Share the faith! Live by faith! Take hold of the faith! Guard the faith! Increase our faith!
Today…Today, all the scriptures that we have read talk about faith….that faith that lived in Lois…and Eunice…and now, I am sure…in you. But what do we mean when we talk about faith? Faith…in what? How much faith do we have? How much do we need? What if we’re the WRONG faith?
This summer, for the first time in centuries, the leaders of all the various Orthodox churches—Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Coptic, Ethiopian…etc, etc… gathered for a kind of “summit”. Now the orthodox churches in many ways have the most direct line back to the ancient church…all of us…the Roman Catholics, the protestants of all shapes and forms…we all split away from them. So one of their points of discussion was…does the church include those “others”? For many…for most, the answer was “of course”….but not for all. Some weren’t sure that our “faith” was the real stuff. We were WRONG.
And of course, that street goes both ways. There are those on the other side of the fence, who don’t believe the Orthodox have the Right faith.
So what is faith? What is this faith we need to lay hold of …we need to live by? Is it a list of correct doctrines that we agree to? And if we get them right…by golly, we are on the winning team?
I’ve gotta say…I’m pretty sure that’s not it.
Or is it something that we acquire…and if we get a lot of it…then, we’re a really good person. We become like Mother Teresa or Pope Francis or Ghandi…and then, it doesn’t matter what kind of faith…but you really have to have a LOT of it. Then you win. That’s what the disciples thought….they would really be awesome if Jesus would just give them MORE faith. Then they wouldn’t screw up, and they could really change the world.
But Jesus says….that’s not it, either. According to him…if you just have one teeny, tiny, speck of faith…that’s enough to do the impossible.
So….if it’s not about being right and it’s not about having more. What is it about?
Ironically, it’s comes down to understanding that I’m probably NOT right…and DON”T have enough…. and that’s okay. Because God is and God does. Trusting, not understanding or knowing how…but simply trusting that God is bigger than all the hate and the hurt and the pain and the confusion and the destruction and the violence. That passage we read from Habakkuk…all the writer can see is violence – destruction…contention and strife. There is no justice…the law is perverted. Sound familiar? And God says….”don’t worry. I’ve got this. It will be okay. Let everybody know…make a sign so big they can’t miss it no matter how fast they are going…a billboard… letting people know. It’ going to be okay. Don’t give up. Wait for it.” Yes…faith is simply trusting, not understanding or knowing how or why…that God wins. And that my life lived out in ordinary and everyday imperfect love and grace and mercy….is enough. Trusting that me…just doing what I ought to have done….just doing the next right thing…whatever that might be…is actually part of God’s miraculous redemption of the world.
We had a professor in seminary who used to always say that people who do “good works” in the world…aren’t the ones standing around waiting for someone to tell them how great they are. They are the people who look at you oddly when you praise them…because they were just doing what anybody would do, they figured. They weren’t trying to prove anything…or earn anything. They basically, like the slaves, were just doing what they thought they were supposed to do. They were just doing their job. Doing the next right thing.
But, that…that is exactly what faith is all about. That’s the faith that moves mountains and uproots mulberry trees. Really…that’s the kind of ordinary day to day faith that guided Mother Teresa and Ghandi…they, on their path, just did the next right thing. They didn’t imagine where it would lead…they didn’t envision the impact they would have. They just did what they needed to do…day to day. It’s the same ordinary day to day faith that guided Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez – they were a cook and janitor at a care center that was shut down for extensive safety violations. The rest of the staff cleared out…and left 16 residents, some bedridden, to fend for themselves. But Maurice and Miguel stayed…they said, “because someone needed to”. So, on their own, on nobody’s payroll…they cared for the residents as best they could until help showed up. Handing out meds. Serving meals. Cleaning people up. Doing the next right thing…and trusting, in the midst of a HUGE mess…. that it was enough. It is the ordinary day to day faith of the checkout clerk…who is kind and patient with the woman is confused and struggling to find her money….the ordinary day to day faith of a man who helps his neighbor, who is fighting cancer, rake the yard…the ordinary day to day faith of people of every age and every race and in every place…just doing the next right thing. And trusting that it is enough.
And it is. It is enough. Because faith lived out…ordinary people doing the next right thing…mustard seeds of faith scattered around the landscape…are enough. To make the world beautiful.
Faith lived out by you…making people feel heard and cared for….taking time to listen…
You…giving someone a helping hand. Noticing someone who looks lonely.
You…doing your work with honesty and integrity…speaking with respect and kindness.
You…walking humbly…loving kindness…speaking up when you see injustice…
You…doing the next right thing…are the miraculous hands and feet of God in the world bringing grace…bringing redemption…bringing hope…
You…doing the next right thing…with your mustard seed faith….are the sign Habakkuk was talking about….the vision of hope that others can see clearly as they run from one thing to the next in the midst of this crazy world. You…ordinary, imperfect you…in your ordinary, imperfect life…living by faith….just doing your job….doing the next right thing…just like Eunice and Lois…are God’s holy work in motion.
You matter. We may think we’re just worthless slaves…just doing our job. Just doing what needed to be done. Just doing what anyone would do. But that is precisely the mustard seed faith that the world needs…that God uses. That is the light shines in this world that the darkness…try as it might…cannot put out.
You don’t need more faith. You don’t have to worry if you have the “right” faith. Just go…and do the next right thing. God’s got this. Really…it’s okay. God’s got this. The Mulberry trees are moving. Amen.