SERMON FOR SUNDAY OCT 6th 2013
Gospel: Luke 17:5–10
Have you ever asked yourself: What kind of faith do I want?If faith came in all sizes and colors and flavors and strengths and brands.
Faith like yogurt – smooth and silky or whipped to a light froth or filled with fruit on the bottom or charged with pro-biotics or acidophilus and good for the digestion.
A healthy faith that would make us regular and cure what ails us and help us lose weight and give us back our 21 year old bodies.
Now that would be some faith, wouldn’t it?A good healthy faith, but perhaps not a great one.
For great things might be expected of one with a great faith.
We may think and we may pray: Lord, give me a good faith any day, just not too much.
But I certainly need more these days, more faith.
How about you? Don’t we all?
“Increase our faith!” the apostles said.They needed more, too.
Faith to trust.
Trust that this man, this Son of God, this Jesus who called them from the seashore, from the work with nets and boats and stinky fish and said “Follow Me.”
They had faith enough then to drop it all and leave their families, too. And follow Jesus. No questions asked. No job description or contracts or promises beyond one: A new job. A new job fishing for people. Unlicensed, unregulated, guaranteed to raise eyebrows and stir passion and resentment all over the shores of Galilee and beyond. To bring families together and to tear them apart.
Fishing for people. Whatever that meant. They didn’t even ask if they should bring the nets.
Increase our faith, they said
They would be needing more in the days and weeks and years ahead if they were going to continue following Jesus. Don’t we?
We may desire a good faith, fearing what a greater faith may ask of us, but God is the giver and is not, it seems, in the habit of giving us just enough faith, or even a good faith that meets the limits of our expectations, but no more. God is far more generous. God it often seems, gives in abundance rather than just enough. Even if we had the faith of a mustard seed, wouldn’t the mountains tremble? God givers faith in abundance, but we are afraid of having too much faith. With great faith comes great expectations and we fear, don’t we, what God might ask of us?
“Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is,” says Martin Luther. It is not our work, but God’s work in us. Luther goes on to say that faith “makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith!”
A living, creative, active powerful thing.
Increase my faith, we plead.Give us a faith to follow you Jesus because the road that we are on and the road ahead seem mostly unpaved, confusing, and long. So so long. And strewn with doubt, potholes large enough to break us, large enough to swallow us whole, large enough to frighten us into turning around and going back the way that we have come, the old familiar way that leads nowhere or worse, for there is worse than nowhere and we have experienced it in brokenness and pain and suffering, in doubt and fear.
Increase my faith I plead while I sit at the bedside of a woman in hospice dying. Dying. Why am I dying like this, she says. But I don’t know what she means. In pain? Too slowly? Wasting away rather than just going quietly in her sleep. Dying too slowly and knowing that she is dying despite the drugs meant to keep her calm and comfortable. Sadly they cannot calm her mind from the fact that she is dying.
“Why am I dying like this,” she asks. She is going home. Going to be with God. Going to a place of forever and ever in peace and light and endless joy in the presence of God. “Why am I dying like this,” she asks, of God, of me, of the curtains and the clock and the framed pastoral print meant to soothe, not answer such a question. So the question lingers in the air.
“Why am I dying like this?”
Luther says that “faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.” In our lives as we plead and pray, “increase my faith, good Lord,” we begin to understand what Luther means. Because sometimes there seems to be nothing more to say. Nothing more to do. And the silence is its own pain. And our only hope is the whisper—soft voice of grace to which we cling with the whole of our being.
Increase our faith!
We’ll settle for a good faith, but the Lord wants to give us more.To face the questions and the doubts of others and to offer a word of hope. To speak to the brokenness of others and declare a word of healing. To face the pain of death itself and offer the name of Jesus as the word of life that overcomes, a word of enduring promise.
Increase our faith, dear Lord, we plead, we pray, so we may be your instruments of healing and hope and life in the world and so we, ourselves, do not allow life to crush us as it far too often seems to want to do.
Increase our faith, dear Lord not so we can be powerful and smug and holier than thou, but so we may forgive those who have hurt us. Who have loved us one moment and hated us the next. Who have broken promises and even vows, friendships and marriages and covenants and commandments of all sorts.
This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith, says Luther. “Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown [them] such grace.”
With the great faith that God desires to give us we Lutherans believe that we can and are called to serve everyone, to suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown us such grace. And so we plead: Increase our faith, dear Lord! We pray:
Increase our faith, dear Lord. Increase our faith! Amen!