THE REV. ROBERTO DESANDOLI
World Communion Sunday
Lamentations 1: 1-6, 3: 19-26
2 Timothy 1: 1-14
Luke 17: 5-10
“Welcome to the table”
As you think back over the week that has been, how many times have you thought to yourself something along these lines:
“I would really like to do that thing…if I just had a little more time”
“I would really like to buy that thing…if I just had a little more money”
No matter who we are, how much time we have or how much money we have, it seems like we could always use a little more…
It seems like no matter where we are, we are always focused on what is still just out of reach: that better time, that better vacation, that better house or car, those better clothes …that better life
As each of us thinks back on our week, I am sure we can each name several times when we honestly thought to ourselves “only a little bit more… a little bit more time… a little bit more money… then I would be satisfied forever…”
For how many of you has that something been your faith?
Can you remember a time when you prayed for more faith?
“Lord, I want to believe, if you would only increase my faith a little”
“God, I want to believe you are listening, if you would only give me a little more faith to believe”
The lesson that we have read from Luke’s Gospel this morning shows us that faith is both similar to and different from our time or our money in surprising ways:
Faith is similar to time or money (at least within our human hearts) in that we can often feel that we just don’t quite have enough of it
However, unlike time and unlike money, the power of our faith does not match the amount we think we need
Luke tells us that as the apostles came near to Jesus one day, they requested of him “Increase our faith!”
The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
We do not know exactly why Jesus’ followers were so keen to have their faith increased on this particular day.
We don’t know exactly what happened that caused them to make their request.
Perhaps, like us, they simply thought that a little more couldn’t hurt.
In any case, there is something in Jesus’ response (to them and to us) that is as small and as powerful as a mustard seed that should give all of us pause:
“IF you had faith the size of a mustard seed…”
“IF you had faith…”
Notice what Jesus has taught us about faith in one two-letter word:
The disciples approached Jesus and they said to Him “Lord, increase our faith!”
“Lord, we have decided that we don’t have enough faith, we would like you to increase it for us.”
“Lord, give us big faith! We want big faith, we want faith that will move mountains, we want faith that will honour us, we want faith that will make other people stand up and notice!”
And how does Jesus reply?
“IF you had faith the size of a mustard seed…”
“IF you (only) had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you”
“That is… IF you had faith”
In this short lesson and in this tiny word, Jesus has taught us a great deal about faith and how we ought to treat it differently than everything else in our lives.
We ought not to treat faith as something we own.
We ought not to treat faith with the logic bigger is better.
We ought not to treat the amount of faith God has given us as being too small for the purposes He has for us.
Because in the moment that we do, we no longer even have faith the size of a mustard seed.
If we say to Jesus “Lord, I cannot survive on the tiny amount of faith that you had given me, you’d better give me some more”
Jesus will remind us that faith the size of a mustard seed is all we really need.
The Lord says that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could do impossible things. We could command the trees to be uprooted, and they would do it. We could help the blinded to see, and they would see. As long as it was the faith within us and our own sense of size, or power, or importance.
The faith that is in us is not really us at all but rather God at work in us.
It’s not like our time or our money. It’s not something that we can measure or evaluate. It’s not something that we can compare with others.
“Size” with regard to faith doesn’t really mean anything at all.
If faith is present it means that we trust in God. It means that we trust and we believe in God’s plans and purposes.
If we have faith:
It means that we trust in God’s plans and purposes for us and our neighbor and for every person around us.
It means that, like Ruth, we will go where and when we are called.
It means that, like the birds of the air and lilies of the field, we will not worry about what we will wear or what we will eat.
It means that, like Christ who goes before us, we will deny ourselves, lift up our cross and follow Him.
In order to demonstrate these things, that a small faith is sufficient and we need only Christ to show us the way, Jesus tells this parable:
7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
Truly, this is a challenging parable.
At least, it is a challenging parable if read only in the ways of the world.
With worldly sight, we see what is written:
Jesus asks us to imagine ourselves as the master in a slave-master situation.
“Who among you” He asks “would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?
“Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?
“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?”
Remember: You are the master, He is the slave.
You don’t owe him anything.
He is your property.
His time is your money.
He is yours to command.
Are you going to let him lounge around? Are you going to worry about his comfort? No, you are going to make sure that you are served. That is all you are responsible for.
What Jesus has invited us into here is the way of the world.
The way of a world that is obsessed with comparing time and money and importance.
The way of a world where faith would be traded as a commodity if a profit could be made.
And indeed, even though the slave imagery may be shocking to us now, it was not so long ago that even this sad reality was the way of the world as well.
This is the way of the world where there are masters and there are slaves and there is no time for arguing about it.
It is a world where each person knows their job and doesn’t complain when it’s time to do it.
It’s also a world without justice, a world without compassion, a world in which we are separated based on the measure of wealth we have.
Jesus says: in such a world, are you going to be the one master who tells his slave to take the afternoon off? Are you going to be the one master who tells his slave to come and eat instead of making you your dinner? I don’t think so.
And then Jesus flips the script:
So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
First, you imagined yourself as the master.
Now, imagine yourself as the slave.
When it is you coming in from the fields after a long day, when it is you coming back to the house sore and exhausted, what are you going to say?
Are you going to say “master I have done the work, time for me to put my feet up”?
Are you going to say “master, it’s a hot one out there, grab me a beer would you?”
Being domesticated by a world without justice, being placed in a role in which there is no freedom, no humanity, you will say what you have been conditioned to say “I am a worthless slave; I have done only what I ought to have done!”
Such a world may be bleak.
Such a world may be hopeless.
Such a world may be cruel and careless.
But, at least according to the ways of the world, it is how we would all act.
That is, if Christ did not live and die so that we might have freedom and the faith to believe in it.
This world of slaves and masters, this world of haves and have-nots, this world of people being stripped of their humanity in the name of profit, this world often appears very similar to the world we have.
And if it were not for the faith God has given us…
If it were not for faith the size of a mustard seed…
In telling the apostles this parable, Jesus asks us to imagine a master who invites his slave to dine with him at table.
In our worldly minds, this is nonsense.
In our worldly minds of “more time, more money, more importance” this is utter senselessness.
But to God, our true Master, it is not.
God does not give as the world gives.
God does not give to us based on what we think we need.
Rather God gives to us based on his plans and purposes for our lives.
If God has given you faith only the size of a mustard seed, you are truly blessed.
With faith the size of a mustard seed, you can command the trees to move, you can love kindness and practice righteousness. With faith the size of a mustard seed, you can see the world for the way it truly is:
As a place ruled by Christ, the only true Lord of the world
As a place ruled not by a “sensible” master, not ruled by a “worldly” master, but rather one ruled by a master who does invite us to dine with Him at table.
And the only thing you need to share in this banquet is faith the size of a mustard seed.
Friends, you are about to be invited to dine with the master at table.
You who question whether your faith is big enough…You are about to find out that your faith is sufficient.
That if you would only eat of this bread and drink of this cup, you would have Communion with God through Christ who came to show us the way to eternal life.
Our good news this morning is that we do not live in a sensible world.
We live in a world of justice, we live in a world of humanity, we live in a world where slaves eat with masters, where bread and wine are shared. Where we know that we are invited to the table even before the invitation is made because Christ has known us and loved us our whole lives.
Friends, this is the master we serve.
Not one who requires us to be more than we are.
Not one who requires us to have more faith than we do.
Not one who would change even a single thing about us in this moment, but rather one who has plans and purposes for our lives.
A plan and a purpose for your life.
A plan and a purpose that starts here, at the master’s table. Amen.