Saturday, October 6, 2007

How Much Is Enough?

7 October 2007 – Proper 22C – Habakkuk 1:1-4,2:1-4 – Luke 17:5-10

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

How Much Is Enough?

This is a fundamental question for all of us: How much is enough? Especially at this time of year when the words like Stewardship, Pledge, Proportional Giving, and Tithe are in the air.

Luke has told us in no uncertain terms that Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. On the way Jesus talks endlessly about the life of discipleship. He talks about hospitality, welcoming and helping strangers, seeking lost sheep and lost coins, visiting prisoners, prodigal sons, the rich man and Lazarus. Then he lays it on in chapter 17 just before our Gospel this morning by saying that if you cause anyone to sin, may you take a swim with the fishes with cement overshoes on! And you must rebuke those who sin, and forgive those who repent seven times a day!

Is it any wonder the disciples cry out, “Increase our faith!” They are being asked to assume major leadership positions in the community of Christ. And no one wants to end up in the proverbial swim with the fishes!

What is so wonderful about Jesus and his method of training us and developing our discipleship is exemplified in his response. For much of the gospel he has questioned the faith of the disciples. “You have such little faith,” he says often. “Where is your faith?” he asks on the stormy sea. So it is only natural that they cry out, “Give us more…give us more faith…increase it, please, so we can succeed at all of this.”

It is a cry with which we are familiar. Whenever the church is faced with challenges we say we need more: we need more resources, we need more planning, we need more people, we need more, more, more of everything before we can possibly do what Jesus calls us to do.

We all know just how the disciples are feeling. We put off leading a Bible Study until we know more about the Bible. Or, we put off increasing our pledge until we are making just a bit more money. Just tap into those feelings of needing more before listening to Jesus’ response.

Now hear what he says. Jesus says we do not need to increase our faith, we just need the tiniest bit of faith imaginable. A grain of mustard seed’s worth of faith can empower you to do great things. Which is to say, unless you have no faith, you already have enough. You have enough! What you have is sufficient. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1]

As our catechism says on page 855 in the Book of Common Prayer, we are to bear witness to Christ wherever we may be, and “according to the gifts given us, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” This is the definition of lay ministry in the church. For this we were baptized.

This acknowledges that we have all been given gifts and resources. As Saint Paul makes clear in his letter to the Corinthians, we do not all have the same gifts, but we all have gifts necessary to do the things Jesus does. And most astonishing of all, in the fourteenth chapter of John Jesus tells us, “…and greater things than these you will do.”

Can we even imagine this? We are promised by Jesus that with the gifts we have already been given we will do greater things than he does. What an incredible assertion. What a promise! This means God does not ask us to do anything more than that which God has equipped us to do. Of course, God also expects us to do no less.

No wonder the prophet Habakkuk is commanded to erect a Billboard large enough to be read as people go racing by declaring God’s promises to us. Write it large enough to be seen along the highway, he is told: You Have Enough! Use What You Have Been Given! You Will Do Greater Things Than I do! Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith!

We know this all to be true. After all, we began our worship praying, “Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.” And we can all confess that we desire an awful lot. This is all meant to help us to see, however, that what is at stake here is not the power of faith, which is in fact unquantifiable, but the power of God!

In Luke, Jesus goes on to say, that at the end of the day, when you have used the gifts you already have been given you may still feel as if you have not done enough - that you do not have enough to give. You may still feel unworthy somehow. That it is only your duty to have done these things Jesus calls us to do.

This is only natural, because we are so filled with the Love of God, so filled with the Spirit of God, so perfectly created in God’s own generous and giving image that we always want to do more for God’s sake and for our neighbor’s sake.

How much is enough? We are to trust what we have – what we have been given. Trust what we have to give. It is more than enough. We can uproot trees. We can move mountains. The lame will walk, the blind will see. Loaves multiply so there’s enough to feed. As you sow, you shall receive. As you follow Christ, you will begin to lead. If only you have faith as small as a mustard seed. Our faith proclaims the power of God within us and all around us!

The kingdom of God is at hand. We can reach out and touch it, feel its nearness, and participate in its fullness. God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, if only we have faith as small as a mustard seed.


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