Posts Tagged ‘mustard seed’

When Jesus was giving a hard lesson on forgiveness, the disciples paled (so I imagine).

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” [Luke 17:4-5]

And then he gave the now-famous (or infamous) line about mustard seed faith. For the first time, as I reread this passage, I heard a smile in Jesus’ voice, almost like a little tease. I had a startling discovery. Faith is a lot more like a light switch than a thermometer. We aren’t really supposed to be in the business of “heating up” our faith. The amount of faith is not measurable in that way. How many years have I sat under teaching in which believers were chastised for not having enough faith to experience God, either in healing or miracles or whatever? But now, I’m thinking otherwise. Faith is or faith isn’t. (Another kind of Yoda phrase indeed.)

Certainly, I can gain more understanding and I can enrich my relationship to the Holy, but does that mean my faith is more or just includes something else? If I go back to my first days as a believer, I can remember the glories of my conviction about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. Real. All real. I was in a whirlwind of gratitude and love. I turned on the light. But as I continued my journey of faith, I don’t believe the light got brighter, I just opened more doors. I surrendered.

I feel a great relief really. I don’t have to collect mustard seeds. I’m gonna plant the one I have so that it can die and transform into a living, breathing me/God union.

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mustard-seedAnd that ‘s all I know right now. God is with me despite my inner chaos, despite my sense of loss, despite my confusion. God is with me even in the darkest night, the shallowest hope, the greatest disappointments. God is still here.

Have started a brief 30 day reading plan on behalf of my church, to encourage others to read. Funny, in the very midst of this, I am feeling very hollow. My muse is on vacation. My Spirit is quiet and I am deaf. And so, all I have is my mind to remind me, intellectually, God is here. (Matthew 1:22-23)

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook that he was feeling depressed. I told him to take a breath and go somewhere beautiful. I think I need to take my own advice. This morning, I woke early with only a few hours sleep. My dreams were vivid and then I was subsequently crestfallen to emerge into this reality.

And so, I see: I need my own rebirth, a baby Jesus to be born and start again, a babe of an idea: a mustard seed to renew my soul.

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Wouldn’t it be great if I could get a reading on a “faith meter?” Or, maybe not. After all, if it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain, my gauge would have to be in the millimeters.

James 2:22, 26
You see that his [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. . . . As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Abraham and Rahab are the two stories James recounts in chapter two as examples of the best partnership between faith and action. One for hearing God so clearly that Abraham journeyed up a mountain with the intention of sacrificing is son Isaac and the second, of a prostitute who paradoxically harbored and aided enemies of her city because she felt compelled by God to do so. These two acts registered hot on the faith meter.

As I was reading and contemplating these stories, I realized it wasn’t the acts themselves that threw the meter into the red zone, it was their willingness to act and follow through by hearing God. It was trust. Acts of faith are an outgrowth of the faith itself, the love of God, a relationship with depth and authenticity.

I’ve never been very fond of the Abraham/Isaac story. As a parent, I shudder at the very idea or contemplation of a blood sacrifice of my own child. How could Abraham be willing to do this? Human sacrifice was not even the norm of the One God believers. Wasn’t it a pagan practice of neighboring tribes and faiths? Or, maybe he never really believed that God wanted an actual sacrifice?

I remember having a similar attitude some years ago when my husband and I had recently adopted our two boys from Latvia and a few months later I had to travel to a library conference. My friend and colleague was a white knuckle flyer and I tried to calm her by proclamation.

“It’s not my time to die.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Simple, I don’t believe God would orphan my children twice.”

Perhaps Abraham had locked his faith into that earlier promise that would be fulfilled through Isaac. Perhaps.

But here’s the point: the actions, the deeds, the works of love and self-sacrifice, the expressions of kindness, and the selfless sharing of worldly goods . . . these are the measuring sticks of faith.

Faith without expression is a mere concept.

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when I set up one of those new Paypal accounts, before I could use it, I had to allow them to make a very small deposit into my bank account. Then, I had to keep checking my account and once I recognized it, let them know. This verified the connection. That’s how the Holy Spirit starts too.

