Thursday, September 29, 2016

What is faith? Luke 17:5-10 Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

Jesus friends asked him for faith and more of it. My own prayers echo their words. I can't count all my requests for faith--for help believing. Jesus knew faith mattered more than his followers can imagine. His words must have left their heads spinning.

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. Luke 17:6 NRSV
What Jesus said--about the power of a seed sized faith--reveals the truth of God's kingdom. It's so close to us. With a little faith we can see God moving in our world in many and wonderful ways. With just a little faith Jesus says we will see amazing things happen. There's great power in faith. And Jesus invites us to find the power not with senses--but with faith.

The ancient Prophet Habakkuk groaned in his prayers. He wanted to see God move--He could name all the evil inhe world. He groaned to God about the violence and the danger. And God's response was to tell him boldly -- the rightreous live by faith. We want hard evidence and certainty. And the invitation that we have from God is to step out in faith.

Every August, right before the school year starts, I meet with every 7th grader at Grace. I sit down with each student and a parent to visit about what we do together in confirmation. At the end of our time together I give each of the the kids a mustard seed. I tell them about the three ways Jesus speaks of a mustard seed sized bit of faith:
  • moving bushes (Luke 13:19)
  • moving mountains(Matthew 17:20)
  • as the starting point of God's kingdom (Matthew 13:31, Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19).
Faith is a great mystery for me--but for Jesus it seems so simple: faith sees past the visible into the future that God is preparing. What Jesus has to say about mustard seed sized faith opens up the mystery of faith like a flag unfurling. By faith we trust in the power of God to do even more. Think about how it's best to talk about faith in the light of Jesus' mustard seed parables--
  • is faith action?
  • is faith a thing to hold onto?
  • is faith a gift?
  • is it something that comes from work?
It's, no doubt, a great gift of the Holy Spirit. But when and how the spirit moves--that's the part of faith that's the greatest joy. God's on the move and faith helps me trust even when I can't see God present to know without seeing that God at work.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cross Carrying Luke 14:25-33

Luke tells a story about great crowds who followed Jesus and his direction to carry the cross. I think of it as a great invitation to think about how we see Jesus and the crosses he calls us to carry.
How do you see Jesus?
This question matters.

There are so many true and faithful images of Jesus.

  • the kindhearted soul man who said let the little children come onto me.
  • the prophet who spoke of justice and called people to repent and turn back to God.
  • the man who spoke of God's judgment speaking of those who cared for the least of these as those who cared for God.
  • Jesus is the same one who died on the cross—for the sake of the world—who called out to God in deepest agony—my God, my God why have you abandoned me. Jesus life on earth was just as varied as any of ours might be. He knew joy and pain—he knew friendship and betrayal.
And how we think of Jesus—which part of the story we tell ourselves and those we love matters.

And today in Luke comes this powerful story about the great crowds who were following Jesus and what he had to tell them. The crowds came to see miracles and hear powerful teaching. They came to see him in the marketplaces and in the synagogues. I think most people in the crowds had one picture of Jesus. And it was true picture. They had this one image of Jesus as the powerful miracle worker. But his words to the great crowds set them and everyone who still heads his words back a step or two.
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciples.
I think the crowd would have gotten really quiet to hear these world. The crowds came expecting to be filled. They wanted to step up and receive many good things—and Jesus spoke to them about picking up their cross. A cross that was coming not just for him but for them. Pick it up he said—pick up your cross and follow me.

We want God to make us prosperous and healthy, happy and care free. And Jesus tells us not to leave our cares behind but to pick up our cross and start to walk with him.

Pick up your cross—oh brother—I don't want my cross. I'd like some other cross—but Jesus doesn't tell me to go pick out my favorite cross. He tells me to pick up mine. If we could pick our crosses they'd be small. Maybe made of gold or platinum and covered with diamonds. But the real cross isn't small. Maybe you'd like a cross made of balsa wood—but we don't get to pick our crosses. They come for us in this life. And to walk with Jesus means carrying our own and walking close with him.
Peace, and thanks for reading, John.