How Much Is Enough?, Proper 22 (C) - 2007

October 7, 2007

This is a fundamental question for all of us: How much is enough? Especially at this time of year when words such as “stewardship,” “pledge,” “proportional giving,” and “tithe” are in the air.

Luke has told us in no uncertain terms that Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. On the way, Jesus talks endlessly about the life of discipleship. He talks about hospitality, welcoming and helping strangers, seeking lost sheep, visiting prisoners, lost coins, prodigal sons, the rich man, and Lazarus. Then he lays it on in Chapter 17 by saying if you cause anyone to sin, may you sleep with the fishes with cement overshoes on! And you must rebuke those who sin, and forgive those who repent seven times a day.

Is it any wonder the disciples cry out, “Increase our faith”? They are being asked to assume major leadership positions in the community of Christ. And no one wants to end up in the proverbial sleep with the fishes.

For much of the gospel, Jesus has questioned the faith of the disciples. “You have such little faith,” he says often. “Where is your faith?” he asks on the stormy sea. So it is only natural that they cry out, “Give us more. … Give us more faith. … Increase it, please, so we can succeed at all of this.”

It is a familiar cry. Whenever the church is faced with challenges, we say we need more: we need more resources, we need more planning, we need for people, we need more, more, more of everything before we can possibly do what Jesus calls us to do.

We all know just how the disciples are feeling. We put off leading Bible study until we know more about the Bible. Or we put off increasing our pledge until we are making just a bit more money. Just tap into those feelings of need more before listening to Jesus’ response.

His response exemplifies what is wonderful about Jesus and his method of training us and developing our discipleship. Hear what he says. Jesus says you do not need to increase your faith; you just need the tiniest bit of faith imaginable. A grain of mustard seed’s worth of faith can empower you to do great things. Which is to say, unless you have no faith, you already have enough.

You have enough! What you have is sufficient.

As it says in our catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, we are to bear witness to Christ wherever we may be, and “according to the gifts given us, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” This is the definition of lay ministry in the church. For this we were baptized.

This acknowledges that we have all been given gifts and resources. As Saint Paul makes clear in his letter to the Corinthians, we do not all have the same gifts, but we all have gift necessary to do the things Jesus does. And most astonishing of all, in the fourteenth chapter of John, he tells us, “and greater things than these you will do.”

Pause. Try to take this in. We are promised by Jesus that with the gifts we have been given, we will do greater things than he does. What an incredible assertion. What a promise!

Jesus goes on to say that, at the end of the day, when you have used the gifts you already have been given, you may still feel as if you have not done enough – that you do not have enough to give. You will still feel unworthy somehow. That it is only your duty to have done these things Jesus calls us to do.

This is only natural, because you are so filled with the love of God, so filled with the Spirit of God, so perfectly created in God’s own generous and giving image that you will always want to do more for God’s sake and our neighbors’ sake.

Trust what you have – what you have been given. Trust what you have to give. It is more than enough. You can uproot trees. You can move mountains. The lame will walk, the blind will see. Loaves multiply so there’s enough to feed everyone. As you sow, you shall receive. As you follow Christ, you will begin to lead. If only you have faith as small as a mustard seed.

The kingdom of God is at hand. We can reach out and touch it, feel its nearness, participate in its fullness. If only we have the tiniest bit of faith, God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Contact:
Christopher Sikkema