Sermon Oct 2, 2022: "The theme is faith"
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Our readings today all fit together! There is a clear theme that ties things together. The theme is faith. In our first reading the message is that faith in God sustains us in difficult times. In the reading from 2nd Timothy we are told that faith is a gift from God and we are encouraged to exercise that faith thru the help of the Holy Spirit. In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus is instructing the disciples on the power of faith and the duties of discipleship.
Our readings today rest in God’s promises. Sometimes its hard for us to hear God’s promises in the words we read or hear. Sometimes its hard to hear God’s promises to us because we are burdened with guilt or remorse or low self esteem or perhaps we are overwhelmed with worry or struggling in countless ways.
But our readings today remind us that God can do a great deal with a little bit of faith.
I imagine we can easily see ourselves in Luke’s Gospel today. How many times have we asked, begged or prayed to have more faith? How many of us can say we have never desired more faith? Martin Luther wanted more!
Humans are driven by a desire for more. We are driven to grow, to explore, to discover. Because of this we have found cures for illness, we have gone to space among countless inventions that have changed life and society. But at the same time we have used the desire for growth for good, we have also enslaved one another, have desecrated the natural world and have discovered many many ways to kill each other.
Part of the Christian life is also about growth. We no longer believe like the 1st century Christians did, that there is a dome over the earth and that God is just on the other side of it. As Christians we need to grow - or we should want to grow. Grow in the knowledge and love of God. Grow in our love for neighbour and ourselves. Grow in worship practices. Grow in personal devotions. Grow in the community of believers. Staying stagnant kills faith.
Jesus challenged his disciples, challenged those who followed him and listened to his teaching. He challenged them to grow out of hidebound slavish devotion to religious rules that punished or excluded. He challenged them to grow out of prejudice and hate toward others. He challenged them to live life abundantly, to love extravagantly and to be all that they were meant to be.
This message is not old or tired or obsolete. Its a message for today - for now and its a message for us.
Sometimes we are resistant to change. Sometimes we do not want to grow. We want to hold onto the things that we feel make us safe. We know the world is an uncertain place that can upend us at any time and we do not like that. But staying put, holding on to past behaviours or practices do not keep us safe or secure. They only hold us back from becoming who we can be.
Jesus was not content to stagnate. Jesus was growing throughout his life and ministry. He started by following closely the rules and regulations of the synagogue. Then he followed the teachings of John the Baptist. But Jesus grew to learn that to follow a path of abundant life and extravagant love meant breaking down barriers that were set up by the religious institutions and elites. It meant breaking down social and cultural barriers. It meant an end to racism, hate and prejudice in favour of all humans living to their full potential. Ditch the guilt and embrace the freedom that Jesus brings.
This means that you have to grow. You cannot stand still. Your faith needs to grow. So perhaps this is the fall to commit to a regular prayer practice or a personal devotion. Perhaps it is a time to read a book that will challenge your assumptions, that will push your boundaries and make you think. Perhaps this is the fall to learn a new hymn.
Our readings today are about faith. The Gospel often challenges us to rethink what we think life in the Kingdom is really all about. What was Jesus teaching? Too often our history, our desire to hold onto what makes us feel comfortable and safe have been in direct conflict with what Jesus taught about the kingdom. Too often in our history we have not wanted to grow and change but that does not bring about the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.
The Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was one where all humans could live full lives. Where all humans could be who they were meant to be. Where hate, prejudice, racism, hunger, oppression and cruelty had no place. The Kingdom we are supposed to be working toward is a place of growth in faith and growth in love.
That is still good news generations later.