Habakkuk 1: 2-3, 2: 2-4; 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14; Psalm 95; Luke 17:5-10
In our Gospel lesson from St. Luke, Our Lord says to the apostles, “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, ‘We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.’” If we are servants of God, and I hope that we are because that is what Culdees are, then just what is our duty, what have we been commanded to do? This question is answered earlier in our Gospel passage, and in the other lessons, and that is: Have Faith. Jesus said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore (or mulberry, depending in the translation), ‘Be uprooted and transplanted into the sea,’ and it would obey you.” A small amount of faith on our part, can do mighty works when offered to God. The Church Fathers used the mulberry translation because, according to their writings, the mulberry tree was a symbol of evil because silk worms feed on it and worms are also a symbol of evil, being uprooted and transplanted into the sea means destroying evil, as when our Lord drove the herd of pigs full of demons into the sea. Our faith, in harmony with God’s grace, can drive out and destroy evil, in our hearts, our lives, our homes and our society. Not easily, and not quickly, but it can. The Prophet Habakkuk laments: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! … Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.” Does this describe our life, our world? Yes; but God’s answer to the prophet, is our answer, as well. “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” Even if we think that God should hurry things along, work on our schedule, God’s time will come in God’s time, and that time is the best time. Faith is our recognition and acknowledgement that God is God – and we are not. God is Perfect, All-Knowing, the Creator and Savior – and we are not. We are useless servants, or unprofitable, without merit, worthless, ordinary or merely servants, again depending on the translation, because everything we are and have already belongs to God. Our service, our faith, our love, are not so much a gift from us to God as an offering back to God what we have received from God. This truth is the key to a peaceful and grace-filled life. The cares and woes and burdens of this life are transient, they will pass away, whatever happens to us in this life is temporary, as long as we cling with faith to the Source of our life. This can be very difficult when we are watching our loved ones suffer, or we ourselves are suffering – we cry out with Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord?” And the answer is “Trust me.” Do we? Can we? Really, trust God? With our lives, our families, our choices and consequences, our day to day life as well as our eternal destiny? We not only can and do, but we must, there really is no other choice, or not one that leads to life, only an unending dying – not even death – just dying; of worry, fear, stress, anger, resentment, bitterness, envy, depression and thwarted ego. Not an appealing picture.
In the beginning of our Christian life we were given a gift that makes all this possible – trust, faith, peace, grace and love. From St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy we read, “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you. The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving and wise…Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” The gift we have received is God’s own Holy Spirit dwelling in us, making us the Body of Christ, enabling us to follow Christ, to take up our cross with courage and to keep going, no matter what. It is this reality that makes our faith so powerful, not we ourselves, but God dwelling in us. Our faith, our duty, consists mostly of keeping ourselves usable by God. If we are full of unrepented sin, of the futile busyness and striving for material gain that so infects our society, then the is very little for God to work with, or through. But, however small our offering of faith or trust, God can make it grow and miracles will happen. Remember the loaves and fishes and the feeding of the 3,000 and the 5,000, remember the small group of disheartened disciples gathered in the upper room, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that changed the world. Remember all those who have gone before us in faith and trust, in love and hope, who struggled and failed just as we do, but who right now, in the fullness of the Kingdom, are praying for us, praying that on the Day of the Lord we will be counted among them.
So, even though our mustard seed of faith and trust may look more like a sub-atomic particle, let us humbly offer it to God, with our love and thanksgiving, and then watch what happens.
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