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Message for Faith Matters October 20 2013

2013 10 20 Faith Matters

Luke 17:1-19

Story:  (Craig Keilbuger and We Day)

Prayer:  Holy Source of good gifts, we thank you for faith which touches our lives in many ways, shapes our relationships with others, draws us into new and great possibilities.  In silence we offer to you now thanks for the gifts our faith has brought into our lvies.

Hoiy One, hear our prayers….

Message

Angelina subscribed to 3 different food magazines and watched the Food Network for at least 8 hours a week.  Cassie helped her Mom with meals when she lived at home, and practiced simple cooking when she started living on her own.  They went on a 3-day rafting trip, and Angelina quickly volunteered to be the main cook.  She had lots of ideas for meals to make, and arranged for all the ingredients she was going to need.  At the end of the first day, she went to start supper, and discovered that reading and watching stuff about cooking was not enough to actually be a cook.  Cassie quickly and quietly stepped in to help, and did most of the actual cooking.

Many people want a declaration of loyalty to be enough to be a Canadian, especially if they take the time to vote occasionally.   Some people read stuff about health issues on the internet, and believe that qualifies them to provide medical advice.  In my 20’s psychology was a real fad, and the most obnoxious people were the ones who would take a couple of psychology course and believe that made them experts.  In the same way,  some people believe that declaring Jesus is their Lord and going to church is all that is needed to be a follower of Jesus.

If our faith is not part of our living, it is not enough to make us followers of Jesus.  One of the challenges of being a follower is that there is no simple instruction book like the instructions for assembling Ikea furniture.  Our reading from Luke lifts up some of the challenges of following Jesus.

It is enough of a challenge to be ready to accept the reality of tough events because of our faith, and the responsibility of not causing harm to others.  The sayings on faith and moving trees and the story of the ten people with leprosy deeply challenge our thinking, pushing us to look deeper into what was said and what was done.

The comment by Jesus in the original for the discussion of faith is closest to meaning, “If you have faith, and you do, you will be able to..”  In this passage, Jesus affirms that his followers do have faith, and because they have faith, nothing will be impossible for them if God is helping them.   There are several sides to this conversation.  One is that we either have faith or we don’t – it is sort of like self-giving love.  Either we are able to give of our selves for others, or we can’t.  The differences in our ability to give love to anyone else unconditionally are due to the resistance within us to expressing this love.  In the same way, if we have faith in God, the differences in our ability to live out this faith are due to the resistances we have within us.  Instead of asking for more faith, the disciples needed to ask for help in overruling the resistances they carried within themselves.

The main sources of resistance to faith are fear, habits, and adoption of cultural values, perceptions and beliefs.  The fear will be for the loss of something important to us such as our status in our family or community, or the fear of experiencing pain or death.

There are many habits capable of blocking being faithful, habits which condition us to actions, words and thoughts that serve to maintain the status quo in our lives.  These habits nourish a feeling of being comfortable and safe, and there can be little of either in a life lived for God.

There is so much information circulating in our lives, we adopt many beliefs and perceptions rather than examine them continually, usually beliefs shared with the people who are the biggest part of our lives.  If we believe God rewards and punishes people for what they do, we will be inclined to believe people who are sick or poor deserve to be sick or poor, and will not go far out of our way to help them.

The story about the servant working inside and outside challenges us.  In my early years in ministry, I heard statements like, “I have taught Sunday School for the last 35 years, and I do not want to do anything more now.”  These comments made me feel sad for two reasons.  I do not believe working for a church should be done out of a sense of duty, but rather out of an eagerness to work with God.  If the work a person is doing does not help that person spiritually or emotionally, then they might be better off not doing it, or at least informing church leaders that I have lost interest in a particular role.  Work in the church needs to do at least 1 of the following for a person: affirmation of gifts along with gratitude for the gifts and the opportunities God provides for using and sharing those gifts.;  gratitude for the opportunity to do something a person enjoys while making a difference in the world; joy in the work; gladness for feeling closer to God.  I feel sad that working for the church was a negative activity for many years.  The other reason I feel sad is that a work in the church was done by someone who resented doing it.  This emotion of resentment likely resulted in that ministry being done poorly.

The story of the servant fits with the belief that we are the most complete or fulfilled when we do things for the gratification that comes with the doing, rather than for external rewards like praise, thanks, or material rewards.  If we believe God loves us, and that God has invited us to share in a particular work, then faith finds gratitude for the opportunity of doing that work.   For example, I believe that it is better for the environment and for babies and for financial reasons to use cloth diapers than disposable diapers most of the time.  When I was rinsing and washing dirty diapers, my dominant feeling was gratitude for the opportunity to put my values to work in a real way.  I washed a lot of diapers in the times our children were babies, but it was worth it.  In the same way I enjoy opportunities to make the world a better place by doing dishes, washing clothes, picking weeds in public spaces, helping individuals.

The story of the lepers has two parts.  In the first part, a group of people with leprosy including at least one Samaritan asked for healing and were directed to head to the temple to be seen by the priest.  In their obeying Jesus, they gained healing.  When faith is followed by action, good things can happen.  In the second part, the Samaritan goes back and thanks Jesus, giving glory to God.  Jesus then asked about where were the nine.  This was a strange question since they were doing exactly what they were told.  One speculation about this part of the story is that Luke’s community was getting complacent about their relationship with Jesus, and this part was a prod to get them to regain their feelings of gratitude for Jesus as it was an outsider that was praised.

Through the passage as a whole, we hear that faith matters in many ways.  It will probably bring some hardships into our life as our living out our faith makes others uncomfortable.

It lays responsibility for being kind to others on our shoulders.  The consequences for irresponsibly causing hardships for fellow Christians will be worse than going for a swim in the sea with a heavy weight around our necks.

Faith provides us with opportunities to do what might seem impossible

Faith invites us into a mental space where work and responsibilities are sources of joy and gratitude.

Faith invites us to actions that can bring healing to the wounds in our lives.

And faith invites us into joyfully expressing gratitude for the good in our lives, an expression that brings diverse benefits to us.

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