also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what
parable will we use for it? 31It is like a
mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all
the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it
grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large
branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to
hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in
parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he
said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And
leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as
he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great
gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was
already being swamped. 38But he was in the
stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He
woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be
still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He
said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And
they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then
is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
on a number of occasions that the amount of food that she had placed on
her plate was too much, a
little girl standing in line at a church ice cream social when asked how
much ice cream she would like responded, "Too much!"
Faith is kind of like that ice cream, especially if it is my
favorite, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
You can never get too much.
have heard it all the time, I suspect you have to, from people who say,
"if I only had the faith, if I just had a little more faith."
A construction crew was digging a ditch for a new building when
they came across what appeared to be a high-voltage power line directly
in their path. They called
the electrician over and said, “Look we have this problem, we have to
dig this ditch and here is this power line in our way.
What shall we do?” The
electrician looked at and said, “That is no problem, there is no power
in that line, just cut it.”
asked, “Are you sure?”
foreman of the job then him handed a pair of cable cutters and said,
“OK, you cut it.”
electrician hesitated for a moment and said, “Well, I'm not that
all have doubts, those times when we are not sure if our faith is strong
enough to get us through, when our boat is tossed about by the waves of
doubt and the wind of chaos, when we fear sinking in a stormy sea of
personal turmoil. Perhaps
we are faced with difficulty at home and we are not sure we have the
faith to stick it out. Or
we have problems on the job and we don't know if we have what it takes
to do it. Or maybe we are
facing a loss of someone important in our lives and we are not sure if
we have enough faith to get us through that crisis.
Or it could be any other personal crisis that causes us to doubt
our ability to go on.
my 20 plus years of full-time pastoral ministry I have not seen it all
but I have seen a good deal. I
have seen parents who have lost their children to suicide or murder.
I saw a 15 year-old girl left brain dead in a hospital and her
only relative was her 18 year-old brother who was being asked by the
hospital to make a decision about her life support.
Mothers who were informed that they were HIV positive and fathers
that they had full-blown AIDS. People
with hard luck stories and personal tragedies of all kinds.
college student, a stranger to me who came into the church seeking a
place to pray because she was about to go for an abortion.
People who have endured unspeakable acts of shame and who have
faced unbearable grief, including in my own family.
And not one, not one, said to me that they had too much faith.
Not one said they couldn't use a little more faith. And yet somehow they survived, wounded, scarred deeply but
wonder, how do we do that? Where
does that faith come from? Think
about the people in the boat with Jesus in this morning's text.
This was not a crew of highly trained Navy seals.
They were not cream of the crop athletes. There was not a CEO, bank president, brain surgeon or rocket
scientist among them. They
were just ordinary people trying to survive in a rough world. Invited to follow a charismatic teacher and healer, they are
on the ride of their lives. Think of what these disciples had to face,
of what was going to be asked of them in the days and years ahead.
Common, ordinary people entrusted with the incredible good news
of God to the world and they would be the only thing Jesus left behind.
Totally up to them. Would
they have the faith?
Watley, pastor of a large, African Methodist Episcopal church in New
Jersey, spoke a few years ago at a gathering of Disciple leaders, a
church-wide planning conference. He
said, "I know that many preachers are not spell binders and that we
have choirs that could never sing outside the church building... But
don't ever underestimate just ordinary people, ordinary people who are
touched by that extra-ordinary power who do extraordinary things.
We dare not underestimate that extraordinary power that raised
Jesus from the dead."
are not talking about supernatural power of moving mountains or changing
the course of hurricanes or going to the Rose Bowl more than once every
38 years or any other supernatural deed.
We are not talking about the kind of thing we read once in a
while in the newspapers, about some miraculous phenomena.
In 1988 it was reported that the Virgin Mary appeared in a
charismatic Catholic church in Lubbock, TX.
Thousands of people flocked to see this incredible apparition and
some saw it, but most did not. But
Maxine Sharpy of Shreveport, Louisiana, had definite proof that had been
silver and now had been turned to gold by the Virgin, according to
Sharpy. Martin Marty,
columnist for the Christian Century, wrote: "Now we find out how in Sharpy's eyes Mary occupied
herself. The hungry of
Ethiopia do not get fed. The
suffering die in Mother Teresa's arms.
AIDS spreads. Drought
persists. And when God wants to work a miracle to inspire faith,
apparitions of Mary turn silver rosary chains to gold."
is not to say that miracles do not occur, but rather it does question
our understanding of what those miracles are. The problem is not our
lack of faith in miracles. The
problem is our lack of faith in ourselves. "Have you no faith?" asks Jesus.
When people have faith, any faith, they do extraordinary,
miraculous things. Like
those first disciples, who single handedly brought the good news to the
world. Or like Maria
Garcia, who I am sure must be one of those disciples.
Maria had an encounter with a serious illness that nearly killed
her in 1973. As a result of
that experience, recommitted her life to God and decided to go to Haiti,
to bring some good news to that impoverished country.
She ended up in the northwest peninsula of Haiti where there are
no roads, no water, no electricity, no schools, no agriculture.
