10/4/98, P18C

“Mustard Seed Living”
Luke 17: 1-10

ne of Jesus’ favorite ways of illustrating faith was with the mustard seed. He always uses this smallest of seeds to show how big things can come from small beginnings.

He was asked, “What is the Kingdom of God like? And he responded, “The Kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed, that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” (Lk. 13: 19, NRSV).

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 lack of faith). For truly I tell you, if you have faith the
size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Mover from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matt. 17: 20-21).

Then in our lectionary reading for today we 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). The Apostles seemed shocked at Jesus’ command to repeated forgiveness and asked,
“Lord, increase our faith!” To this Jesus says, “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).

We still recoil when we hear that we too are required to forgive those who repent of their lying, cheating and even adultery, and then ask for our forgiveness. We too would rather condemn the sinner and write him/her off.
This is the non believer’s natural human response to being taken advantage of. Sometimes it seems impossibly for us to forgive evil doers, those who break God’s moral code, and cross the line of civil behavior. It is impossible in
human terms, but as recipients of the gift of Christian faith, “...nothing will be impossible to you.” (see reference above to Matt. 21).

Frank Boggs brought me a wonderful story this week that uniquely illustrates this point. Several of his Atlanta friends have substantiated it, but it has not made the media, so we can’t be sure if it is really true ;-)
This is the thrilling story of the recent salvation experience of a controversial woman, that lives in our downtown neighborhood, whom many will have a very hard time forgiving and receiving as a sister in Christ.

Frank’s friend is director of women’s prayer and study groups at a neighbor church. She was at a ladies meeting where every other person had on a club blazer with a club emblem on the pocket. Jane graciously spoke to her
and asked why she was not wearing her blazer. She said, “O, I am not a member, I am just here to lead a prayer.” “Are you a minister?” Jane asked, “No, I lead women's prayer groups.” Then Jane (Mrs. Ted Turner) asked, “Would you please pray for me, I have felt a big empty hole in my heart all of my life, and recently Jimmy Carter has been telling me about how much Jesus Christ has meant to him, as we have sat together at Braves baseball games: Just a couple of weeks ago I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Will you pray for me?”

The greater question is, will the many who still deride her as “Hanoi Jane” be able to forgive. Thirty five years ago as a young woman she went to North Vietnam during the war, and we still hear folks proclaiming, “I will never forgive her!” But, Jesus plainly says that we must. Indeed, in Matthew 6: 15 Jesus says, “...if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

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 your home. It could enable folks to work together at the office.
Forgiveness could help you see your own need for repentance and forgiveness--- to get the log out of your own eye, so you might help get the speck out of your neighbors.

Jesus is saying that mustard seed sized faith is the beginning of our ability to both receive and extend forgiveness. Forgiveness could make your world new. It could fill that big empty hole in your heart.

A tiny amount of simple childlike faith is all it takes to get started, but as with a seed that is planted, it take sunshine, rain and most of all time for the seed to germinate and grow up to become a 35 foot tall mustard
tree. Jimmy Carter did not become a giant of our faith in just one day; but, it all started with the Sunday School faith in a little boy’s heart down in Plains, Georgia.

Do we really want Jesus to “Increase our faith!”; or, do we think that such notions are the signs of weakness? Hey, If we start taking this religious think really seriously, we might end up giving chunks of our money away, or volunteering our time, or forgiving folks whom we have judged as unforgivable. Christ likeness might remold the tough character that we have been trying so desperately been attempting to act out on the world’s stage. Our secular foundations might begin to crumble. Faith might destroy us!

Maybe this is why Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, follows up his radical call to forgive or not be forgiven with, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you
will wear... consider the lilies of the field... But strive first for the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (see Matt 6: 25-34).

And it all begins with a tiny mustard seed size faith. Dare we plant it in the ground?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

10/4/98, P18C