Saturday, October 9, 2010

Taking our mustard seeds with us

Proper 22 C October 3, 2010
Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14 ; Luke 17:5-10

We all know some smug Christians. You know, those, “I have faith – and it’s a heck of a lot bigger than a mustard seed!” They imply to us, “What’s wrong with you?” They love passages like this one from the Gospel of Luke, this extolling of a muscular and over-the-top discipleship.

Doesn’t it just wear you out sometimes? Especially at those times when things are not going as you hoped, or expected? Is the opposite of faith, as these folks define it, really doubt, or weakness? Or is the opposite of faith certainty? Think of using this line, when you meet someone who seems to have it spiritually all together:Certainty is the belief that I’m smarter today than I will be tomorrow.

Oh, is it really? Are you really so sure that nothing new will come your way, that you will learn nothing, be in no way tested by the course of events, find no new and startling joy or unexpected delight that will turn your world upside down? Is there really nothing left to learn?

The people of Israel, dragged into a hated exile in Babylon certainly did not feel certainty – unless it was certainty that they were miserable. Sitting by those strange waters in a place that looked nothing like home, they started to look inward. Shaken to the core, they would rage at their enemies – even to the point of wanting to kill their enemies’ children, because, after all, where was this God who said would always be with them? This God who led them to the Promised Land – only to take them out of it again? Sitting by those strange waters, the people of Israel began to re-think what it meant to be the people of God, began to see that it had less to do with that place Jerusalem – that external, objective reality – and that it had more to do with that place in their hearts. The people of God began to realize they were not defined by something out there, some set of buildings or a set of religious rituals; the people of God began to realize that being the people of God started here, in the heart of each person. God’s promises of compassion and mercy were not somewhere out there, but here, in the heart of each of us. And because they were here, in the heart of each of us, they were no longer exclusive to “our kind of people” or “our place” or even “our temple.” Thrown into exile, the people of Israel began to think about themselves, and to pray to God, in a new way.

Paul must have written this letter when his friend, Timothy, was experiencing some kind of despair. Paul seems to be needing to encourage him, prop him up. Listen to this again:

Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

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

As we start to think about what it will mean to worship God in another building, perhaps with another community of faith, let’s think about who in this community play the role of Lois or Eunice in our lives. Who are the leaders who instilled in us a sense of God, a sense of community, a sense of hope? Who do we think of, when we need to be reminded of the great continuity of our mothers and fathers in the faith? Whose faith, which we first encountered here, in this place, now lives in us?

And as we do that, keep in mind that what appears to be as small as a mustard seed to some, is, to those of us who have eyes to see, as big and powerful and long-lasting as the mightiest of trees.

1 comment:

Mompriest said...

Thinking of you and this commuity of faith as you face into this new direction....may there be blessings even as there is sorrow.