Please join us for worship this Sunday at 10:45am, in-person in the Sanctuary or live, on-line via the Zoom video conferencing app. Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to our Zoom invitation list.
First Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Gospel Reading: Luke 17:5-10
Sermon “How Much Is Enough?”
In our culture, more is generally looked on as a good thing, so we are right there with those disciples – yeh – we want more faith! But this isn’t that sort of thing at all. How does one measure the quantity of faith anyway? I’m sure someone has developed some sort of self evaluation form for it, but really its about what and who we have faith in – its the quality of our faith that’s in question. So it comes as no surprise then that Jesus replies to them with a somewhat strange answer: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
That is a truly surprising illustration isn’t it. Mulberry trees flying off to the ocean? That something you don’t see everyday! That’s walking on the water sort of stuff. Yet Jesus says such is the power of faith. Now the implications here are important to catch correctly. “If you have Faith as a mustard seed”, the implication is that they do have at least that much, though its hard to see how the size of a mustard seed has much to do with faith – but the attributes, the qualities of a mustard seed may have everything to do with the point. Jesus doesn’t answer their request as they put it. It’s not more faith that they need. It’s a different kind of faith: “Mustard seed, wait, I hope you don’t think I’m being sacrilegious here, but dare to suggest we say mustard weed faith.”
Wild mustard was the scourge of farmers in Palestine. It grew wild. Birds would ingest but not entirely digest its seeds and drop them everywhere. It would take over fields and vineyards. It would compete with existing crops. Pulling it up did only temporary good, because more birds would just bring more seed from somewhere else, and you’d be back in the same place in a few weeks. It was persistent, irritating, and fast-spreading. It would be there whether you liked it or not. Mustard weed was so effective and such a menace, because it was so purpose-built and so intent on fulfilling its purpose—to propagate itself by all means everywhere.
Even the domestic mustard that I plant in my garden is surprisingly vigorous. With other seeds, I carefully control the planting depth, carefully water – just enough – not too much and am pleased if half of them come up. Not mustard – just throw it out there and almost everyone of them will sprout. Most years I plant a row for greens in the garden in the spring and always, when the hot weather hits, they bolt rapidly to abundant seed stalks, so I pull them out. If I’m late however, a few weeks later, I have a second crop come up now that the sun could get in, more seeds had sprouted – They were delicious. It’s not uncommon for it to show up the following year even after I root till. More mustard plants! The stuff is amazing.
That’s the kind of faith we need, Jesus says. Faith both durable and contagious enough to be carried everywhere, like the birds do with the seed. Not more. Not bigger. Not even deeper. Just durable and attractive enough to be sought, transported, and vigorous enough to take root. More or bigger faith isn’t what it’s about. It’s faith that endures and keeps on coming.