Rev. Carol A. Prochaska (ret.)
October 6, 2013
Title: Faith Is A Verb!
Scripture: Habakkuk 2:1-4; Luke 17: 5-10
We may have heard it or we may have said something like: "She has a strong faith!" "He has a lot of faith!" Tucked inside these statements is a wistful admiration, perhaps some envy, and even some sadness because it seems to us that our faith is less. It seems to us that our faith is in some way inadequate. Thanks be to Luke who records for us the first disciples asking Jesus to increase their faith! Were they comparing their faith? Were they measuring their seemingly limited faith against a perceived ideal? Were they afraid of failing as disciples?
The word "faith" literally means "to trust". When we check the word "faith" in bible dictionaries or lexicons we find the word "trust". The same is true for "believe".
"Faith" comes from a root word meaning "to persuade" "to convince". When we set out to persuade someone we are asking them to trust us — to believe our words. We disciples trust God's vision for God's people. We trust Jesus' words to bring that vision about. Our trust — our faith — causes us to choose certain actions. Sometimes we do this, not because we see how it will work, but we because we have faith. Because we trust, we go ahead and try it out! No wonder we have the expression: "leap of faith"! So our trusting takes us into action. In the parable the slave does what is in his job description. As disciples our job description, in its most basic form, is loving self, neighbor and God. How we put that into action varies with who we are and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I share with you now a story from a September TV news broadcast:Seventy-eight-year-old Tona Herndon lives in Bethany, Oklahoma. Her husband of 60 years died this past summer. One day she was leaving the cemetery. Eyes clouded with tears — she never saw it coming — it being a mugger who got away with her purse and seven hundred dollars.
However it was not long before the police caught the thief. The story of his capture along with his mug shot was shown on TV. It took only seconds for fifteen year-old, Christian, to recognize the mug shot: it was his dad (the dad he seldom sees). Divorced from Christian's mother when he was two his dad has been mostly absent from his life (caused partly because his dad has been in and out of jail). However just recently Christian received from his dad $250 for a band trip Christian so wanted to go on. As he listened to the details of his dad's latest crime, this 15 year-old kid made a decision. He asked to meet Tona in a church parking lot. Christian explained this way: "I just had to tell her I was sorry about what happened. It needed to be done. She needed an apology from somebody. If I didn't apologize, who would?"
Along with the apology he gave Tona the $250 for his band trip, saying to her, "I'm not sure if it was yours or however my dad got it, but I'd feel bad if I didn't give to you."
Tona was deeply touched. "I accepted the money back", she said, "It was mine to do with what I wanted." She chose to give it all back to Christian, telling him, "I want you to take your band trip."
She told reporters: "It was a joy to do that. I feel more like my life has a purpose."
Christian told reporters: "You're not who your parents are. Even if they do raise you, you can become whatever you want to be."
"It needed to be done." said the 15 year-old.
Perhaps this is similar to what Jesus was getting at in the parable of the slave. The slave did his outside work: "It needed to be done." It was his job. Then he came in to prepare supper: "It needed to be done." It was his job.
Jesus says to us this morning: "So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done." Again we don't take this saying literally Ð but we do sit up and take notice of the truth within the saying! When we commit to the Jesus' Way, we disciples are committing to trust and to obey Jesus' words, as best we can.
We have been entrusted with God's vision for the well-being of all people and the inclusion of all people. We may be ridiculed. We may not have everyone's support. We may doubt that it can actually happen— But! We do what we can because: God has said so. Jesus lived it. And, it needs to be done!