By The Rev. Sherry Crompton

October 3, 2010

Read: Luke 17:5-10

Who among us does not want more faith? Most of us are not surprised at the disciples’ plea that Jesus give them more. But then, Jesus replies with what is called hyperbole, it’s an intentional exaggeration for emphasis. Some hear this as a kind of scolding, but I don’t think that is Jesus’ tone here. Perhaps Jesus is encouraging us.

He goes on to tell a story about slaves, or servants, doing their job. Doing what they are supposed to be doing, so that they may eat and drink later. Perhaps Jesus is saying, you already have what you need in the way of faith, we need only a little to do what we are supposed to do in this world. Recall that John the Baptist said, “I must decrease, so that he might increase.” The disciples, as well as all of us, can pay attention. It is not about the size of my faith, but the power of the One in whom I have faith. God is the power source. We are but humble servants, trusting to do what our master directs.

Faith is somewhat like pregnancy. You simply can’t make a valid distinction between having a little faith and a lot of faith anymore than you can claim that someone is a little bit pregnant but not really a lot pregnant.

If we believe – even a little – even the smallest amount – then my friends we are on the right track.

There is a legend from the Orient about a traveller making his way to a large city. One night he meets two other travellers along the road –Fear and Plague.

Plague explains to the traveller that, once they arrive, they are expected to kill 10,000 people in the city. The traveller asks Plague if Plague would do all the killing.

Oh, no. I shall kill only a few hundred. My friend Fear will kill the others.

Fear, whether real or imagined, can discourage us, overwhelm us, strangle us. And fear is widespread in our society, from the personal – fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear not being loved, to the social – fear that war and disasters will gone on forever, fear that society will collapse, fear that the pollution will kill us, and so on and on.

And in the church too there is fear. The personal fears. The social fears. And the spiritual fears. There a lot of people who feel
– that they are not able to do anything important
– that they cannot and do not make a difference to anyone,
– that they are unable even to do even a part of what it is that God asks them to do,
– and that the great work that obviously needs to be done will never be done, and that they will let God down, and that God will let them down.

We have forgotten what faith is about, we have forgotten what it is that God can accomplish.

Faith is a gift. All we have to do is open up a little and God does the rest. We need faith the size of a mustard seed; that is, we need a small crack in our frozen hearts and God will transform us.

When we think about how we can change the world, we always despair. But let us remember it’s not about us, it’s about God working through us. We can do little, but is there anything God cannot do? Our task is to pray for faith and to trust in the giver.

And the truth is, it doesn’t take much. A word, a touch, a gesture can cleanse our eyes. It only takes a faith the size of a mustard seed for God to transform us. The power is in the One in whom we have our faith – God. God is the source of the power. We simply need to keep doing what it is we know we should do.

Many years ago shoe company sent one of its sales people to a far away country to start a business. After a few months he sent back the message: “Coming home, nobody wears shoes here.”

The same company sent another sales person to the same backward country in his place. After a few months she wrote the home office this note: “Send more order forms – nobody wears shoes here.”

The second salesperson saw the opportunity in her situation – not the difficulty – and more – she believed in her product – and because of that
she succeeded where the first salesperson failed.

There is a poem, attributed to Mother Teresa, that speaks to all of this:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. Amen.

Copyright 2008-2012 Episcopal Church of the Trinity.

The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.