17th Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 17:5-10

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

What are the ordinary tasks of your discipleship?

Last week our Bishop forwarded an article entitled, “Your church does not need volunteers.” https://www.patheos.com/blogs/irreverin/2017/04/church-not-need-volunteers/?fbclid=IwAR3u_uGHiO0UQDPZl9yKhwf4n7pdaUlAmYzv4fRZPamLeB0zk3Jp8hXNlbw

The premise of the article is that what we do as members of the church is serve, not volunteer.  The author uses a parenting example.  She says that she cringes when someone asks her if her husband is “babysitting” the children. Of course he’s not babysitting, he’s their father.  Taking care of your own children is parenting.  It’s his fatherly responsibility to watch over his own children. 

Similarly, as members of the family of God, what we do in the church is service. We might volunteer to help with the food bank or Camp Hope or some other good and worthy organization.  But, what we do in the church is service.  Service to our church is an ordinary task of our discipleship. We are just doing what’s expected.

Today, we have the familiar story of the mustard seed.  The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.  Jesus tells them that even small portions of faith can be extremely powerful.  Then he tells them a story to illustrate his point.  It’s kind of an unusual story, so I think we need to look at it further. At first glance, the story of the slaves doesn’t seem to go with the question of increasing faith.

First, let me say something about the analogy Jesus uses here. The language of slavery is always problematic and needs a great deal of context and discussion, but I am going to save that for another sermon. 

The slaves in the story are expected to serve their Lord and Master.  They aren’t volunteering.  They are just doing their jobs.  These are the ordinary tasks that they are supposed to be doing. When you belong to the Master, you do the things that the Master needs you to do. It’s just who you are and what you do.

The disciples ask Jesus for increased faith.  We know that faith is gift of the Holy Spirit.  That was such an important point for Luther that we have memorized it and taught our children to memorize it for 500 years.  “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead it is the Holy Spirit who has called me through the gospel…” 

The disciples wanted a big faith.  Jesus talks to them about ordinary faith.  And ordinary faith looks like doing ordinary things.  It doesn’t make a big show of itself and do magic tricks like making trees grow in the salty ocean water. 

Ordinary faith looks like doing your job and coming home and making dinner for the family.  Ordinary faith looks like putting their needs above your own. It looks a lot like being a responsible adult, a responsible parent, like teaching your children the things they need to know so that they can grow up to be faithful and responsible, too. 

One of the most important tasks of ordinary discipleship is sharing our faith.  This seems harder than it should be. Our society has been teaching us the lie that faith should be a private matter.  We have been taught that it’s actually impolite to share our beliefs because we don’t want to impose them on other people.  We have been taught that it’s important not to risk offending anyone. 

The message that we should not share our faith is a lie that comes from the Evil One.  The snake might as well have whispered in Eve’s ear not to tell anyone else about the love of God. 

When we believe this lie, and we are afraid to share our faith, we forget how to do it. It’s not that hard though. I admit that’s easy for me to say, because people expect me to talk about Jesus professionally. And other people aren’t necessarily expecting you to do that.

In our second reading today, Paul talks to Timothy about the faith of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Timothy learned about the love of God in Jesus from his mother and grandmother.  These women and their ordinary discipleship taught little Timothy about God’s love.  They showed Timothy how to live a life of service to God.  They showed him what faith looked like.  They taught him that faith is active in love.

I wonder who Lois and Eunice were in your life.  Who taught you about the love of God in Jesus?  I bet it was just an ordinary disciple.  Maybe it was your grandmother who always had time to listen to you when you were a child.  

Maybe it was your father who read Bible stories to you before you went to bed at night even though he was tired from a long day at work. 

Perhaps you saw your grandfather help someone when he didn’t know you were looking.  

Maybe the Lois or Eunice in your life was one of the saints in a Bible story you read. Do you relate to Peter who was always the first to jump in with an opinion and always wanted to be the one who stood next to Jesus.  

Did you receive your faith like Paul who needed a dramatic event in his life before he believed? 

Maybe there are many Loises and Eunices in your life.  One of mine was Sister Mildred Johnson.  She was a social worker and a relatively quiet woman.  But she was a fierce advocate for women’s rights.  Because she was quiet, nobody expected her to be the first one to wear a pantsuit to church back in the day when everyone wore dresses. 

Her behavior spoke eloquently that both male and female are created in the image of God. Her blessed memory helps gives me the strength to stand up for the rights of marginalized people.  

Who has done this for you?  Who has been the Lois who taught you that Jesus Christ came to earth as a little child like you.  Who told you that Jesus loves you so much that he gave his life for you.  Who told you that you never have to fear anything, including death itself, because Jesus rose from the dead for you?

Who has been Eunice for you?  Who has been like a mother who showed you that those of us who belong to this family of faith will give our lives in service because that’s just what we do when we are part of the family.   

I hope you are thinking of a particular person who has done this for you.  I want to challenge you to do two things today.  First, share with someone the story of that person who shared their faith with you. Ask them to share their story with you.

Second, figure out who Timothy is in your life.  Be Lois and Eunice for your Timothy. Tell him about the love of Jesus. By your service, show him what ordinary discipleship looks like.