Faithlife Sermons

Mustard Seed Faith - Pr22c

Notes & Transcripts

lass=MsoNormal>Heavenly Father, as we are united together as one in the feast of Holy Communion, let us be united in this time, that your word and your ways be heard and acted on. – Amen 

Today is World Communion Sunday

On this day, all across the world - people of every Christian denomination, as part of their Sunday service are celebrating this occasion

            For some it is called Eucharist – meaning giving thanks

Others call it Holy Communion – emphasizing unity with God and commonality of purpose

Still others – The Lord Supper – whereby the focus can be on Christ’s last meal with his closest disciples the night before he was to be given over to suffering and death

            A death He freely accepted

It will be celebrated in churches similar to ours, inside, with ceremony and celebration with bread and wine or grape juice shared in a very civil manner     

It will be celebrated outdoors in the heat of an African sun with literally thousands gathered, in a football stadium

It will be celebrated by our fellow Canadians in the far north, with snow already a fact of life, with people who have traveled a great distance, by snowmobile to share in this great communal celebration

It will be celebrated amongst a small group gathered in a hut with no running water or electricity … - and in the busy cities of the world with giant screen TVs and every audio and visual tool the world has to offer

It will be celebrated in secret, in homes and apartments in countries of the world where to be a Christian is an extremely risky thing to claim

Since I was brought up in the Anglican Church tradition, where we generally celebrated corporately communion each Sunday – an annual celebration of World Communion Sunday was not something that I was familiar with

            Yet the beliefs behind the remembrance are foundational

Here at Farringdon, although we are Independent, by governance and structure, we declare, alongside Christians the world over, the four marks of the church, as found in the Nicene Creed – One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic

            We are stating that there is one God - one church – there is one body of Christ

And when we declare that we are catholic, it is not in the specific understanding of the Roman or Eastern Catholic Church but the universal and collective shared faith through-out the world and across all time

The idea of World Communion Sunday originated in Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, by The Rev. Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr, in 1933.

1933 was the darkest year of the Great Depression. The storm clouds of Nazism and Fascism hovered all over Europe and threatened the entire world.

As a faith response to these concerns, a group of leaders at Shadyside Presbyterian Church sought to do something both real and symbolic to proclaim that God is God indeed, in spite of politics, economics and future shock.

It was their attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity

In which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.

On the subject of World Communion Sunday, Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Kerr has said,

"It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ."[1]

Regardless of how World Communion Sunday is celebrated, with all the variety and creativity that human beings can produce, with all the varied understandings of what is being celebrated

            It is a holy feast of great joy to God

It is a world event of incredible significance to those gathered and to all the heavenly host

In communion with God – following the instructions of Jesus Christ – with the Holy Spirit … and in unity with Christians the world over

      In it we will take part in Christ’s command to live… on earth as it is in heaven

                                                     It is nothing less than a heavenly rehearsal

Communion – whether we grasp it each time or not – is communion with God in the Holy Spirit

            God is there with each and every time two or three are gathered in His name

                        And Communion is an act of faith – a symbolic remembrance

None of us, of course, were actually there and heard our Lord’s words to “do this in remembrance of Me”

But we take it on faith… that from those that were there and passed on the story and wrote it down

            And it is faith that is the key message from all the scriptures today

In our reading from Lamentations we hear:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lam 3:25-26)

From our Psalm, which we used as our ‘call to worship’, we declared:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him        (Psalm 37:3,6,7a)

From these two excerpts one would think of Faith as synonymous with trust

More specifically trusting in something unseen

Trusting in an unseen benefactor… and with that waiting – waiting patiently for that trust or faith to carry you through whatever it is that you need to be carried through

I believe this to be a fairly complete understanding of Faith

But the difficult part is the waiting – waiting on something unseen

We are people today that don’t like to wait, in this age of instantaneous google searches

I have heard that studies reveal that, on average most people will wait only about 20 seconds before pushing the already lite elevator button a second or third time.

Waiting is hard work – it can be trying work

Especially if the waiting has anything to do with your health or the health of a loved one

Then our faith gets really tested… then other’s helpful encouragement to “keep the faith” might seem shallow

Or maybe it is the phrase “God’s timing is not our timing”

Faith seems unnecessary when times are really good and a trial of patience and obedience when times are hard

To this we need the community of God to come beside us and help to carry the burden

We need the body of Christ – the church, to - without judgment, give us messages of encouragement and remind us

St. Paul, in what is believed is his final writing by some scholars, in his second letter to Timothy shares a message of encouragement in the faith – he writes

5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you…11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. (2 Tim 1:5, 11-14)

St Paul, the champion of the movement… the Hero of ‘The Way’

            Arguably the most significant man in promoting the Gospel in the early church

He founded churches, challenged others of false teaching – even confronted Peter, in whom Christ declared was the rock on which the church is built,

St. Paul set St Peter on the straight and narrow path

He has contributed more of our New Testament than any other

St. Paul is writing to his most promising student a word of encouragement in the Faith

            He reminds Timothy of the heritage that came through his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice

Consider the people in your life that have share the faith with you

            Was it first a parent or a grandparent like Timothy?

