Having the Faith We Need

Scriptures: Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts find your true light illuminating our darkness. Holy Spirit, nurture us we pray, as we grow into who you have fashioned us to be, not who we think we ought to be. Amen.

Our Lamentations passage today begins with an outpouring of unhappiness. Sometimes, then as now, we simply find ourselves in that place, and giving vent to God about our struggles, our fears and our disappointments is all we can do. There is no shame in that; in fact, it is a deep and vulnerable honesty that we give when we do. The writer of Lamentations knew this, but also knew something else:

21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

How often in our lives do we find a time and a place to vent our feelings to God shamelessly? There are a myriad of other enticements of course, but I can guarantee that God wants to hear from us personally, even if our belief is at best questioning or doubting. Each of you has a spiritual gift and a direct line to God, even if it is seldom used. During one such time of testing and doubt, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him:

6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”

But Pastor Scott, what do we know of the character of God, and how can we re-kindle God’s gift that is in us?

First, God said he would be with us, no matter what. Yes, even committed and dedicated saints of God experience suffering and exile, but God does not abandon them. God walks the entire journey with them – and God walks with us in the Holy Spirit, embedded in our souls.

Second: No matter what challenges we are faced with, God nurtures in us strength enough to face them. God has known us from before we were born (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5), and will continue to walk with us our entire life’s journey.

Third, the relationships we find in the Bible between our loving God and other people – doubts and all – form excellent examples of what it means to follow God in spite of everything. For example, from the last several weeks’ worth of readings, God says to Jeremiah, and by extension, us, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jer. 1:8b, preacher’s emphasis)

Luke’s passage for today on the human condition might at first seem like a stumbling block in comparison:

“5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The 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.”

This passage is often interpreted to imply Jesus is chastising the disciples, and by extension us, for a lack of faith. Our human tendency is to identify with the state of little faith and imply to ourselves that it is not enough faith; if only we could work harder at it, if only we could have more of it, we would be okay. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me repeat that: Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I would like to suggest an alternate interpretation much more in line with the character of God we find in Luke’s carefully researched Gospel. Reading the passage with a different tone of voice entirely, I suspect we find a different Jesus…one more in sync with the character of God’s loving and compassionate nature.

“If we listen again to this exchange [with new ears,] we hear Jesus answer the disciples with kindness, and maybe even a bit of a smile. “Why, you do not need more faith,” he says. “Even this much faith [imagine his thumb and forefinger pinching together] is enough!” If we hear Jesus speak with the voice of love, we hear him telling the apostles that, in fact, they already have enough faith to do whatever is required of them.”[1]

Of course, just before today’s passage,

“Jesus has just told them that discipleship is more demanding than they imagined. They are accountable to one another. In fact, drowning in the sea would be preferable to causing a brother or sister to go astray. If they are wronged, he insists, they are to draw from a bottomless well of forgiveness. It is no wonder that the disciples cry out, “Increase our faith!” They are not sure they are up to this, but Jesus changes the question from “How much faith is enough?” to “What is faith for?” He tells them, through image and story, “You already have the faith you need. Now fulfill its purpose: live it.”[2] (preacher’s emphases)”

Friends, from this side of Calvary, we know that God promises even more than we are ever privileged to understand. From this side of Calvary, we have the divine example of Christ’s complete and utter obedience – even unto death on a cross; for we are so loved that God came to rescue us from ourselves. Christ has come; in love we are called to follow and believe.

May all glory be unto the One who lived and died and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Long, Kimberly Bracken. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).

[2] Ibid.

Questions for Reflection

In Luke 17:5-10, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. By asking this, they acknowledge that faith does not grow by our own works and hard efforts but is a gift from God’s grace. How has the gift of faith in your own life changed over time? Was there a particular time when your faith weakened? Can you recall a time when the strength of your faith helped you endure? God often uses special people in our lives to help us grow in faith and understanding. Who has helped you grow in faith?

Household Prayer: Morning

New every morning are your mercies, dear God. As I begin this new day, make me as merciful to others as you have been to me. Strengthen me in faith so that I may trust in you with my whole heart. If any trouble overtakes me today, help me to wait and to hope in you. May the Holy Spirit help me as I both guard and give away to others the treasure of Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

God of my homecoming, the night falls with your steadfast love watching over the world. I put my trust in you as I prepare to lie down in sleep. Thank you for the gift of the day as it has been: for glimpses of beauty; for expressions of care; for opportunities to serve. Thank you for the gift of faith kindled and rekindled in me through the years. Thank you for those who have taught me the faith in sincerity and love. With the return of morning’s light, may I rise from this resting place to live tomorrow in accord with your purpose and grace. In Jesus’ name, I pray . Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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