on them, sending them to the priests at an undisclosed temple because only priests were able to make the lepers clean and Jesus was not a priest in this case.[ii]  This story is more so “about Jesus doing everything he could to bring the fullest possible healing to people who were as outcast as they could be relative to his culture.”[iii] Jesus broke down the wall there and that’s what made him so unpopular among many of the Romans and the Pharisees.  Jesus was willing to see people for who they are while not getting into legalism or moralism.  But again, it’s all about healing and the need to keep on healing all people we encounter who need it. 

Even today, healing takes on many dimensions and at times, can be a sensitive topic because no two people heal the same.  When we are injured, when we are sick, or even if we have experienced trauma, hurt feelings, rifts, grief over a death or loss, or conflict, we want healing to take place and take place quickly partially because we don’t like slogging through the mud.  But also because once again, our dominant culture tends to favor pulling ourselves together, picking ourselves back up, and quickly moving on, not always encouraging us to take the proper time to fully heal and become whole again.  It can take time to fully heal and become whole again, sometimes longer than we want. In his book From Hurt to Healing: A Theology of the Wounded, Andrew Sung Park explains that “healing is an ongoing process, transpiring gradually under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is a vital instrument in healing…”[iv] And in our work in visitations and pastoral care as being a healing presence, “healing takes place in relating to God and others, for it is relational in nature.  Being made whole is the natural consequence of deepening our spiritual fellowship with the God of wholeness.”[v] We need to be willing to relate and be willing to be with those who are hurting by simply being a presence.  It’s a way we keep on healing all. 

However, if healing isn't happening quickly, allow the time and don't let anyone say otherwise, or even suggest that it's a lack of faith or that it's because praying isn't enough. It's along the lines of John Wesley's rule of doing no harm, as one of the dangers of saying things like that is that it can cause harm, stress, and a spiritual crisis.  Thankfully, Jesus reminded us last in last week's lesson that miniscule, or mustard seed faith is still sufficient. And any prayer is sufficient, as God knows what is on our hearts. However, the good news is that when we are hurting or going through pain like the lepers were or when any of us experience pain and hurt, we can come to Jesus and ask for his mercy upon us and Jesus will see us and Jesus will acknowledge us. 

At the same time, we also want to be very careful about the distinction between healing and curing, as there is healing when the lepers were deemed clean, although it did not specify whether they were cured or not,. It's just that they were certified by the priest that they were clean to participate in rituals - given there was a high value on ritual purity at the time.  In James Miller and Susan Cutshall’s book, The Art of Being a Healing Presence, healing is defined as the “idea of wholeness, and specifically any movement toward that wholeness.  It refers to something that is already present and available in some form, something that is being drawn to become more complete in itself.  It suggests a return to a state of original soundness.”[vi] However, Miller and Cutshall say that “healing is not the same as curing.  It does not mean to apply a remedy that eliminates a person’s disease or distress.  Nor does healing involve fixing what may seem to be wrong in others’ lives.”[vii]

That's a lot to think about right there and although healing and curing might be slightly different, each of us has the ability to be a healing presence among those who are hurting in our church, community, and world, but it doesn't mean we will cure or eliminate disease, or distress.  But we do help in the healing process nonetheless. As a pastor, one of my roles is to visit and offer myself as a healing presence and listening ear whenever being called upon, whenever someone stops by when I'm here, or if I see a need that someone may have.  But we also have others here who may be healers in our church and community, simply by their presence.  We do have a group of lay people who do visitations who are able to be a listening and healing presence with the various people they visit.  But each of us in this congregation can also be a healing presence in helping people back to a sense of wholeness by being present with each other, being a listening ear, being compassionate, but also being willing to hear the stories of hurt and pain, whether it is physical or mental pain and hurt. 

  As people of faith and 21st century disciples of Jesus, we need to be willing to simply see people as fellow human beings by fully embracing them, hurts, baggage, and the whole nine yards.  Maybe it’s a call for us to help restore people into a place in society, back into the community as well.  Kind of reminds me of another healing story that was in the Lectionary back in June from Luke 8:26-39 where Jesus drives the demons out of the Gerasene man and restores him back to society, as this is the same thing that Jesus does when he heals the lepers, by helping restore them to a place of wholeness and back to the community, another aspect of healing all.  Debbie Thomas writes in an article in The Christian Century that,

when Jesus heals [the lepers of] their leprosy he does not merely cure their bodies; he restores their identities. He enables their return to all that makes us fully human—family, community, society, intimacy. In healing their withered skin and numbed limbs, he releases them to feel again—to embrace and be embraced, to worship in community, to reclaim all the social and spiritual ties their disease stole from them. Jesus enters a no-man’s-land—a land of no belonging—and hands out ten unblemished passports. He invites ten exiles home.[viii]

