The Mighty Mustard Seed

Good morning, Friends! Thank you all for coming today.

Last week, we talked about how everyone here is a minister. We all have special gifts, which God has given us. We’re teachers. We’re builders. We’re people who listen and tell stories. We’re people who get food on the table. We’re people who do all kinds of things.

The church needs all kinds of ministers. Some people organize and keep things moving in the right direction. Some work with young people. Some are peacemakers.

We need everyone, just like your body needs every one of its parts and organs. Nobody would get rid of their eyes or ears. Nobody would give up their hand, or heart. We’re all different, and God makes us special.

The church is a collection of many different ministers. Some are experienced. Some are learning. Some haven’t discovered their gift yet.

When we welcome someone new, we welcome their gifts as ministers. We get stronger with every new person here.

Sometimes it feels like we’re running short-handed. It feels like the same people get asked to do more and more. But in a church that’s made up of ministers, we have all the people we need to do whatever needs to be done. God will supply the people we need.

In the same way, two weeks ago, we talked about time. The Scripture we read said that there are times for everything – for living and dying, for planting and harvesting, for weeping and laughing, for being quiet and speaking out.

There are times to work, and times to rest and go to the beach. There are times to grow up, and there are times to grow old. Every time in our lives can be connected to God. And God can be with us, in every time of our lives. There are times for everything. And there’s time to do all the things we really need to do.

This morning, let’s talk about faith. During the last two weeks, we said that the church has all the gifts we need, because God gives them to us. If we’re all ministers, then every one of us has a gift.

We said that there are many different times in our lives, and God’s connected to all of those times. Whether our lives are short or long, God gives us the time we need to say what we need to say and to do what we need to do.

In the same way, today I want to say that we have the faith that we need. Some of us have more faith. Some of us, our faith needs to grow or is still growing. But God helps us with our faith, and when we’re together, the church has all the faith we need.

Today’s Scripture is a short one. It’s found in several places in the gospel. Jesus said it many times. Here it is:

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

Jesus replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Luke 17:5-6

Jesus talked all the time about faith. It was one of the most important parts of his teaching.

Faith is what heals people. Faith is what turns leftovers from a lunch box into a banquet to feed a stadium full of people.

Faith is what led a group of friends, who had a buddy who was sick and paralyzed, to pick him up in his bed, and carry him to Jesus. And when the crowd was too thick for them to get close, faith was what conquered their discouragement, and led them to carry their friend up to the roof, and break a hole in the roof and lower their friend down, so he could get close to Jesus.

In this morning’s reading, Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to rip up a tree, and plant it in the middle of the ocean. Other places, Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains.

I don’t know how that sounds to you. For some people, I think it sounds exciting. “Is that all it takes? Just a teensy little bit? Wow! I’ve got that much faith. I can do anything! My faith can move mountains!”

For other people, Jesus’ word to us this morning sounds discouraging. “I don’t see any mountains moving around here. Nope. Nope. Nothing that I pray for ever happens. I must have no faith at all…”

Same starting place. Mustard seed faith. Two very different reactions. What kind of response does this morning’s scripture have for you?

We read in the Bible about faith, hope and charity, in I Corinthians 13. We read about the storm on the lake, when the disciples were in a boat, and it was all about to overturn, and everybody was afraid they were going to be drowned.

And Jesus said to them, “Where is your faith?” And he turned and said to the storm and the waves, “Be still…” And the storm went away.

All through the Old Testament, we read these amazing stories of people who had such great faith — Sarah and Abraham, or Noah and his family, or Moses at the Red Sea and in the desert, or Ruth, or David, or Daniel. The Bible is filled with faith heroes and faith heroines.

We’ve got all these people of faith. We read all these “faith stories”. But what is it? What is faith? We don’t really talk about it very often.

I think we’ve got a tendency to make faith mean something like mental belief or rational convincement. We always want to push it upstairs, into our heads.

When I was growing up, I thought faith meant all these things we’re supposed to believe about God. And if you had trouble believing them, you were suppose to suspend your disbelief. You were supposed to believe anyway, like it or not. That was faith.

But faith and belief aren’t the same thing at all. Faith is really all about trust. Who do you really, really trust? Who do you trust with your life? Who do you trust without limit?