II Corinthians 5:5
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

I think people expect the Holy Spirit to drop into their lives like a flood or a whirlwind. But truly, I think it’s just a mini-deposit. That is, until we get better at letting the Spirit have access and place in our hearts.

A true taste of the Holy Spirit is like a single bite of the most extraordinary dessert in the world. It’s sweet and multi-faceted. It’s has a taste that lasts. And most of all, it gives us a desire for more.

The mini-deposit of the Holy Spirit is a promise of what is possible, what is available, what is real.

Like the story of the mustard seed [Matthew 17:20], the things of God are so powerful that it only takes a little bit to have to great effect.

This is why one person can indeed make a difference in the world. One person among billions is no bigger than a mustard seed or a grain of sand.

I think I’ve been looking for the mega deposit, the swoosh of wind and the tongues of fire, when all along, the little mini-deposit has been sitting there, inside my heart, waiting to be acknowledged for all that it can do.

Burn brightly, sweet ember of the Lord.

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Who is the god of “this” age. Paul referenced the power of the god of his age who blinded the mind and heart, is it the same god? Is this that scrappy scapegoat “the devil,” or is it we ourselves? Aren’t we mini-gods, manipulating the world around us with our knowledge and discovery?

II Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In an age where logic and science rule, evidence and observation reign, is there room for faith in paradox and the miraculous?

How do we believe in mountains can be moved by “faith as big as a mustard seed?” How do we believe that the Lazarus’s of this age, can rise from the dead by command. How do we embrace the peculiarities of Christianity where the meek inherit the earth, turn the other cheek, die to live, give to receive, and so forth.

In Mark 10:50-52, Jesus asked the blind man what he wanted. It was up to the blind man to actually ask to see.

Lord, where I am blind, allow me to see.

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What does this look like . . . working hard “in the Lord?” I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. I’m thinking the essence lies in the word sacrifice – a sacrifice of time and energy.

Romans 16:12
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Truthfully, there isn’t much we can “give” to God since everything we have is gift from God already. Except for time. Granted, time is also part of God’s creation, and yet, we have free will in our use of time. It cannot be repaid and it cannot be controlled. Time marches on. Time is the qualifier to all of our lives. Time is our ultimate measuring stick.

How do I use my time?

To work hard within the constraints of the time given to me is, according to Paul, worthy of acknowledgment. The time I give to the things of God has more value than the time I give to anything else.

To work hard in the Lord then means I use my time for God. There are no surprises here: prayer (in all of its forms); helping the poor, widows & orphans; practicing koinonia with other believers; sharing our story (our witness); studying; teaching; and loving the unlovely.

Working hard in the Lord is not setting up church programs or retreats, cooking and serving a ladies’ luncheon, practicing skits, or building a building.

Instead, working hard is going against the easy way. Working hard is the way of the seed in soil or the caterpillar in its chrysalis. Working hard is transformation.

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Luke 17:5-6
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you….”

We live in a “give me more” culture. We don’t seem happy with meeting our needs, but want more. So, now it’s normal for most houses to have at least 1 1/2 baths… if not two or even three. Most of us in the U.S. have more than one car in the family, and even three isn’t considered over the top. Each child must have his/her own car, ipod, cell phone, etc. Most homes have more than one television. Women have more than 50 pairs of shoes and sometimes, handbags. Often, there are two wage earners, and still it is not enough. We live just outside our income so that debt becomes the norm. When will it be enough?

In my work, we are always looking for more customers, more programs, more books. In my church, we are looking for more people to sit in the sanctuary, more ministries, more space, and more activities.

The disciples also asked for more. They asked for more faith. But Jesus chides them, saying if the faith they already had was just as a big as a mustard seed, it would be enough. It would move mountains. This is no different from the rest of our lives. If we cherished and nurtured the little things we had, we would discover how bountiful our lives really are … or could be.

Help me see and appreciate the mustard seeds in my life.

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