 

        And so when we are a healing presence, helping to restore and help guide people towards wholeness and restoring them back into the community, we are also participating in ways to help heal the world too.  It’s one small step, but one big impact when we think about what it means to keep on healing all.  Like Jesus, we need to have mercy, have compassion, and be willing to embrace and be present to all.  It’s one of the first steps towards healing all, but also keep in mind that all means all, regardless of condition, hurt, or baggage.  Jesus sets the example for us here in his willingness to heal all, even when it is done without thanks.  And so we obey Jesus and we just do it, and we keep on striving to heal all who are in our midst, providing a beacon of hope, comfort, and peace as we continue our practice of being the hands and feet of Christ in the world.  As we go into this new week, who is hurting and needs us to be a healing presence for them?  And what are you going to do to be a healing presence in this world this week?

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen. 



[i] Ministries, Discipleship. ‘Lectionary Calendar’. 2016. Accessed October 7, 2016. http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/twenty-first-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016.
[ii] Ibid. 
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Andrew Sung Park, From Hurt to Healing: A Theology of the Wounded (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), 131.
[v] Ibid., 132. 
[vi] James E. Miller and Susan C. Cahill, The Art of Being a Healing Presence: A Guide for those in Caring Relationship (Fort Wayne, IN: Willowgreen Publishing, 2001), 20. 
[vii] Ibid., 19. 
[viii] Thomas, Debie. ‘Lectionary Column for October 9, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time | the Christian Century’. September 20, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2016. http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2016-09/october-9-28th-sunday-ordinary-time.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sermon, October 2, 2016: "Keep on Obeying" from the series "Keep On..."


Community UMC, Quincy

October 2, 2016

“Keep on…Keep on Obeying”

Pastor Andrew Davis

Luke 17: 5-10
 
Being a child of the media and growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, I remember when Nike had the slogan, “Just Do It!” Since shoes and athletic wear is what Nike is most well-known for, Nike encouraged people during that time to just do it, just go for it, go and do what you love and let your passion burn brightly.  But then while I was thinking of Nike’s slogan and other slogans I vividly remember, I also thought about Sprite’s slogan that began in the 1990’s, “Obey Your Thirst” which entices viewers into consuming Sprite when feeling thirsty.  Not so sure that’s really healthy, as I tend to reach for water before Sprite when it comes to obeying my thirst, but it was effective and is still in use today. 

So naturally, as I was writing on Thursday and struggling with what to talk about when it comes to obeying the Gospel, just like we are encouraged by Sprite to obey our thirst, my colleague Pastor Leslianne showed me the bulletin cover for today’s worship at the Presbyterian Church that I served before coming here.  In it, is a comic where two lambs are having a conversation about faith and the conclusion is “just do it!” When living our faith, we should just do it, or just obey Jesus when it comes to our Gospel lesson from Luke this morning. 

        As we embark on a new series for this month, “Keep On…” with today’s sermon being “keep on obeying,” there are multiple titles and subtitles this morning’s particular sermon could take.  However, we only see the word obey once in our very short Gospel lesson, as Jesus tells the disciples ““If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk. 17: 6, NLT).  This is coming off the heels of the disciples’ request to “increase our faith” where Jesus is more or less is saying just trust me in what I’m saying and just obey!  Just do it! Like the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is telling the disciples that it’s not rocket science to just obey or to just have faith.  The mustard seed is tiny, but the plant that sprouts from it spreads quite rapidly and also grows quite large.  When it comes to having this little bit of faith, “mustard seed faith is grounded in obedience to Christ. Obey. Every hour. Every day. And then the next one. And the next one. And so on.”[i]

        As short as this morning’s Gospel lesson is and the essence of what we will get in thinking of keeping on, trusting, and obeying the message that Jesus is saying here, Audrey West at Lutheran School of Theology lays it out like this:

Our passage is framed by the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, on one side, and the Samaritan leper who returns to give thanks, on the other. It constitutes the second half of a four-part series of loosely connected teachings related to discipleship, which may be summarized thus: (1) Don’t be the cause of another’s sin (Greek skandalon, stumble); (2) Forgive, again; (3) Miniscule faith is sufficient; (4) Discipleship is not about reward: Just do it![ii]

 