Maybe you were blessed by the charismatic and evangelistic gifts of a great preacher, like Billy Graham – millions have first come to faith through the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in the Billy Graham crusades

maybe your parents wanted you to experience church but weren’t church goers themselves, and it was a kind faithful Sunday school teacher whose love overflowed so much that sharing the gospel was just part of who they were…

We are not all gifted in teaching – maybe it was a colleague at work or a school friend that just lived the gospel and therefore sparked your curiosity

Whomever it was, our faith is a gift… passed on – it is taught to us by others

And so it is only natural that we might want more

                        If some is good than more is better

When thinking about the challenges that lay ahead – one might feel not up to the task and call on God to “Give me more faith”

This is what the disciples did – this is precisely what they asked Jesus… “Increase our Faith” – they asked

The disciples, as Luke tells the story at this point, have been faced with one incident or story after the other that has been about faith

            Starting with the three parables of something lost – the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son

How we are to celebrate when something that is lost, is found – stories told to reveal the joy in being found – in coming out from the darkness and brought into the light of faith

            Then there is the parable of the dishonest manager, whereby Jesus praises faithfulness

                        “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10a)

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us that patient faithful suffering in this world, is rewarded with life eternal in the presence of our Lord

That even the presence of ghost returned from the dead to warn those that don’t have faith would be meaningless – that faith is not the made by some extraordinary event to an unreceptive heart…

Then what moves us to the piece of the story that challenges the apostles to call on Jesus to “increase our faith”

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” (Luke 17:1-4)

The disciples, like you and me when we consider all that challenges us; both in our past and our future – they call out for help

burdened by the warning to not to be a stumbling block… and also faced with the situation that they know will happen, when someone will repeatedly sin against them – they hit the panic button and ask for more faith.

On first glace Jesus’ response is bizarre

Jesus has encouraged them with wonderful stories of faith

Parables that are universally known for their power to evoke the strongest of loving emotions, as we picture the father watching the road each day longing for his lost son and then running out to greet him and celebrating his return home

One parable after another of teaching and when Jesus, only briefly, gives them some challenging instruction

The weight of it seems too much for the disciples and they call out for help

Jesus surprises them, and us, with His bizarre response to His closest followers – His Students that have been with him for nearly three years – He doesn’t offer comfort and give them the answer that they are looking for...but He rebukes them

He says “IF you had faith the size of a mustard seed…”

Jesus – seems to be saying that they don’t have faith

            Then He tells a story of how one might treat a slave

                        And that the slave’s only response is duty

This seems bizarre and disconnected from their request and the situation

In fact many scholars believe that it is not connected and if you were to check some bibles, some of the ones that have titles for each little section – some of them title this section as “Sayings of Jesus” to imply some sort of disconnected wisdom, like the book of proverbs

But I don’t believe this to be true – I don’t believe that Luke, the careful editor and compiler of the Gospel, the educated physician, to simply have lumped a bunch of Jesus’ teaching together because it didn’t fit elsewhere.

            I don’t believe that God the inspiration to all scripture to have made such an unhelpful mistake

I believe that it all goes together and our job is to look deeper beyond the confusing first glance

And when we do, we can start to see something very profound about the nature of faith…

            In our world where some is good, and more is better

Jesus challenges our human desire to want more – our desire to store up riches, in whatever category those riches may be – whether it be in wealth or a wealth of faith

To their request to “increase our faith” Jesus is saying… wrong question, you have missed the point… … faith is not measurable

Asking for more faith is like saying that you are ‘sort-of pregnant’…

                        You either are or you aren’t

Faith is like a light switch – it is either on or it is off

            Faith need be only like a mustard seed – small… tiny in size

But capable of growing into a large plant that the birds of the air might nest in it

            Once you have even the tiniest of faith – you have faith…

Enough to uproot a large tree with a complex root system and replant it, not only in water, but in the salt water of the sea

Or enough to say to a mountain to move and it will move

In essence Jesus is saying that “it is not so much that we need more! It is that we need to use what we already have!”

This may come as shock to some – I believe it came as a shock to the disciples

I believe that Jesus spoke in this hyperboyic way to, in fact, shock them into understanding

They needed to understand not to measure as the world measures, not to judge and compete as the world competes – not even to think that once I have enough of this or enough of that, then I will then do what I am called to do – once I have enough faith then I can handle all my problems

                        No, faith is not that way – faith is trusting, waiting, doing… in belief

                                    … And it only takes a mustard sized faith

It is this last point that I take great comfort, in my darkest hours…

And it is this last point that I often find myself giving others comfort

            When I am grave side with someone that is worried about their lost loved one

I tell them of Christ’s word of promise…

I tell them not to look as the world looks… but trust and believe…

That it takes only a mustard seed of faith

Heavenly Father – we are united together in this heavenly rehearsal, today, this World Communion Sunday, and every Sunday and every day, - in you and in each other… I pray in the words of St. Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy:

13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit

living in us.  - Amen



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