Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Children’s Message: You’ve heard this one, right? Which came first: the chicken or the egg? What do you think? Because the egg hatches into chicken, and a chicken lays an egg. So, which one came first?
Today, Jesus says that if one has faith like a seed of a mustard plant, they could tell a tree to move, and it would move. So, where does this faith come from? Well, a mustard seed comes from a mustard bush. And a mustard bush grows from a mustard seed. So, what I’m thinking is that faith—this gift from God—comes from those who plant it within you.
So, who taught you about faith? Who taught you about God? And who taught them about God and faith? And who taught them? And who will you teach about faith? About God? It’s a cycle, isn’t it? A circle—something that never really ends. Kind of like the chicken and the egg, or the seed and the tree. When we are faithful, the circle keeps spinning, and faith keeps going, from generation to generation to generation. And what you learn and live right now will change hearts for years to come. Even just little things…like sharing candy.
You know the rules—one for you and one for someone you’ve never met. Find out their name, share a high five if you’re comfortable. But first, let’s pray.
Dear God, you give us faith to learn and share. Help us increase our courage to share this faith with others. Amen.
Message: “Increase our faith!” the disciples cried. And it’s no wonder. Jesus had been teaching non-stop with difficult parables for quite some time. With Pharisees and wealthy people in the crowd, Jesus taught about throwing aside everything to find and save the lost among them; he accused the leaders of loving money more than people; he challenged people to use the world’s systems to establish justice; he exposed those who ignored the poor and needy at their doorstep.
And then, as took his disciples aside, seeming to threaten them, saying, “If anyone gets in the way of another’s faith, they’re better off dead. And if one of you sins against another and repents, I expect you to forgive them…even if they sin over and over and over again.”
And the disciples, hearing all of this, realize that they are no closer to meeting Jesus’ expectations than the Pharisees or any of the rest of the crowd. How can they possibly follow Jesus and his teachings if this is what they require? How can any of us be faithful to Christ if this is where it leads? Lord, increase our faith! Because God knows, the way it stands right now, we are in big trouble. It's not our faith that gets us through; it’s God’s faithfulness.
Jesus goes on to talk about what faith can do. But there is some nuance in the Greek. He doesn’t reference size—“If you have faith the SIZE of a mustard seed.” He says, “If you have faith as a seed of mustard.” Well, what does that mean? First of all, it’s not about size or quantity, at all. Faith is faith. It doesn’t get bigger or smaller. It simply IS. And what kind of faith does a mustard seed have? It has the faith that ensures that when planted, it will grow into a mustard bush—not a mulberry bush or an oak tree. It is a mustard seed. It will become a mustard bush.
That kind of faith is what Jesus entrusts to us. With faith that you are a child of God, that God loves you, that you are valuable and precious just as you are, with that faith you will grow in living in God’s kin-dom ways. With faith, you become more and more a reflection of God.
Think about it. The reasons that we withhold things like love, forgiveness and peace almost always (if not always) boil down to fear, pride, and greed. In our sin, we strive first to protect ourselves and our stuff. We walk away from loved ones in anger rather than be vulnerable and repent OR forgive. We push others away in case they get close enough to see our weaknesses—to use them against us. We hoard and hide so that when everyone inevitably abandons us, we can still be independent—even if it does mean ‘alone.’
But it’s not our independence, our pride, our strength, or even our faith that gets us through hard times; it’s God’s faithfulness.
We need to backtrack real quick before we move forward because there is an underlying misunderstanding when it comes to forgiveness in this world. We think that forgiveness means 1) forgetting what happened; 2) forgoing consequences for the event; and 3) allowing the person to do it again. But forgiveness means none of these. Forgiveness is the letting go of the event’s hold on our own hearts and emotions. It’s releasing ourselves from the control that an event OR person has on our decisions and our lives. It is freedom—primarily for the one doing the forgiving, and hopefully for the one being forgiven.
It is NOT forgetting the event. That is simply impossible and unwise. It is NOT doing away with the consequences. That’s pardon, and that’s not what we’re talking about here. And it is NOT putting oneself in the position of being hurt again—especially when it comes to one’s safety. That is reconciliation. That requires a great deal of work and a rebuilding of trust. Forgiveness is merely the first step. It is of utmost importance, but it is far from being the whole process.
We also need to recognize that repentance is an act of faith, as well. Repentance is more than saying you’re sorry over your shoulder while preparing to sin again. It is a reversal of behavior—a turning around of heart and mind. And while repentance and forgiveness are linked, one is not required for the other. You can repent without receiving forgiveness—though the relationships remains broken. And you can forgive without receiving repentance—with the same outcome. But you can’t move beyond that without both. And you can’t do either without faith—and faithfulness. It’s simply a matter of where that faith is placed. Is it placed in your own strength and independence—or in God and God’s love for you and others?
Because it’s not our faith that gets us through; it’s God’s faithfulness.
So, Jesus goes on. “Who in their right minds would tell their servants upon entering the house from their work in the fields to sit at the table and eat their fill? No. No one expects that. Instead, you would tell the servant to finish their work by preparing your meal. When they’re done, they can set and have their meal. In the same way, when you do what you’ve been told to do by God, you don’t expect special treatment. Instead, you say, ‘I was just doing my job.’”
We have to put aside the offensiveness of Jesus talking about worthless slaves long enough to understand what he’s getting at. And what he’s saying here is that with faith in God’s faithfulness, the work he asks of us no longer seems impossible or worthy of special treatment. We don’t go around saying, “Look, I gave 10% of my income to the church. Look at me!” Instead, we tap into our old-time TV heroes and tip our hat, saying, “Just doing my job, ma’am.” Because that’s all it is. We’re doing the work that has been given us. We’re forgiving and receiving forgiveness. We’re sharing and loving and being vulnerable. We’re doing it because that is the path laid for us by the Christ—the one who took humility to a whole new level, dying in humiliation so that we can see what it looks like to truly love.
And yes, God’s faithfulness gives us the strength to go further than we think we can—to love deeper and live larger and forgive more and let ourselves be open to it all. Because our faith—our simple, little, basic faith—is placed in the enormous, abundant, incredible love of God for each of us. We have nothing to prove. We have all that we need. All because we are children of God.
Pastor Tobi White
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church