        When it comes to keeping on, we just need to do it!!  How many of you at one time another felt like just giving up, but a still, small something told you to keep on going?  I think all of us experience this at one time or another.  In the Bible/book study of Adam Hamilton’s Revival: Faith the Way Wesley Lived It, Rev. Adam Hamilton writes in the introduction that “in every Christian’s life, spiritual vitality or passion wanes over time.”[iii] I think that’s true and there is a definite need to keep on, even when it comes to obeying Christ and his commandments, lofty as the commandments might be.  Just do it, even when giving up seems easier than keeping on.  Just obey, obey your faith, and trust the message Jesus is telling us.  But also just spread your faith, even if it’s the size of a mustard seed.  As Audrey West said, “miniscule faith is sufficient” when it comes to faith, just as long as we can trust and obey the message that Jesus is teaching us.[iv] 

        But for the disciples, and perhaps even for us today, we always have this sense of wanting more and that miniscule is not adequate or enough.  Hence why the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.  The disciples don’t trust themselves enough.  However, “Jesus assures the disciples that with even a little faith they can live by his teachings on discipleship” and that also goes for us too.[v]  We can still live by Jesus’s teachings even with just a little faith, as it takes our best effort in obeying and trusting in what Jesus is teaching us.  I attribute some of the feelings of inadequacy we may have at times to the culture that we live in because it doesn’t seem to think that anything is enough.  So often, society wants more, more, more, but we can only do so much because “regardless of how much we do, we [realistically] cannot do more than is expected of us.”[vi] But Jesus tells us otherwise that faith in the size of a mustard seed is fine.  To bring this idea a little further, 

Self-improvement is a mantra in our culture. Every day, we hear hundreds of offers from companies that want us to buy their product or service to improve our lives or our skills in some way, often by promising us more of what we already think is a good thing. This is what many advertisements do, and the average American is exposed to hundreds of them across multiple media platforms every day. So for us, the disciples’ question “Lord, increase our faith,” (that is, “give us more”) may seem quite reasonable.[vii]

 

        Yet Jesus throws it back at the disciples by telling them they just need to get out there and spread their faith, not necessarily increase it, but instead obey the teaching in the Jesus's message.  Of course we want to grow in faith, and that is something we all need to continually strive for no matter if we are just starting the journey, or have been on it for a long time.  Yet when it comes to what Jesus is saying, just do it!  It’s kind of like housework/cleaning, yard work, studying and reading for the next class, or even exercise.  It might be something we enjoy, but if it’s something we don’t enjoy doing (like cleaning), it can be a burden.  However, it’s also one of those things where we want to increase our motivation just like having our faith increased.  But instead, we just need to do it.  We just need to obey what our instinct is and what we need to do.  But more importantly, just doing something without being asked and not expecting reward is necessary and essential, the same lines along the second part of the small parable that we just heard, in which the servant obeys and does not receive or expect praise from the one he serves. 

        As we think about our faith and what it means to keep on obeying, Jesus is in a way shifting the parable’s focus not so much on the servant doing all that is expected, but to the disciples and essentially to us.  It’s definitely something to chew on, as it’s ultimately us who are servants of God, going into different places and doing the different things that God calls us to, but also trusting in the message that Jesus is teaching us that we just need to have that little bit of faith in order to carry out what is expected of us.  But we do need to spread that faith to others and share it, being like the bush that grows out of that mustard seed while trusting and obeying the message Jesus teaches us.  It’s how

Jesus, reminds in the rest of this week’s reading, if we keep this point straight: Jesus is in charge, not us. The faith does not spread like mustard weed if we think we've got all the strategies down just right, or if we think we control the mission and act like we do. The mission is God's, not ours. We get to help, even as we've been helped. We go and serve at the bidding of Jesus, like a family servant, not because we feel like it or because we want to make our own ministries bigger (see mustard seed faith!). And when the day is done, ours is to say, "We are servants of no use to anyone else. We have done your will, O God."[viii]

 

        So as we go into this new week, let’s see where we can keep on, where we can keep on obeying Jesus’s message even with just a little faith.  Where can we take that faith to others by spreading it like the mustard weed?  But what are also things we can do without expecting rewards or praise, whether it’s in our church, our community, or our greater world?  As we keep on going the rest of this month, we’ll be thinking about what it means to keep on healing, and keep on trusting in God’s mercy.  Let’s keep on obeying Jesus’s message as we continue along this journey and when it comes to spreading our faith, just do it!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen. 



[i] Ministries, Discipleship. ‘Lectionary Calendar’. 2010. Accessed September 29, 2016. http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016#Atmos.
[ii] Audrey West, “Commentary on Luke 17: 5-10” in Working Preacher, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3028
[iii] Adam Hamilton, Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014), 11. 
[iv] Audrey West, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3028
[v] The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 322
[vi] Ibid., 323
[vii] Ministries, Discipleship. ‘Lectionary Calendar’. 2010. Accessed September 30, 2016. http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/twentieth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016#Atmos.
[viii] Ibid.

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