Monday, October 7, 2013

Mustard Seed Faith

At the end of a really full week- parishioners in crisis, interviewing an organist, afterschool ministry, Bible Club, Table Church, a wedding, blessing of animals and funeral! I am most grateful for David Lose’s postings this week that helped significantly with my sermon! Without which I wonder what I would have said! Here ‘tis:

This past week ( thanks to David Lose) I got a chance to see a video about some folks in Detroit who noticed the city wasn’t able to mow the parks in their area due to financial crisis. And you know we’ve all heard the headlines out of Detroit, about whole areas being basically abandoned because the city cannot take care of them. And as we listen to the lament in Habakkuk today, I am sure as much as we lament things here in Reading, those people in Detroit have some pretty big laments too! But as David writes, "instead of complaining, or shaking their heads, or writing an editorial, or just getting depressed…instead of all those perfectly understandable things, some people just did something about it." Moved by the Spirit, in what I think is faithfulness.

They are called the Detroit Mower Gang started after some city parks were closed and left uncared for. They just started mowing all those weeds and grass. And one guy tells us after mowing under a swing set, and before you can even finish when you turn around, there is a kid or a group of kids swinging. Those kids have been waiting.

Waiting for someone to make it possible for them to play again. The Mower Gang says what they do is not about beautification. It’s about restoring play places. There are a lot of kids in Detroit whose play places are taken away- the Mower Gang is bringing them back. And you know they’ve discovered that when they are doing this together- it doesn’t even feel like work- they are having a good time and it’s transforming. It didn’t start with a big initiative and a lot of social research. It was a guy who looked around and saw something. And an ordinary thing has become huge in many lives.

Just as true for our part of the kingdom. I know a neighborhood woman who doesn’t have enough as it is, but she feeds others, so much so that people know she does this and give her food to share. Someone else picks up the parking lot trash, twice a week and sees it as his ministry. He hasn’t worked up the nerve to sit here yet, but he has a ministry. Another beautifies a small park almost singlehandedly, just playing in the dirt. Still others call and check on those  homebound, or send cards offering a lifeline to the lonely. And a couple folks faithfully pray that prayer list I encourage you to take home- each day. Simple things, Every day faith that might look like just a tiny seed.

This past week we learned a kid’s song on Wednesday night that captures what I want to share with you about everyday faith. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, move mountains. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains by the power of God. Today, the disciples just don’t get it --

"they think faith is something they can quantify and they just want more of it. In fairness, earlier Jesus had not only warned them about making others stumble but also instructed them that they must forgive those who wrong them … again and again and other challenges. No wonder they ask for more faith -- they wonder who in the world can live up to Jesus’ expectations.

And maybe it’s like that for some of us: Overwhelmed by the demands  placed on us as “good Christians,” not sure we’re up to the task, and wondering what we signed on for. Maybe feeling like being a disciple is too much for us. But faith doesn’t have to be heroic. Faith, as Jesus describes it, is just doing your job, not because of any sense of reward but simply because it needs doing. Doing what needs to be done right in front of you. This, Jesus says, the disciples can already do. When we feel daunted by discipleship, we need to hear that sometimes faith can be pretty ordinary. Even that faith could uproot and move a mulberry tree – Jesus says it really doesn’t take all that much faith to be faithful."

But God’s power in these things will be more colossal than we may know!

"At the same time, some of us who may feel absolutely nothing like the disciples. It’s not that we’re overwhelmed by the tasks of Christian discipleship, actually we don’t even think about it. Going to church and perhaps generally being a good person is pretty much what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps it never occurs then that the rest of our lives are about living as disciples. Being a good friend, or working at jobs to keep food on the table, or paying your taxes," praying for our leaders and voting, or any of the other ordinary stuff we do every day are also, as Martin Luther tells us, about our Christian faith.

"Even the simplest things done in faith can have a huge impact:

•Imagine, for a moment, if you were to take stock of all the good you did in the past week in your roles as employers and employees, students, parents, citizens, volunteers and more. It would add up very quickly into a mountain.

•Imagine what the previous week would have been like if all those things hadn’t gotten done. If we subtracted them from the planet over the last week the world would be a grimmer today.

•Then imagine what the world would look like next week if you, realizing even our ordinary acts are being used by God to care for God’s world, and we felt empowered to do even more?"

 What if your mustard seed grew?

"Even what seems ordinary matters much to God.  God gives us faith and wants us to exercise it! Faith, isn’t an idea, it’s a muscle. And the more we use that muscle, the stronger it gets. And Jesus tells his disciples -- then and now -- we’ve got all that we need to be faithful, and that being faithful, is about recognizing all the God-given opportunities just to show up and do what needs to be done:

•doing our work
•caring for those in need
•protecting the vulnerable
•reaching out to the lonely
•befriending the friendless
•keeping the world going
•contributing to the common good.

All the ordinary stuff we do all the time, taken together and blessed by God, can be pretty extraordinary.

But faith is not only a muscle, it’s also an adventure. It’s putting one foot in front of the other and walking toward a future we do see yet but trust God is fashioning. It’s heading out the door each day looking for opportunities to be God’s partner and co-worker in the world. It’s imagining that the various challenges put in front of us are actually opportunities that invite us to grow as disciples and witness to God’s presence and goodness in the world.

This is everyday faith, the ordinary, extraordinary faith that we’re invited to practice day in and day out. It’s not heroic, but it is essential."

 Here’s the adventure-
Take a moment and close your bulletin and take a look at the picture. –there we are- all those mustard seeds. Together. Now imagine all of those seeds growing as Jesus says. Moving mountains in the here and now!

What’s to stop that from being so?



 For the vimeo of the Mower Gang, visit David's blog at:

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