Sermon – 10-06-19 – Proper 22 – Cycle C
Scripture: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
Sermon Title: “In the Darkest Hour: Blind Faith”
Jesus says astonishing things! You may remember that, sometime in past weeks, I mentioned that Jesus’ style of teaching and preaching was exaggeration, hyperbole. Why would this God-man not stick to straight-line truth? If we think about it, we may catch the most profound wisdom that is hiding inside the startling ideas.
Today’s gospel passage is one such example. First, Jesus is saying that faith the size of a mustard seed – extremely small – will enable a mulberry tree to be uprooted and move through the air into the sea and be re-planted in the sea! Incredulous as that seems, we move from the antics of Disney-like film making into the reminder of cruelty being the status quo of human interaction. Just reading verses 7 through 10, leaves me exhausted and fuming that we as fellow humans expect such raw servanthood from other humans or even animals.
Those verses tell about servants or slaves working in the field all day in who knows what kind of weather; then coming into the house and heading straight for the kitchen – not to eat – but to prepare the meal and serve the meal and much later get to eat whatever is left. I added the “whatever is left.” Surely, they were not allowed to put aside food for themselves before they served the master and his family. This was called “duty.” I call it “cruelty.”
Upon researching mulberry tree, I learned that we should not expect fruit for ten years. That is a lot of patience, seemingly endless waiting! It is strange then that the reference to the mulberry tree by Jesus produces the idea of waiting for fruit followed by the master of the servants who thinks it is okay to make servants wait for a meal and for rest, but the master is not willing to wait. In that culture it was expected that servants had a duty to serve the master before any deserved rest for themselves. In the language of Jesus, we shall be like the servants in waiting.
Hearing from the long-ago Psalmist inPsalm 37, we have, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently. Do not be provoked by the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes. Put your trust and delight in the Lord, who shall give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in the Lord, and see what God will do.”
Over and over, I find myself saying, “We’ll see what God will do.” We do our homework. We serve with servant attitudes. We do the leg work. We do the research. Then we wait! Wait patiently for him. This waiting business is hard! Especially hard if we have minds that race ahead the minute a faint possibility appears. “Go for it!” I tell myself. It is my nature. Seasoned and wise people say, “Wait!” Take it easy. Be patient. See what God wants us to do. See what God will produce. Before our eyes we will see the mulberry tree being lifted from the soil and being moved through the air into a new home – an unexpected new home for a tree. From Proverbs 3:5 6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not onto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”
If you feel a strange stirring in your minds or hearts or both when you hear and think on these words, don’t shush it away. Let it build, let it blossom. At this moment in time, when Zion United Church of Christ in Womelsdorf is seeking God’s guidance, we need to trust in the Lord, we need to do our homework, we need to do the research, we need to imagine all sorts of possibilities. But we also need to multi-task. While we are like spiders or centipedes trying to go in all directions with our many legs, in the middle of that there is a center for quietness, for checking with God, for being so quiet that we might hear God’s breath whispering to us.
The biggest trust we have in God is that he loves us with an everlasting love. A deep everlasting love. Yes, sometimes we find that love in a whisper. Sometimes we find that love in action on our behalf. Sometimes God needs to scream at us to get our attention. Something like the hyperbole of a mustard tree moving across our vision in the air or even scooting across the ground leaving a ditch as it goes. What is that ditch?!?! Oh, it is our injustice to people around us. It is our injustice to the earth. It is our unloving ways with the people we love the most. That is what that ditch is. Expecting the world to revolve around us, when, in fact, we need to be the wave of love that moves through the air or digs protective nurturing places for the mulberry trees in our lives, and in all people!
Picture this wave of love as a scarf, flowing in the breeze, circling the world. Sometimes that scarf is a filmy, light material, saying “God loves you. Go share the love.” Sometimes that scarf is a very heavy wool to smother the evil that increases until God can stand it no longer. Sometimes the scarf is a medium texture to keep things steady. This scarf moving before our eyes looks for injustice to change it to justice and kindness, looks for imbalance of wealth, imbalance of freedom and bullying, imbalance of knowing, and not knowing, the salvation in Christ Jesus and the power of God’s love.
As we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, may we wait patiently upon the Lord and be open vessels for God’s love and wisdom.
O God of love and solutions, stay with us, help us to wait patiently. Help us to picture the scarf of love as it encircles the globe, especially today as we celebrate world communion All the people of this world are involved with each other whether we want to be or not. In the dark places and times of this world, may our faith witness the mulberry trees being moved where God needs them to be so that all people equally have access to the fruit of justice, to the fruit of rest, to the fruit of wholeness and wellness. This shall be your kingdom on earth – a taste of heaven. Yes, God! Amen.