“We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:10)
The apostles (sent ones) have what appears to be a justifiable demand “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). Jesus shares what he excepts of them: 1.) to live in a way that is not a stumbling block to others (Luke 17:1-2); 2.) to forgive and keep forgiving others (Luke 17:3-4); 3.) to be servants (not masters) and do the jobs that serving requires (Luke 17:7-10). Seeking more faith to accomplish these tasks makes sense; just as it would be advantageous to have a big breakfast in order to get through a busy morning rather than leaving the house on an empty stomach. The apostles see faith as a quantifiable something they want more of in order to meet these expectations.
Responding to their request, Jesus says all one needs is the faith the size of a mustard seed. By faith a whole tree will be uprooted and moved (Luke 17:6). Jesus reveals not only that a little faith can go a long way; but he also lets us in on another truth – faith isn’t about us. Faith is not about how much we have of “it” whatever the substance of faith might be; faith is not a secret superpower used to dominate others nor is it something fainted or earned.
N.T. Wright commented, “It’s not great faith you need; it is faith in a great God. Faith is like a window through which you can see something. What matters is not whether the window is six inches or six feet high; what matters is the God that your faith is looking out on” (N.T. Wright. Luke for Everyone. [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 2004], 204). in other words, faith is not about how big or small it is. Rather faith reveals God above ourselves.
If we are focused on ourselves as our primary source of resilience, wisdom or vision – is it any wonder why we so often feel overwhelmed and/or inadequate?
A small little gaze through the window of faith sees that the mulberry tree can be uprooted and planted in a new place – and then takes notice of the garden tools at your feet to make it happen.
Having caught a glimpse of what is on the other side – faith compels us to start digging.
Discipleship becomes about not only doing the things “we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10) by starting to develop the “eyes to see” and “hear to hear” bit seeks a focus on what is on the other side of the window – especially when we can’t see or hear it yet still face danger.
Eventually, deep rooted disciples may not need the window at all, because the more we train to see, hear and touch the God who continues to reach out to us (and this world through you), the less we are dependent on the window (or its size) as we grow closer to what is on the other side of it. The letter to the Hebrews declares it this way: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1). That confidence is not a matter of quantity or size; it is a reflection of the relationship that sees no barrier at all between sacred and secular, human and divine. There is only one reality of dwelling within the Triune God who connects us, restores us and brings us into that divine life.
Take up your calling as God’s sent one (apostle) Pick up your shovel. Move trees. Serve as you ought to serve with joy and gratitude. Forgive with a loving heart. Model what it means to look through the glass until others don’t need it either to trust in the living God who you see everywhere.
What do you see through window of faith?
Where do you see, hear and touch the God of love, mercy and grace reaching out to you?
How can you start digging?