Today's Lectionary Text
The Lord’s Emissaries: We don’t have enough faith for this! Help our faith to grow!
Jesus (pointing to a nearby mulberry tree): It’s not like you need a huge amount of faith. If you just had faith the size of a single, tiny mustard seed, you could say to this huge tree, “Pull up your roots and replant yourself in the sea,” and it would fly through the sky and do what you said. So even a little faith can accomplish the seemingly impossible.
Imagine this scenario. You have a servant—say he’s been out plowing a field or taking care of the sheep—and he comes in hot and sweaty from his work. Are you going to say, “You poor thing! Come in and sit down right away”? Of course not! Wouldn’t you be more likely to say, “First, cook my supper and set the table, and then after I’ve eaten, you can get something to eat and drink for yourself”? And after your servant has done everything you told him to do, are you going to make a big deal about it and thank him? [I don’t think so!] Now apply this situation to yourselves. When you’ve done everything I’m telling you to do, just say, “We’re servants, unworthy of extra consideration or thanks; we’re just doing our duty.”
Here, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. I find it insightful that in responding to the disciples’ request for more faith, Jesus paints the picture of servants and masters. I’ll admit, the rebel in me responds adversely to the picture Jesus paints. After working hard all day, the servants are expected to continue to serve their masters and after the day is done have the attitude, "We’re just doing our duty." I bristle at this image which I sometimes improperly interpret as "being a doormat" or "boot-licking." What this reflects instead is the attitude of someone who is not governed by self-interest but is responsive to the needs of others and sees the value of service. Note, this others-orientation does not preclude self-care.
So, what does serving a master have to do with faith? Faith is the choice to follow, to believe with the head, respond with the heart and express these by action. It is in practicing our faith in real life situations, serving God and serving others, that our faith grows. Just as exercise develops muscles, service develops faith. This orientation to service is one which aligns well with those central expressions of faith … love God with all you are and love others as yourself. In essence, what Jesus is saying to his disciples is that by serving God and others humbly our faith will grow.
In creative imagery, Jesus tells us that this others-oriented, faith-filled service can result in the miraculous (flying mulberry trees). Much more commonly yet perhaps even more effectively it can and does result in those myriad small acts of kindness which beautify the lives of those around us.
In a nutshell, when I ask Jesus to increase my faith, his answer is, “Go, humbly serve God and others.” Not so complicated, yet a challenge for a lifetime!
--Rev. A.G. Turner
*Devotion originally published 9/20/ 2019
Prayer for Reflection
Master, Savior, Jesus, please increase my faith. Thank you for showing me what true faith looks like by living it out in service to God and those you encountered during your life. Holy Spirit open my eyes, my mind and my heart to ways I can humbly express my faith. Creator of all, empower me to carry out your work on Earth, that others may find faith and the world be miraculously transformed; through Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.
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