“What is Expected of Me?”

Luke 17:1-10, October 6, 2013

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

Zion West Walworth and East Rochester United Methodist Churches

Luke 17:1-10

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “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.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Prayer.

“What is expected of me?”

This is a good question to ask when contemplating any new endeavor:

Applying to college.

Serving on a board.

Interviewing for a job.

Betrothal to be married.

It is better to “look before you leap”

To have the facts up front

And to plan accordingly.

If one wants to be a disciple

Jesus is right up front about his expectations:

The investment is great, like building a tower

And risky, like going to war. (Luke 14)

Time is short and confidence is waning.

Though the disciples have no foreknowledge of impending crucifixion,

Jesus does.

The closer and closer they travel to Jerusalem

The exponential increase in danger

Is giving the disciples cause to lose confidence in the message,

To second guess the cause,

To question the strategy.

The stakes are high;

The consequences may be death.

Our gospel lesson for this morning concludes with the

Final two of 4 sayings of Jesus.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples;

Soon to be apostles.

He had completed his extensive teaching about money and wealth.

His words are most probably recorded in hindsight: post resurrection / ascension.

Scholars suggest these sayings are probably

Piecemealed together from throughout his ministry;

Like the second to the last chapter in a book

That is a catch all for everything else.

They are drawing close to his final destination: Jerusalem.

His purpose is simple and straightforward:

To teach the disciples what to do and how to do it after he leaves.

Clear expectations are a solid foundation

Upon which confidence can be built.

Indeed, like the disciples of old,

There is much for us to glean from today’s gospel.

First, Luke reports: It is better to have a millstone hung around your neck

and you tossed into the ocean

Than to cause a little one to stumble.

Secondly, Jesus teaches: If another sins,

Rebuke them first,

Then you must forgive them.

Like the overweight patron at a fast food joint who responds “Super size me!”

The disciples respond “Increase our faith!”

As if faith was a commodity

And more is always better.

What I think they are saying is “Make us adequate.”

Because right now, we aren’t adequate;

We don’t have what it takes.

We’re failing.

(Yes, the disciples were probably feeling just like us at times).

The mustard seed is smallest known seed at the time of Christ;

Smaller than a grain of sand.

In contrast is the mulberry tree,

Also known as a sycamore tree.

It has an extensive root structure

Supporting a massive tree, short but wide.

Faith the size of a mustard seed

Is sufficient to command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and thrown into the sea

“and it would obey you.”

Jesus’ response is an indirect affirmation of the faith they already have.

Jesus’ response is also an invitation to live and act in that faith.

Faith equal in quantity to a mustard seed can do the impossible.

The Second of the two sayings has no modern day analogy.

It cannot be related to our employee / employer mentality.

Jesus is using a common day social reality from his day as a metaphor

To communicate a deeper truth.

To understand his message,

We must be willing to suspend our modern, Western cultural lenses

Through which we view the world.

This is master and slave relationship.

A slave works all day for the master in the field.

The slave comes in at dinnertime.

The slave was expected to prepare the meal.

The slave should not expect reward for working in the fields all day;

And shouldn’t expect to rest and dine at the table with the master.

The slave’s time and efforts belonged to the master.

Even a slave’s extra effort already belonged to the master.

There was never a point of fulfilled duty.

Therefore, the slave had no claim on the master.

The relationship is not service = reward.

The relationship required quiet obedience.

Quiet obedience is the key

To unlock the meaning Jesus serves up

Right here, right now.

What are we to benefit from today’s gospel?

How are these words of Jesus meant to change us?

I count five practical applications for our lives today.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

Don’t expect faith to remove the lump in your breast

(although certainly God is able).

Expect a surgeon to remove the lump in your breast.

Expect God to walk with you, guide and comfort you, throughout your experience.

Faith isn’t a magic show of healing:

people walking out of wheelchairs after years of disability,

being slain in the spirit,

or speaking in tongues.

Faith isn’t a miraculous flock of people flooding back to church,

Everyone eager to join, witness, and offer their abilities for servant leadership.

Faith isn’t magic.

Faith isn’t the control of God.

God cannot be expected to become a slave to our will.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

We pray “Thine will be done.”

We cannot expect Thine will to be done

until we give up OUR will;

until each of us give up my will.

To cooperate with God requires that we seek

God’s input into our every decision;

We take the intentional time to listen

to the still, quiet whisper of God in our ear.

When is the last time we asked the question of ourselves,

“What does God want me to do with my life?”

To cooperate with God means that

We are constantly in dialogue with God

through prayer and meditation,

by bathing in the scriptures,

by listening to our conscience, senses and feelings.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith.

Just as with his 12 disciples, so too with us:

God affirms the faith we’ve already been given.

God invites us to live and work in the faith we have.

When we do, our faith will be increased.

The young John Wesley was taught one of my favorite sayings:

“Preach faith until you have it. Once you have it, you will preach faith.”

There is no excuse for “I’m not strong enough,”

“I’ve never done that before,”

“I don’t think I can.”

That excuse didn’t work for Moses,

And it isn’t going to work for you or me.

The faith you already have, that brought you to church today,

Is already strong enough to accomplish the seemingly impossible,

To do whatever God is calling you to do.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

If we are willing servants of God…

If we are discerning the will of God…

Then there is nothing that cannot be done!

Nothing is impossible with God.

God created all there was, all that is, and will create all that ever will be.

God’s power, reach, and thoroughness are unbounded; unrestricted.

If in faith we call something to God’s attention, God will respond.

Sometimes not the way we desire.

Other times with miraculous outcomes.

Sometimes with something altogether different,

But always according to God’s greater wisdom and plan.

5) The faithful disciple is called to carry out the will of the master

Without expectation of praise;

With quiet obedience.

We are honored, appreciated, celebrated, awarded, and thanked

Far too much in our world today.

Trophy cases have run out of room,

Walls have too many plaques on them,

Files over flow with letters of accolades.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to live in quiet obedience.

Our time and labor belongs to Jesus.

There is no way we can do enough, let alone do more than our share.

There never comes a time when we can say,

“I’ve done my part. Time for someone else.”

There never comes an earthly time when our service is completed

and we can sit down and be served.

God gives us grace, not reward.

It is only by God’s grace that we can live a life of service for our master, Jesus Christ.

It is only by God’s grace that we can give our lives and labors to Christ and his church.

It is only by God’s grace that we have been saved by faith;

Faith that was first seeded within us when our Lord breathed life into our soul.

Our gospel is about faith.

It serves to build self-confidence

Not in what we can achieve,

But in what God has already given us.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

5) The faithful disciple carries out the will of the master quiet obedience.

May we go forth

Wielding such faith,

Living in God’s grace,

Serving with quiet obedience.

Amen.