a homily for Proper 22C
Text: Luke 17:5-10
Just a little bit more, pllleeeeeaaase!
“Increase our faith!” they call to Jesus. Increase it. Build it. We are faithful, but not enough. Is what they no doubt think. We trust you, we’re here with you, and we want to believe, but…it’s just so hard to do this.
How many of us are right there with them? How many of us are saying that we need some help? That we can’t always do this? Most of us at one time or another. This plea: give us more to go on—give us more faith: follows us into our confused times and the corners of our anxieties. “Help us, LORD,” we say, “Increase our faith.”
For Jesus’s followers, this request comes in response to a teaching. You can probably guess that it wasn’t an easy one. Otherwise, they’d be saying “Thanks for the faith!” It says:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”
This is right after that parable of the chasm Jesus told the Pharisees last week. Now He is saying to His closest followers rebuke an offender and forgive their repentance. Every single time. Even if its daily. Even if its 7 times a day. Forgive their repentance.
No wonder they want help. No wonder they don’t think they have enough.
How many times do we forgive? Every time. How many times do we hear “I’m sorry” before we are supposed to stop believing it? For most of us, it is normally just twice. They screw up and apologize and we say “OK, just don’t do it again.” And when they come back, having made the same mistake, having promised not to, what do we think? We’ll think we’re justified. No more trust. They broke a promise, so they must be condemned for being untrustworthy.
So how crazy is it to hear Jesus say seven times a day, forgive their repentance. If they repent, then you forgive. Sometimes we’re right with the disciples if its twice in the same day. “OK, Jesus. I’ll forgive them. You just need to give me a little more to go on. As it is, I can’t do this. I’m too angry. I don’t trust them. They’ve done this and what you are asking of me is too hard. Send me a little something.
Carrying the very faith of Jesus
Jesus’s response sounds a little crazy to us in light of our emotions. He says if a tiny speck of faith can move trees, then you have plenty. Think of it—these guys are following Him. They’ve given up their jobs, their families, their very lives. They clearly trust Jesus and have faith. They’ve already gone out to the nations as apostles and commanded demons, healed the sick, and awakened communities with the Holy Spirit. They have have already been filled with the Spirit! Think of this. They have already been doing it. That’s why, I believe, the text calls them apostles here—because they are already the inheritors of Jesus’s ministry.
They have enough faith. They have the faith of Jesus.
This exchange is the end of an episode on the Road to Jerusalem that began with the crowd and Jesus telling three parables of things lost and found—the power of redemption and forgiveness. He turns to His disciples and speaks to faithfulness and honesty—about character and compassion and about faith. He calls on them to trust in GOD, rather than wealth and comfort. Then He turns to the Pharisees and speaks to the chasm between the rich and the poor & whose voice speaks loudest. That exchange ends by saying that the people have a guide already—trust it.
They not only have enough faith, but enough skill, enough tools, enough authority, enough courage, enough support, enough heavenly power to transform this godforsaken world right then and there. And they’ve already proven it.
More than enough
We follow Jesus a little differently. We aren’t wandering the countryside in sandals and a bathrobe without bathing or grooming. That’s a big difference right there. But like those apostles, we may downplay our own moments of heavenly power. Remember those canoe trips? Those times we came together and the world shifted off its axis. Or the card party just a few months ago when the world slowed and the clock spun faster?
We have more than enough faith. We are apostles—inheritors of the very faith of Jesus. We have faith—we have more than enough faith.
And we have enough instruction. We don’t need any get-rich-quick schemes or magic moments descending upon us from above to solve whatever crisis we are moaning about now.
We have what we need. We have the Holy Spirit. We even have enough faith. There is only one thing left to do.
And that’s to do.
Oh, and quit complaining. Complaining is not an action. It’s like a millstone, we’re tripping each other. It’s the anti-action. The anti-do.
We have more than enough faith at this very moment. Jesus isn’t telling us to believe more. He’s telling us to do His work. Work we can begin by loving each other, serving each other, and feeding each other this very morning. Let’s get to work.