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World Communion Sunday
October 3, 2010
As a way of introduction this morning, I want to share a little of the way I have been thinking about the gospel passage for today. This text we have to deal with today is somewhat difficult.
So as I wrestled with this passage, I decided that it has something to do with the Jewish notion of Tikkun olam – the healing of the world. The Jews use this phrase in their daily prayers, with hopes that God will use their actions in keeping the commandments, in acting ethically and responsibly, to heal or repair the world. Thus the sermon title. Perhaps everything that Jesus taught was ultimately to heal the world. And isn’t that what we hope our prayers and actions will do?
I want to read the text from a translation known as The Message by Eugene Peterson. Let us listen for God’s word to us. Read Luke 17:5-10.
The disciples come to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. Right before this, Jesus has been teaching them more about forgiveness. So perhaps their request has to do with their difficulty with forgiving others. We can understand that. Forgiveness may be the hardest thing that Jesus asks of us. Perhaps they think that if they just had more faith, forgiveness would be easier.
But Jesus says to them that only a little faith is needed. Faith the size of a mustard seed, a very small seed. And with just that small amount of faith, great things can happen. In Matthew’s version of this saying, mountains can be moved. But here, a pesky mulberry bush can be moved into the ocean. I did not know a lot about mulberry bushes, but apparently once their roots get going, they grow very deep and are next to impossible to dig up.
So Jesus seems to be saying that the amount of faith is not what is important. Perhaps it is more about what we do with that faith.
Then Jesus has this rather odd saying about a master and a servant. – about what a person would and would not do if they were a master. Jesus seems to say that if our place in life is a master, then that is how we should act. And if we are a servant, then we do what servants do. The master is not seen as greater than the servant – they just each have different tasks to do.
This is when I began to think about the idea of healing the world. It sounds like such a huge thing to do. How would we ever go about repairing something that is so badly broken?
And yet, what I hear Jesus suggesting is that each of us has been given a part to play – we each have gifts and talents. So we use them. Whatever we have been given to do, we do it as well as we can, whether big or small, important or unimportant.
We each have faith, as small as a tiny seed. But a seed has the potential to grow, if it is planted and nurtured. So we cannot say that we do not have faith or potential or a place in life. For each of us has a part in healing this world.
Last weekend, I was in Portland for Rebecca’s installation. We had a wonderful visit and it was so good to see her new home and new church. I also got to visit Kristen Hamilton-Sutherland who used to be the campus pastor here at UPC. I want to tell you a story I learned from Kristen.
Her mother died this year of a brain tumor. The disease affected her in different ways throughout her illness. Kristen and her mother both love to knit, but her mother was having great difficulty with her knitting. So Kristen’s dad asked her to teach him how to knit so that he could help her mother.
So Kristen did teach him. At this point in the story, Kristen reached in the closet and brought out a knitted clergy stole. Her dad had knitted it for her. On one end he began with a sort of wine colored yarn and it was pretty rough knitting, some skipped stitches and a bit uneven. Then he went to a verigated yarn with other colors, and as he knitted he got better, and it looked smoother. He would even try out different stitches as he went along. At the neck he tried a ribbed stitch and by the time he got to the bottom of the second side and finished up with the wine yarn again, his stitches were looking great.
Her dad said that this stole was for her to use at weddings. He said that this stole was a picture of a marriage, some rough places, and some smooth, some difficulties that changed everything, and some lovely moments.
And so I thought – Kristen’s dad was healing the world with this small act of learning how to knit so he could help her mom. He took his role as husband very seriously, he did what he could. He did not try to be her doctor or her pastor or to fill some other role in her life.
And his faith was enough to more away the mulberry bush of his wife’s inability to knit. And in the process he gave Kristen a wonderful gift and story to tell.
Jesus is asking us, in this odd little story, to do what we can. He is not asking us to be something that we are not. And if we take up this challenge and do what we can, we will be contributing to the healing of the world. There will be times when we want to do more, times when we are angry because we cannot do what everyone else is supposed to do too. But that is not our work. I must be the best me I can be and I must do the work given to me – I cannot do it for anyone else.
Today we celebrate World Communion Sunday. We remember that the church around the world is connected by this common sacrament. No matter about all our other differences, today we all come to this table because it is Christ who has invited us to come and be fed. So today we do a healing thing here at this table as we celebrate our oneness in Christ.
Friends, we have enough faith. Let us continue to learn how to nurture that seed of faith that we have been given so that it will grow. For as our faith grows we will be able to discern our part as servants, as masters, as children of God, in healing the world around us. May God grant us that grace. Amen.