10062019 17th Sunday After Pent 16AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“A mustard seed's faith!”

10062019 17th Sunday After Pent 16AT Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA
October 6, 2019
“A mustard seed's faith!”
Sermon Audio

In 1997 while on vicarage at St. Paul’s Lutheran in Dallas, North Carolina, our congregation partnered in confirmation ministry with numerous Lutheran churches locally as well as across North Carolina.  Campformation as it was known was a time where we would during the summer gather to pour large amounts of biblical and catechetical knowledge into the hearts of the children of our congregations as part of the formation process in order to prepare them to take responsibility for their faith on their confirmation day.

Our group not only gathered for preparation and teaching, but like many organizations had apparel to wear.  Like the jersey’s for the Steelers and the Penguins that is easily recognizable, our group had hats made. We were known for a biblical plant that though starting small, towered and enabled animals and wildlife and even humans to enjoy its shade.  We were the “Mustard Seed Cluster”.

Unlike most of the commercial mustard seeds we see in grocery stores today for cooking or other culinary endeavors, the seeds found in Israel are extremely small and are easily blown to and fro depending upon the wind.  Yet, when a mustard seed is planted and firmly rooted it can grow into a large plant. Though starting in humble size compared to a sunflower or corn seed, the mustard seed represents a resilience that is unmatched by many plants and its ability to grow so large.  When fully grown the mustard plant is a blessing for other plants, many animals and especially birds that need the shade in the desert climate of Israel.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the small mustard seed to connect and proclaim a truth for each and every one of us today as disciples of Jesus Christ.  From our Gospel, Jesus begins with the prophecy and truth that “temptations to sin are sure to come”.  This warning Jesus states is clear for the people He is speaking to, His disciples who have followed Him and even for each of us gathered here today.  We live in a society that has turned its back on God and are warned clearly by Jesus especially when He says, “Pay attention to yourselves!”  God is trying to get our attention and Jesus is trying to help us to be self-aware of our words, actions and hidden actions towards society as well as one another.  And notice that Jesus says, “if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”  For those who heard this, it was difficult to forgive, even once, but seven times, for them they potentially felt it was too much.

It is then that the apostles having been confronted with what they did not want to hear or even do, even though this comes from Jesus, they ask Jesus simply to “Increase our faith!”  The disciples not knowing how to respond or what to do with the situations they lived in and encountered on a daily basis have no idea how to change themselves or what they have encountered and are dealing with currently.  They are uncertain of their future and don’t have a clear direction or easily discernible path forward. Fear grips them and they don’t want to be seen by society, their family or even their Lord as being unfaithful, because Jesus can see and knows what is going on in their hearts and not in Jesus presence.  Hence why they humbly implore Jesus saying, “Increase our faith!”  Clearly given our present circumstances we here at Emmanuel, Pastor, council and all of the children of God whether gathered here or waiting to see what will transpire could ask Jesus for this as well, “Increase our faith!”

Then like a surgeon whose hands are divinely guided and gifted beyond measure, Jesus skillfully reveals and directs our collective view away from His disciples as well as ourselves today to the simplest of seed and plants.  Jesus the surgeon of our hearts, souls and spirits opens up the revelation of how one of God’s creations, the truth found in “A mustard seed’s faith!”  Jesus says, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  In this one verse, Jesus reveals for His disciples as well for us today the power of faith that is given unto each and every one of us.  A power that when used for God’s Glory and for God’s Will here on earth is stronger than Sampson, more powerful than David against Goliath and demonstrates the power of the prophets like Elijah, Elisha and even Habakkuk that is unparalleled.

God in His Son, Jesus Christ reveals that what we receive in our Holy Baptism with Water and Word.  We receive in Holy Baptism a faith that can move mountains and even ‘uproot a mulberry bush and plant it in the sea’.  God through His Son Jesus Christ reveals for us the truth that when we have “A mustard seed’s faith” and work for God’s Glory and His Will demonstrating love for all in the forgiveness of our shortcomings or actions, we find and will be blessed by God.  God will reach into our lives and help us when we humbly pray to Him, “Increase our faith” in true humility because we know not what to do.  God will send His Holy Spirit to walk with us through our present circumstances and enable us to love one another as He first loved us and showed the disciples what perfect love means with His death on Calvary for us and all of mankind.

A prime example of this is Paul in our epistle who points to and reminds us of two of the saints he encountered that clearly demonstrated “A mustard seed’s faith!”  Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother respectively had a faith that was clear to Paul.  Their faith was not only lived, but shared with others in the community and those who were placed in their paths.  Timothy, a pupil of Paul, saw and experience first hand what faith, “A mustard seed’s faith” looked like in his life.  And Paul by his laying on hands to Timothy bestowed this same faith unto him.  Pauls says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.  This is what faith active in love is meant for us to not only understand, but lay claim to today, through the gift of grace we find in Jesus Christ.

With our Holy Baptism, where God took us as His own and implanted into each of us “A mustard seed’s faith”, we have been given and can share with one another our faith in the grace of God and His love for us that we can share with one another that is found in our Savior Jesus Christ.  We are called to live this way utilizing our muscle of faith, loving one another unconditionally and forgiving as Jesus first forgave us no matter how many times we have been wronged either inside or outside of the church.  It is my prayer for us today that we this day and every day here at Emmanuel pray for God to “Increase our faith” to the degree and the ability of a simple seed so we can humbly have “A mustard seed’s faith!”  AMEN!