Tiny Seed – Big Vision
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 17: 5 – 10. Focus on how faith has everything to do with seeing new realities! Check out Kelly Crandell & The choir – Featuring Matthew Forbes solo – Alleluiah.
The disciples say, “Increase our faith!” And Jesus replies: “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (vs. 5 -6) At first this strikes me as a sarcastic remark at best and a snarky one at worst. If you had, you could move mountains. If you had you could save yourself. In the eyes of Jesus the disciples have no faith whatsoever! Zip – None!
Even a little bit could work wonders, but Jesus says they don’t even have enough to call it a mustard seed. Evidence – the trees remain rooted in the ground. And the mountains haven’t moved an inch! Clearly, his reply is at the very least insensitive to an honest request from the disciples. And at worst, it exhibits a callous cynicism from the master of faith himself.
But Jesus isn’t one who offers thoughtless answers. Rather that insulting his disciples, Jesus is cutting off their assumptions about faith and life.
Faith isn’t anchored in God, heaven or anything else spiritual! On the contrary, faith changes the landscape of this world. It moves more than mountains and transplants trees. It sees in a grain of sand a world of technology. It sees in the minerals of the earth – steel and the girders that scrape our sky. It sees in the atom power beyond our wildest imaginings. Faith isn’t a passport to heave nor is it a belief in God.
Faith is simply a new understanding of the way the world can be. Faith sees with amazing clarity a reality that others do not yet see. It’s why Beethoven heard in his minds eye what he could not hear with his ear. Its why the prophets were able to see the landscape of reality and tell their contemporaries what it meant for the immediate future!
When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” we assume he is talking about heaven. But, it turns out that faith is a radically imaginative approach to this life. The categories of winners and losers are not finally settled. The definitions that would seek to limit and define us – “sinner”, “loser”, are not forged in Carnegie’s steel. Jesus looks at life and how it could be under God’s vision of creation. The original blessing of creation and of life. The original intent – not the fallen world we live in and accept as the only alternative.
When faced with the dilemma of 5,000 hungry people late in the day, his disciples came to him with the question, “What shall we do? A. Tell them to go home. B. Tell them to go hungry. Jesus says, C. None of the above. We shall bless what we have and multiply it.
For those who benefit from the way things are – be careful. Things always change. So he says to the poor, the poor who have been told that they are losers and sinners by those who are supposed to lead them. “Blessed are the poor.” And to the meek who know their place in the social pecking order, “Blessed are the meek,” for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
And to the rich he says this: “It will be more difficult for you to make it into the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle.” (Matthew 19:24) It was the way that he saw life and how life could be that threatened the religious and political leaders of his day. For Jesus said to them. “There is nothing settled about life or the present situation.”
To those who have spiritualized faith by insisting that is has to do with things otherworldly. Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior because he gives us permission to be in this world, but not of it; not defined by its limited options, nor bound by its alternative to God’s idea of a just and hope filled life.
There is mounting evidence in the field of cancer research, which I saw with my own eyes at the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Hospital in New York, that faith healing has little to do with belief in God. The research from patients playing the game of Pac Man have a statistically significant chance of getting better from cancer by simply imagining the white blood cells as a victorious army putting to rout the invading army of cancer cells.
Faith in divine providence is not as important as mentally imagining the body as being healthy and ridding itself of cancer cells. Faith in this sense is imaginative vision that sees what medical science is just beginning to see. What you believe in shapes the outcome of your life’s experiences.
To visualize something that is yet to be is uniquely human. It is also a human call to responsibility and stewardship for our planet and our individual lives that make up the whole of creation. That is why what we dream on, visualize is so important. Faith seeks to fulfill its own prophecy and that is why we must always ask ourselves what kind of vision is being projected to and for us? Is it a vision of doom or a vision of hope? Is it a vision that offers fear or faith?
These are critical questions that we should be asking ourselves. Faith is simply living the alternative to what the world says is important. If we believe that climate change is nothing we can correct then we will hasten that vision to its end. If we believe that we can make a difference then we will. Its that simple and that hard at the same time. No one can make you believe in the faith filled vision of a kingdom that resembles Genesis 1 but nothing will stop those who see it from striving for it.
Faith is simply living as though it can be true. Faith, in the sense that Jesus spoke of it with his disciples, is simply envisioning a practicing an alternative future. It is daring to risk living by a new vision.
The promise of life contained in that tiny seed of faith is the ground of all hope. It is also a great threat because its vitality and virulence is stronger than the powers of death. However, faith’s vision is both constructive and destructive. It always threatens the status quo. Instinctively we know that it is costly to follow this vision. It means having to give up certain things in order to gain others. There is always a choice to be made. Herein lies the threat – a dead Jesus means others can speak for him. But alive he speaks for himself. He is the God of the living because people still follow him. Because people still believe in his way, his truth and his life.
Therein lies the danger of Jesus’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth. It’s like a live grenade rolling around. You never know when it will go off in someone’s imagination. I believe this church can be an alternative vision to the one, which says you are on your own. No one cares about you. You can’t make a difference. And if you can see this place as a place that embraces your hopes and dreams, challenges your fears and offers you a refuge from the storm then invest more than your money in it. Invest your lives in it. Make it true! Amen