Do you ever feel like your faith isn’t as strong as it could be (whatever that may mean)? Do you wish God could help you believe more strongly and confidently? This week, a group of friends discussed this coming Sunday’s lectionary gospel, Luke 17:5-10:
The apostles said to the Lord, “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.
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing 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? 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!’”
What an interesting passage! In verses 1-4, Jesus had taught “his disciples” (a large group of his followers) about being on guard against sin, and about the need to forgive a person who sins against you. Then in verse 5, “the apostles” (that is, the Twelve) ask him to increase their faith.
But Jesus responds that even a small amount of faith is sufficient, because it can be used by God for amazing things. Furthermore, in verses 7-10, he seems to indicate the servants of the Lord will undertake the challenges they need to do, without expecting a lot of fanfare. (It would be wonderful to know if Jesus is being scolding in his tone, or lovingly teasing to his friends.)
After our group talked about how much slavery offends our modern sensibilities, we wondered if Christians (1) are sometimes dissatisfied with our own faith, without trusting God’s use of the faith we have (since God’s grace is everything, after all), and (2) we expect to be praised and affirmed and patted on the back, when we should be doing things that serve the Lord and one another in humility.
The gospel lesson dovetails well with the epistle lesson from 2 Timothy 1, especially the words: I 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. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Here, Timothy has faith (and a family heritage of faith). But the word “rekindle” implies that his faith needs to be renewed (rather than “relit,” another meaning of "rekindle," since the gift of God is not extinguished altogether but is still within Timothy).
Perhaps one way to rekindle our own faith, when we feel like it's lacking, is just to get back to work serving the Lord and one another, without a lot of folderol and insecurity.