“Mustard Seed Living”
aith has been defined as “the power of believing what we know to be untrue.” C. S. Lewis tweaked that and defined faith as “the power of continuing to believe what we once honestly thought to be true until cogent reasons for honestly changing our minds are brought before us.” (Christian Reflections, chap. 3, para. 10) A friend and Professor of Mathematics defined faith as “the power to believe in God’s power when we reach the blind alleys of science. There is always a step of faith.” It is not the size of our faith, but that we have just a tiny spark that God designed into us at Creation.
One of Jesus’ ways of illustrating faith was with the mustard seed. He used this tiny seed to show how a big thing can come from a small beginning. The size of our faith is not the critical ingredient in Discipleship. Our tiny amount of faith in God is all that is needed from us. It’s not how big our faith is but that we have faith.
Our relationship with God is what the Old Testament called a “Suzerainty” Covenant; or, a partnership between a weak partner and a very strong partner. In today’s world we contracts between rich and poor clients. Often, the weaker party has some experience that will be of practical use in operating the new company. For example, a person who has years of experience operating a gas station, but little money, joins with a rich man who has no practical experience but a lot of capitol. Our weakness is made strong through God Almighty’s infusion of grace and power. Our contribution to the New Covenant, relationship with Christ is just a tiny, mustard seed sized, amount of faith. Indeed, our willingness is all that is necessary to enter into friendship with God.
Our means of Grace is beautifully symbolized by the blood of Christ that was literally poured out on the Cross. This replaced the blood sacrifice of an animal during the Old Testament Covenant. Our faith in the New Covenant forms a partnership/relationship between our all powerful God, and we weak creatures that have nothing to bring but our tiny faith.
Today, we re-enact the sealing of our covenant relationship with God by receiving the symbols of blood and body of Holy Communion. This is a symbolic re-enactment of Jesus Last Supper with the Apostles. When Jesus passed the wine and bread to His Apostles at the Last Supper, He said “this is my body, this is my blood.” Naturally, the Apostles understood that in the Old Testament tradition this blood and body was a symbol of the actual blood and body that would be sacrificed on the tree. The Apostles, as good Hebrews had never touched blood. The idea must have initially seemed repulsive to them. Rabbis would slaughter the lambs of ritual sacrifice. However, the power of the symbol would have illustrated the point to us.
Another time Jesus had healed a boy of epilepsy and the Apostles asked why they too could not perform such miracles and Jesus said: “Because of your little faith; or in this story, a lack of faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matt. 17: 20-21)
We also hear Jesus saying that, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come... but when another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” (Lk. 17: 1, 3-4)
In today’s story that mentions a mustard seed the Apostles seemed shocked at Jesus’ hard command to repeated forgiveness and asked, “Lord, increase our faith!” To this Jesus said, “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.” (v.5) or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrases this line in The MESSAGE: “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks to door to restored relationships between us and God, and between us and others. Forgiveness could calm the storms in our homes, schools and businesses. It could enable folks to work together. Forgiving relatives, neighbors, friends and associates at work could mellow deeply grudges and animosity.
Radical and repeated forgiveness in Jesus’ name is the way to rear children and sometimes the same forgiveness is the only way to win a souse back.
Jesus is saying that mustard seed sized faith is the beginning of our ability to both receive and extend forgiveness with all people at all times. Forgiveness could make our world new. It could fill that big empty hole in our heart.
A tiny amount of simple childlike faith is all it takes to get started, but as with a seed that is planted, it takes sunshine, rain and most of all time for the seed to germinate and grow up to become a 35 foot tall mustard tree.
Do we really want Jesus to increase our faith or, do we think that such notions are the signs of weakness? The warning is that if we start applying this religious stuff seriously, we might end up giving some of our money away, or volunteering our time, or forgiving folks that we have written off as being unforgivable. Christ likeness might remold the tough and powerful persona that we have been trying to perfect. Our secular foundations might begin to crumble. Actually applying our tiny faith to everyday life might rock our world! We can guarantee a new you!
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor