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All We Need is a Mustard Seed

Proper 22, Year C, RCL, Track 1

2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10

The Paul we read about in 2nd Timothy is suffering in prison. I’d imagine we can hardly know what life in a 1st-century Roman prison would be like. Yet, “Paul” does not complain about his imprisonment. He says he is a prisoner of Christ. He knows that Christ could set him free from this physical enclosure. And even though he is not free physically, he is free spiritually.

From this dark and dank place, he encourages us to continue in our faith; a faith that can be passed down from generation to generation or person to person. He says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” He continues, “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” The gift that is rekindled is the gift of the spirit. Each of us is given this gift at our birth. Through the waters of Baptism, we are sealed by the Spirit as Christ's own. And through this same Spirit, we are called to carry on the Gospel.

What an amazing tradition we are a part of. What an incredible thing we can celebrate. We lift up one another, encouraging each other to be the best person God has made us to be. A person so filled with this Spirit that even though we will stumble or hurt one another or fall short of the mark, we set for ourselves, we can start again fresh. I believe this is the strength of the spirit “Paul” is talking about. It is not “a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.”

We might think that we do not have as much faith as Paul or that our faith pales in comparison. We may cry out like the apostles and say, Lord, increase my faith, for I do not feel my faith is sufficient. And what Jesus tells the Apostles and us is, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and plant yourself in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” We may come away from this answer feeling small, for we don’t even have as much faith as this teeny-tiny seed. My faith must be minuscule, microscopic, or even non-existent if even a mustard seed-sized faith could make a tree move.

When we come to God in a mindset of scarcity, a mindset that says we do not have enough or that we are insufficient, we will never measure up. For God is bigger than we can even express. The kingdom of heaven flows with an abundance that we can never comprehend. Even when we measure ourselves against others, we often see ourselves as being lessor. We may say I cannot compare to Paul. We think we cannot compare to our neighbor or whomever we measure ourselves against. But in God’s eyes, we are all sufficient, created equal.

The parables and stories we hear in the Bible always point to the abundance of God. The abundance that God offers us; the abundance we have; and the abundance that we can share with others. When we look at this story, about faith the size of a mustard seed, from the vantage point of abundance. And when we do so, we may see that even though our faith may seem small, we have a sufficient amount of faith, for even the tiniest amount of faith is enough to do what we are supposed to do.

I believe Jesus is saying you don’t need more faith, for even if you had just a tiny bit more, the size of a mustard seed, you could command a tree to uproot itself and move into the sea. [Killing the tree in the process. Mulberry trees don’t grow in salt water or even lakes.] We don’t need that much faith. We don’t need any more faith than we already have.

This passage isn’t about the amount of faith we have. And I don’t think we can even begin to measure or compare our faith to someone else’s, for we all have the same faith. The Apostle Paul had the same faith that you have. We have all the faith we need. This passage is about what we do with the faith we have. Where do we place our faith? Do we place our faith in ourselves, in the things we have, the people we know, or do we place our faith in the Lord? The Lord our God.

Throughout the Bible, the mustard seed is often an illustration that shows how abundance can come from something tiny. A huge bush or tree grows from this tiny seed, providing a place for birds to live and shelter for others. From this bush, the mustard seed will also produce more seeds; seeds that can be given to others. Then others have this faith. A faith that is still the same size as yours, and their faith can also produce abundance. Our faith, if nurtured, will yield a bounty. If we don’t plant it or if we keep it sealed up in a container, then it will not produce. Think of those seeds we get for our garden, if they stay in their little paper packet, they will always remain seeds. They will remain the same size seed as the ones planted but they will never produce the nourishing life we have been offered.

When we place our faith in the Lord, trusting that we will be safe; trusting that we will receive the promise given to us by his Son; then we will find a world full of grace, abundance, love, and care. This abundant gift of faith, which is in all of us, reminds me of a prayer we say at the end of the daily office. “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen”


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