Isn’t it amazing that those closest to Jesus, those called disciples or apostles, faced regular questions about their own faith? They must have marveled at Jesus who was so wise, so committed, so courageous and so faithful to the mission he was called by God to do. With this marveling came a regular period of self-doubt. The disciples questioned their own worthiness to follow the Master who was setting an incredibly high bar of faithfulness. If those closest to Jesus felt they didn’t have enough faith, it’s no wonder that today’s disciples cry out the same prayer – “Lord, Increase Our Faith!”
When Jesus heard his prayer (as he hears all our prayers), he delivered a strange response: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.” The mustard seed is among the smallest of seeds, slightly larger than 1 millimeter in diameter, barely visible to the eye. And yet, when planted, it may grow into a bush as great as 9 feet tall, a seemingly impossible result from such a humble start.
In order for the seed to become such a large and flourishing bush, several things must happen. First, the seed must die. The seed can never grow out of the ground, unless it ceases to exist as a seed. God calls us to allow the faith we have in ourselves to die, so that growth can come another way.
Secondly, the seed can only grow by allowing the soil to provide nutrients, the rain to provide water, and the sun to give it warmth and light. Having the faith of a mustard seed, means trusting God and others to supply what we need to grow. In other words, when we allow our own faith, or seed, to die, we trust in others to provide life-giving and life-sustaining elements. We live under God, in the community of the world created around us.
Finally, as we grow in faithfulness, in trust of God’s promises, this great bush which began life as a single seed, becomes capable of yielding hundreds and hundreds of new seeds, and the process renews and multiplies. As we grow in faithfulness, our examples become life-granting to others, and we faithfully look to God to provide nourishment and relationships that will allow those seeds to emerge into flourishing plants.
So maybe the prayer we should be asking is not for Jesus to increase our faith. No, maybe our faith is already too big, because too often, we see ourselves as the provider of our own growth and the author of all of our own possibilities, a faith that comes from within. In answer to the prayer “Increase Our Faith”, Jesus grants just the opposite. The disciples’ faith was great, but it was misplaced in themselves, and all they could see was limited possibilities. Instead of increasing their faith, Jesus tells them to reduce their faith down to the size of a small seed, and let God’s faithfulness take over – and see all things as possible.
And so we pray, “Lord, give me faith as small as a mustard seed”!
For the Full Text of the Sermon "Lord, Increase Our Faith" Click Here
Devotions for the week of October 2, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.