Who do you trust to lead you home safe, and bring you safe through any danger?
Who do you trust to look out for you, and not to forget you?

Who do you trust to remember the day you were born, the day you went to school, your anniversary, all the sad days and happy days in your life, and never forget even one of them?

When you’re lonely, who are you going to call on? When you reach out your hand in the dark, who do you know that’s going to reach back to you?

When you pray, who’s going to answer? When you close your eyes and go to sleep at night, who’s going to stay up all night, watching over you, and greet you in the morning?
That’s faith. That’s what I’m talking about.

Faith is all about trust. In one of his letters, Paul said, “I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I know that he will guard until the last day what has been given to me. . .” (1 Timothy 1:12)

In today’s reading, it says that the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, increase our faith!”

That is one of the most basic prayers there is. “Increase our faith! Help us to trust you today!” That’s a prayer we can say any time, and every time.

Jesus said that it doesn’t take much faith. It doesn’t take much trust at all. If all we have is just a teeny-weeny, inchy-squinchy bit of faith, God will come in and do the rest.

It’s not about how smart we are, or how rich we are. It’s not about how perfect we are. None of the people in the Bible were perfect,

But the people who were heroes of faith, and heroines of faith – they’re the ones who trusted.

They trusted that God is good, all the time. They trusted that God can do things. They trusted that God can overcome impossible odds.

God can change hearts. Open prison doors. Bring life where there’s nothing but death.

God is light in the middle of total darkness. God is peace in a raging storm. God is water in a thirsty desert.

God is salvation, in the belly of a fish at the bottom of the ocean. God is victory, in the face of countless enemies.

I’m not making this up. This is what the Bible says. People who trust God, can walk through the middle of a stormy ocean, and have the waters roll back on either side.

People who trust God can leave everything behind like Abraham, and find a new home. They may suffer, in illness or slavery, for years, but they know that God will deliver them.
What matters isn’t the size of our faith. It’s the size of our God.

But faith doesn’t mean much, if we don’t use it. Most of the faith stories in the Bible, people trusted God, and then they acted on that trust in some way.

Peter got out of the boat. He thought he’d do the same thing that Jesus did, but he wasn’t quite ready for that. He saw how deep the water was, and his faith gave out. What Peter needed to do, was to keep his eyes on Jesus. Didn’t really matter how deep the water was. You can drown in three inches of water, as well as a thousand feet. Don’t look down at the water. Look at Jesus. And reach out your hand. He’ll grab you.

There was a man who came to Jesus once. His son kept having convulsions. Kept falling down, into the water, or into a cook fire. Terrible illness.

The disciples prayed, but the boy didn’t get better. Jesus asked, “How long’s this been going on?” The father answered, since he was just a boy. Please help him, if you can!”

Jesus said, “If I can? What do you mean, if I can? All things are possible for those who have faith.”

The father replied, “I believe! Help my lack of belief!”

See, that’s another good prayer we can use. “I believe! Help my lack of belief!”

Jesus never scolded the father, who was anxious for his son. He didn’t say, “Come back, when you’ve got more faith. Don’t bother me till then.”

This was a mustard seed moment. The father had almost no faith. His son had a hopeless illness. But Jesus said, “All things are possible for those who have faith.”

Even a little faith. Even a teeny-weeny, inchy-squinchy bit of faith. Because it’s not how much faith we have. It’s who Jesus is.

That’s why I always pray. My faith may not be much. But God specializes in doing impossible things. God comes running to meet us, when we take just one step towards God.

And you know, the big miracles aren’t always the showy ones. Parting the Red Sea. Knocking walls down. Raising the dead.

Often the most important miracles, are the ones inside ourselves. Mountains of hatred, that need to be moved. Storms of anger, that need to be calmed.

Forgiveness is a miracle. It’s a miracle when God forgives us. And it’s a miracle when we forgive someone else. Every time.

When we’ve been going the wrong way, and turn back, because God called to us, that’s a miracle. And it’s faith that makes us take the first step back in the right direction. And it takes faith to take the next step, and the step after that.

Faith is what it’s all about. It’s trusting that God is real, that Jesus is our teacher, Lord and savior, that those whispers of the Holy Spirit in our heart are OK to follow.

Lord, increase our faith.

We believe – help our lack of faith.

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