[reprinted from September 30, 2013]
Jesus said to his disciples:
There will always be something that causes people to sin. But anyone who causes them to sin is in for trouble. A person who causes even one of my little followers to sin 2 would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their neck. 3 So be careful what you do.
Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry.4 Even if one of them mistreats you seven times in one day and says, “I am sorry,” you should still forgive that person.
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith stronger!” Luke 17:1-5 (CEV)
Lectionary texts: Lamentations 1:1-6, Psalm 137, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
The gospel passage of the lectionary texts this week begins with verse 5 but leaves out the context, the reason that the disciples asked for God to make their faith stronger. I’m sure there will be many sermons preached this week about how strong faith will move mulberry bushes and mountains but if we look at Acts and the pastoral letters we find that it wasn’t mountains but hearts for which the disciples needed great faith.
“Correct and forgive” without conditions is what Jesus said that caused the disciples to doubt the amount of their faith. And it is that unconditional love and forgiveness, grace and mercy, that trips me up also.
God does not lower His standard when it comes to what is sin and what is not and too often I see that part of the equation quite readily. I do not sin by accident. I know right from wrong. And as Jesus pointed out (Matthew 7:2-4), I see the speck of sinful sawdust in my friend’s eye quite easily compared to the 2 x 4 that is sticking out of my eye. Both are in need of correction but God always corrects with love and restoration. It is His desire that correction is followed by the encouragement that I have been forgiven and receive all that I need to move forward. That is a mountain that is moved off my shoulders! And as a disciple of Jesus, I am to go and do the same. Help my neighbor up and dust them off and point to the Father who forgives without hesitation and be the hands and feet that bring God’s love and mercy to them.
Psalm 137 could be a modern day country song: “By the streams of the Mississippi River we sit and weep as we remember how our country used to be.” (and then my husband left me and my dog died… I’m sorry I couldn’t resist singing the rest of the song!) I can certainly sing a sad song but then I remember the words of Jesus again: “All you need is faith the size of a mustard seed, Jody. No bigger than that period you typed in.” All things are possible with our LORD.
2 Timothy 1 reminds me *of the faith that I have seen in those who have gone before me. My mother who lived through the depression and dustbowl storms of the Midwest. My grandparents who fought in WWI, the “war to end all wars.” And my great-grandparents who came as frightened young children from Europe on a ship to find a new life with new possibilities. Faith that was certainly no bigger than a mustard seed gave them the strength to hold on and believe that God would bring them through fear, famine, and wars.
That tiny bit of faith that I have isn’t about moving Mt. McKinley. It’s about moving my heart into compassion, just like Jesus. It is about forgiving and loving when I cannot do it within myself but with that tiny faith in Jesus Christ, He can move my heart.
How Great is Our God written by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, & Ed Cash, sung by Darlene Zschech