Here’s a share of my sermon this morning at West Fayette Presbyterian Church.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
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.
If we’re honest — notice how I linked the sermon topic — do we really believe that? Do we have the power to make extraordinary things happen? Can we change the natural order of things?
I believe we do and can, although I say that with a little caveat. We cannot do it, but our faith can. That, my friends, I believe, is what Jesus was saying in the opening words of today’s gospel. And Matthew (17:20), Mark (4:30-31) (9:23) and (11:22) echo Luke’s words, All things are possible to him who believes!
All my life, I’ve been a pretty positive guy. I always looked at the “half full” side of the glass. Even in dark days I could look beyond the storm. Okay, some times I had to be forced to be still and remember God is God and in control. And I will never say I totally understand the whys of life.
But I have learned to accept the daily ups and downs and recognize I am not in control. I want to be, Lord knows, but I’m not.
After we learned the prognosis of Karen’s illness, my mantra song was Dare To Believe by Ray Boltz. I would crank it up when it played on the radio or if I had popped in the CD. Everyone knew I was coming … they could hear me.
There’s a miracle inside you
It’s just a mustard seed of faith
But by the mighty hand of God now
You know that tiny seed was placed …
For the God that we serve
He is much more than able, yes, He is
So don’t be afraid
Stand up and say, I dare to believe
I dare to believe
That miracles happen, yeah
That mountains still move
And demons must flee …
I believed that with all my heart. I still do, although God’s results didn’t move my mountain.
There are many other traditional hymns and contemporary Christian songs that address God NOT moving mountains. They are reminders to me to keep the faith … to trust … remind me who is in control … and most of all to look forward, not back. A contemporary favorite of mine is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle. The chorus says it all …
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
Let’s be honest. THAT is extremely difficult. Our faith does get shaken. Our focus does get diverted. We retreat into ourselves or we lash out at others. We get hurt. We get disappointed. We get disillusioned. We can’t make sense of the violence or abuse or illness or even the death of someone close.
Truth is we don’t have to. There is a greater Power who has all the answers. My job — your job — isn’t to figure out the answers. My job — your job — is to trust in the God who has been there through the good and bad times. Isn’t it exciting to know we have an anchor in the storms of life?
That’s what makes it all worthwhile. That spurs hope for a future. That’s the seed of faith germinating inside you and me.
Despite the dark words of Psalm 137 and our first reading in Lamentations, the darkness is replaced with light by way of hope. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…
And Paul shares with us the words to Timothy in today’s epistle reading, telling us to rely on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
But, again, let’s be honest. We can hear the words, but do we HEAR the words? Do we believe them? Do they resonate with us? Do they change us?
Well, maybe … or least for an hour on Sunday morning with perhaps a short bump as we walk through the everyday, mundane tasks of our lives. But generally, and unfortunately, Scripture words are just words and not life changing. When we leave here we return to the “real world” and revert to our “real lives.”
Jesus’ tells us if you want to increase your faith, have faith the size of a mustard seed. Believe in that power. Believe while we may not be able to move mountains, God can. And, sometimes, maybe He doesn’t want us to move the mountain but figure out a way around or over it that gives us the opportunities to shine His light.
By the way, the Jews of Jesus’ day probably understood this phraseology better than we. “Removing mountains” was a common phrase known in the day as meaning “to remove difficulties”. And, of course, in the agrarian nature of the time, they would have understood the significance of the mustard seed, one of the smallest of seeds which can overtake a garden and have been known to blossom to a large shrub that commonly reached the height of eight to ten foot around the Lake of Galilee.
Today’s parable is almost like Jesus telling the apostles — and by extension, us — “You already have faith you silly disciples! You just aren’t using it!” A little faith can go a long way.
See, the disciples were asking for the wrong thing. They didn’t need to increase their faith — they needed to increase their faithfulness. They needed to increase their faithfulness. There is a big difference.
Faith is a gift from God. He gives us the amount of faith we need and it never runs out. Actually, to ask God to increase our faith is kind of an insult.
Faithfulness, on the other hand, is our response to our faith. It’s what we do with our faith. And that is entirely up to us.
Faithfulness is defined as being loyal and obedient to the person we put our trust in. If we put our faith in Jesus, then we also have to be faithful to Him.
When we accept Jesus as Savior, we put our faith in Him. When we accept Jesus as Lord, we put our faithfulness in Him.
The second part of today’s gospel deals with our relationships with a parable about masters and slaves. Jesus is telling us to do what is expected of us … and then some. By today’s standards, the whole slave/master thing might seem wrong or archaic. But I think it’s a little deeper with an underlying challenge.
I’ll share a story.
A young man applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he simply said, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”
This puzzled the farmer. But he liked the young man, so he hired him.
A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found the shutters on the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace.
The young man was sleeping soundly.
The farmer and his wife then inspected the rest of the property. They found the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the barn. And the barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well.
It was then the farmer understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”
Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it came. And (SLOW) he could sleep in peace.
There was nothing dramatic or sensational in the young farmhand’s preparations. He just faithfully did what was needed each day. Consequently, peace was his when the winds blew, when the storms came.
Those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior can sleep when the wind blows as well. Their salvation is assured.
Now the challenge. We live for Christ, and to do His will, not for reward, not for praise, not for gain, but because I am to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. It isn’t the things you do, it is the things you leave undone which will give you heartache. The message is easy to read over, but aren’t like we often like worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!
Again, let’s be honest. That’s our nature. We do what we ought to do and often very little else. We — you and I — are broken and we — you and I — often let that brokenness pave our path. We — you and I — often look for the praise and adulation and forget our purpose in life, to shine the light of Christ in a dark world.
If we’re honest, we would see how God has taken us on our individual journeys. Whenever there were difficult encounters or joyful events, we can — or should — see Him at work. He has taken us from our youth to today — 10 years, 20 years, 50 plus years. Remembering His faithfulness is like looking at the mustard seed to remind us He is real. He gives life its purpose. Our heavenly Father provided our sacrifice for all times — His Son– as redemption for us all! That’s why we are reminded to give thanks in all situations and to praise Him for all He is and does.
You and I have a chance to change the trajectory of our lives, right here, right now. As you’ll hear in our special song from Francesca Battistelli,
“Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine,
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides.
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest. If we’re honest.”
Our lives may be the only sermon those around us will ever hear or, more important, will ever see. We say things like, “I’m not ready yet. I’m not prepared enough. I need to learn more. I need God to give me more faith.”
No. Show grace to the world around you, to those God sends into your life and make your broken life a glorious sermon.
Faith. Belief. Trust. Hope. Grace. Honesty. Brokenness. Love.
Personally, I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
Amen and Amen!
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if you lost everything … all your possessions, your family, your health, your money, your job security, your friends … would you still love God?