Primitive buildings at best, and on her vacation time established
in 15 years 8 new congregations now affiliated with the Disciples of
Christ with a combined membership of 600 people.
each of those congregations there is a primary school with over a
thousand students combined. In
each of those congregations there are development programs to teach
people how to use their skills of weaving and sowing to bring in some
outside income, how to raise rabbits, how to start a garden, how to dig
wells. For those people,
Maria Garcia is the good news. She
has brought them hope of a new life that has changed their lives.
An ordinary citizen with extraordinary power.
With faith we can do those kind of extraordinary, miraculous,
outrageous things, as outrageous as calming storms, like launching new
missions, building new
homes for low income families, clothing people in need, housing the
homeless, feeding the hungry.
weeks ago we heard Ali Nebot, one of the missionaries supported by our
offerings and who serves the church in Puerto Rico, tell us about the
church’s victory in Vieques, a small island off the east coast of
Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico,
you may recall, became part of the United States after the
Spanish-American War. During
WWII, Congress approved legislation turning over more than 2/3 of
Vieques to the US Navy. Thousands
of people were displaced. The west end of the island was converted into
a naval base and the east end into a bombing range. As part of the war
effort, it was one of those things you just had to do.
But after the war, sentiments began to change.
Local protests against the actions of the Navy went unheeded.
With a population of only 8,000, Vieques was hardly a blip on anyone’s
radar. Then in the 90s, Puerto Rican churches began to get involved.
Mainline protestant churches, Catholic churches, Pentecostal
churches, liberal and conservative churches—groups that seldom worked
together, stood together with their brothers and sisters on Vieques.
When the church stood together, Ali told us, and with one voice
demanded justice for the citizens of Vieques, something changed.
The U.S. government took notice and in 2003 returned the island
to local control. It was
the church, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, said Ali, that
made the difference.
used a mustard seed to describe the power of faith.
His listeners must have thought it was some kind of joke.
A mustard seed didn’t produce any big, enormous tree. It didn’t produce volumes of food one could put on the
table. It produced a
little, scraggly bush as common as a weed.
But you see, it is precisely that commonness, the pervasive,
everyday ordinariness of that
little bush spread across the landscape like blackberry vines along the
banks of the Willamette
which gives it its Kingdom of God quality. Our calling, our mission is
to live out Jesus' vision of that community of God--to be that seed
which spreads its constantly growing vines throughout the countryside.
week ago Saturday 50 of us met to talk about the priorities of the
congregation. We dreamed of
all the things we’d like to do. We
narrowed a list of 50 or 60 great ideas down to a dozen.
Then we narrowed those down further.
The number one priority which emerged in that group by a
landslide was to grow that mustard seed, to reach out to our community
to find others, lots of others, who are searching for that kind of
community of God and presence of the Spirit of life. People in need of hope and transformation, such as we find in
the Good News of the Christ. People
who share our passion for justice and peace. People who believe we need
to do more as a society to care for God’s neglected earth and God’s
abandoned children. People who gave up on the church years ago because
it no longer seemed relevant in this post-modern world.
the 13th century a church in Northern England was built using the stones
the Romans had left from a wall they had build to hold out the Scots and
other undesirables. They brought in the best architect they could find
who had designed several cathedrals in Europe.
He presented a design to them of a high arched roof with no
columns. When they saw the
design, they said, that's not possible. The roof surely will cave in.
We want columns. He
insisted that it was possible, that he had done it elsewhere. But they had not seen any of his other works and they did not
believe it could be done. They
wanted columns so he put in columns.
What could he do? You
know how building committees are. 800
years that church has stood, columns and all, until some archaeologist
wanted to see what was under the church.
Nothing to do with the structure.
Dug up some flag stones and they were amazed.
They discovered that the columns were not attached
to the floor. For
800 years people thought the columns were holding up the ceiling and
what they discovered was that the ceiling was holding up the columns.
sometimes speak of pillars of faith
in the church, you know, those people, who like Atlas, hold the
church on their shoulders. People like Jessie Bork, Ronald Osborn, the Hylands and the
many other pillars of this congregation.
But the true pillars of faith are not those who by their strength
hold up the church but those who know that they hang from the heavens
and are sustained by God. How
much does it take to have that kind of faith in God?
How much to calm the storms and steady the boat?
How much to light the world and build the kingdom?
It would have to take a lot, wouldn't it?
would take a huge amount of faith to accomplish the things we would like
to do here at FCC. It would
take an enormous amount to follow the dreams we all have for our lives.
And Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a
little tiny seed. That is
all it takes. Einstein
taught us that the energy contained in all matter, every single
molecule, every atom, is equal to its mass times the speed of light
squared. That is a whole
lot of energy all around us. It
is everywhere, in everything, even us.
You see what Jesus is saying to us?
The power of God is like that.
The seeds of God's realm are there, they are there in you, and
you, and you, and me. Planted
by God in each of us to do great, wonderful, miraculous things.
the faith we need has been given to us in a little seed.
Go, plant your seed, disciples of Jesus, and watch it grow.