“Extraordinary, Ordinary Faith” October 6, 2019
“Extraordinary, Ordinary Faith”
2 Timothy 1:1-14
A nun who works for a local health care agency was out making her rounds when she ran out of gas. As luck would have it, there was a station just down the street. She walked to the station to borrow a can with enough gas to start the car and drive to the station for a fill up. The attendant regretfully told her that the only can he owned had just been loaned out, but if she would care to wait he was sure it would be back shortly.
Since the nun was on her way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car. After looking through her car for something to carry to the station to fill with gas, she spotted a bedpan she was taking to the patient. Always resourceful, she carried it to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried it back to her car. As she was pouring the gas into the tank of her car, two men walked by. One of them turned to the other and said. “Now that is what I call faith!”
In our Gospel text today, the disciples make what seems to me a reasonable request: “Increase our faith!” they say. “We want to go to the next level; we want to have faith that is bigger and better and faster…and, well Jesus, we want a faith as big as yours.” At first glance, like I said, this seems a reasonable request. They’re not asking for wealth or prestige or comfort or safety. They’re not even asking for world peace or the cure for cancer. They’re simply asking for faith. I don’t know – isn’t that a good thing?
Well, apparently not because rather than give them a simple “yes” or “no,” Jesus instead seems to get a little impatient with them, saying “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.” Say what? Now I can’t help but put myself in the apostles’ shoes at that particular moment. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed?” What’s that supposed to mean? Does that mean that my faith is so miniscule and pathetic that I’m at the atomic level? Even smaller than that? Sub-atomic? If I were one of the disciples at that moment, I would be upset, I would be confused; I would be hurt. And I would be wrong. The beauty and the wisdom of this teaching of Christ is in how it points out the fact that we are not a people of great faith or a people of little faith – the beauty and wisdom lies in the fact that we can rejoice that we are people of faith in the first place; and it’s this simple ordinary faith that makes us extraordinary. Our faith sustains us, it strengthens us, and it grants us peace when nothing else will do. Faith is not something you can classify as small, medium, or large – it just is. And it is when we live in faith – when we do faith – that’s when mountains get moved and hearts are changed.
The idea of extraordinary, ordinary faith popped into my head while preparing for this particular day that we have labeled World Communion Sunday.
Sure, we can admit that this sounds like a great idea that someone dreamed up once upon a time. “Let’s create a special day to promote the Last Supper,” they said. “It will be a good thing.” And it is a good thing. It’s a good thing to have to step back and examine our faith. Does my faith move me in how I treat the world around me? Does it guide my lips, my hands, my heart? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes maybe not so much. But when I throw my ordinary faith – my mustard seed faith – into the mix with the entire community of God; now that’s something. There are millions and millions of believers on this planet whose lives have been changed by the light that Jesus Christ brought into the world. I’m going to disagree with every single one of them about something or other. It might be how to make a lasting relationship or how to make a ham sandwich, we’re not going to see eye to eye all the time. But when it comes to this moment in time, the moment when we stop to make a remembrance of Christ’s love through Holy Communion, that’s when I sense a universal agreement that travels all around the world. It’s powerful thing. It’s a powerful thing to be a part of a multitude of believers who live by faith-ordinary faith-who come together to worship an extraordinary God.
Amen & Shalom