Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

Sermon for October 2, 2022 – Proper 22

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 4045 | Our Inadequacy
Cara Garrity

Have you ever felt like you were not equal to a task you were given? You try your best, but it seems like you come up short? It is especially tough when you feel inadequate in ministry. Perhaps you tried to do a community event and very few people showed up? Or, maybe you tried to facilitate a connect group and nothing went as you wanted? Or maybe you are too intimidated to even attempt to participate in Jesus’ ministry.  When you feel inadequate it is natural to wonder why God would invite you to participate in his ministry in the first place.

The apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy, was familiar with the feeling of inadequacy. The young man led a congregation in Ephesus, and he felt like he was not equal to the task. In particular, Timothy wondered if he was too young to meet the ministry needs of Christ-followers far older than himself. In his 2nd letter to him, Paul wrote to encourage Timothy and to provide some guidance. He said:

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love
and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:3-7

Notice the first thing Paul did was to confirm Timothy’s giftedness, reminding him of the faithfulness of his mother and grandmother. This, no doubt, brought to Timothy’s mind the ways in which God faithfully worked through his two ancestors. Next, Paul encouraged Timothy to use his gifts, reminding him that God is the one truly working through him. Paul made it clear that Timothy’s ministry was accomplished by the Spirit, and the young minister did not need to trust in his own adequacy but in the God who gifted and called him.

The same is true for us. Participating in Jesus’ ministry can be challenging, and it is easy to feel inadequate. It is important to remember that it is Jesus’ ministry and not our own, and the weight of his ministry is not ours to carry. Jesus is the true minister, and he will accomplish the work that he sets out to do.

The Spirit gives us gifts enabling us to participate in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Again, however, we are not ultimately responsible for the results of that participation – Jesus is. This should free us to use the gifts God has given us without the burden of perfection. We will make mistakes in ministry and things will not always go as planned. However, we are already assured that the ultimate victory has already been won in Christ. While we may feel inadequate sometimes, Jesus is always more than enough.

I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 137:1-9 • Lamentations 1:1-6 • 2 Timothy 1:1-14 • Luke 17:5-10

The theme for this week is lament in the face of our inadequacy. Apart from God, all human efforts are futile. When we willfully act apart from God, the Christian response is lament and repentance, acknowledging our inadequacy and dependance on him. The call to worship Psalm invokes the cries of an Israelite returning from captivity in Babylon, a place where the speaker felt separated from God. In Lamentations, we read a heartbreaking lament for the exiled inhabitants of Judah, whose condition was brought about by unfaithfulness to God. In the Timothy passage, Paul spoke words of comfort and guidance to his distressed protégé who felt inadequate as a minister. In the Gospel scripture, Jesus acknowledged the inadequacy of his disciples’ faith, implying the need for his followers to be completely dependent upon him.

Do You Need a Bigger Faith?

Luke 17:5-10

In the classic 1975 thriller Jaws, Roy Schneider, in his role as police chief Martin Brody, delivers one of the most famous lines in all of American cinema. In the film, after a series of shark attacks, Brody enlists Matt Hooper, a marine biologist (played by Richard Dreyfuss), and Quint, a professional shark hunter (played by Robert Shaw) to help him track down and kill the dangerous Great White. The three men take Quint’s vessel out to sea and set about to hook the shark. To attract it to their location, Brody shovels chum (bloody fish parts) into the water and he succeeds in drawing the ravenous sea monster. When Brody sees the Great White for the first time, he is stunned by the size of the creature. In a daze, he staggers over to Quint and almost whispers, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” The statement perfectly captured the moment the three men realized they were in over their heads.

In popular culture, Brody’s quote is a meme, gif, poster, t-shirt, and every other method of marketing you can imagine. It has been referenced over 40 times in TV shows, songs, and movies, making it the rallying cry of everyone who comes face-to-face with their own limitations and inadequacy. We have all been there at one time or another – in a situation where the way forward seems so daunting that you realize your “best” up until that point will not be good enough.

The 12 disciples of Jesus faced a “bigger boat” challenge. Jesus taught them a lesson they found difficult to hear and even more difficult to live out. He set a high standard for forgiveness, instructing the disciples to forgive every time their fellow human beings sin against them. Even if a person harms them multiple times in the same way, Jesus required his disciples to forgive. Forgiveness is hard under the best circumstances, and Jesus’ expectation seemed unrealistic to his followers. The disciples said the equivalent of, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” They pled for Jesus to increase their faith. Let us look at the account in Luke 17:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’“ (Luke 17:5-10 NIV)

Jesus’ response was unexpected. He first offered an analogy about faith that disrupted the disciples’ understanding, followed by a parable that was humbling in the extreme. I imagine there was a long, uncomfortable silence after Jesus’ response as his followers tried to process their leader’s jarring teaching on a topic they thought they understood. A closer look at the passage will show that Jesus’ words were encouraging, especially to those feeling inadequate. However, they do cause us to move ourselves from the center of our focus. His words were not only encouraging to the 12 disciples, but they are a blessing to us as well.

Let’s first look at why the disciples’ request for faith was off the mark. In essence, the apostles told Jesus, “To do what you just said, we’re gonna need a bigger faith!” They viewed faith as a quantifiable commodity they somehow stored in themselves – kind of like having a faith battery. As they listened to Christ’s teaching and bore witness to his wonders, units of faith were added to their faith battery, increasing the overall faith charge. If they sinned or went too long without connecting with Christ, they lost some of their faith charge. When faced with a spiritual challenge, they had to check to see if there was enough in the faith battery to power them through whatever they had to do. If not, they had to spend more time with Jesus in order to increase the faith charge in the battery. After the disciples heard Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, they figured they did not have enough faith in their batteries, and they asked Jesus for more. While this analogy may seem a bit humorous, this is exactly how many of us view faith. We see it as something we accumulate and store up.

For the disciples to be able to live out the challenging way of Christ, their understanding of faith had to be renewed, as does ours.

Jesus taught his followers that faith was not a commodity to be stored but the fruit of a relationship. Let me say that again: faith is not a commodity to be stored; faith is the fruit of a relationship.

We do not store up faith, and we do not have true faith of our own. Rather, faith describes the state of being convinced that Jesus is trustworthy in a particular way based on our experience with him in the past. We will not have faith in Jesus in all ways and in all things in this life. Our minds are limited in their ability to completely divorce ourselves from our earthly knowledge and experience. However, we are capable of believing in his word after we get to know him better. For example, if I were sick and God miraculously healed me, I would come to know that God is a healer. If someone I care about becomes sick, and if in prayer, God shows me that my loved one will be healed, I will have faith that the person will make a full recovery. I have faith not because of some accumulated commodity that I can dip into as needed. Rather, I have faith because I have come to know God as the healer. I am convinced of his goodness and power.

This is why Jesus said that all we need is a little faith — just the faith of a mustard seed. Faith has little to do with us and everything to do with him. It is not the power of our belief that changes things, rather it is the belief in his power. We do not direct God’s power with our faith and prayers, dictating to him what we would have him do. Instead, we seek to discern his will in prayer and live in the reality of his word. Too often, Christians think that it is our desires and belief that catalyze God’s activity. It is God’s activity that should shape our belief. I may not believe in God in all the ways that I should, but if I am convinced that God is a healer, then that is sufficient to believe God’s word when he speaks to me of healing. I believe this is what it means to have a little faith.

This should cast a new light on the many times in the Gospels Jesus said to one or more of the disciples that they had little faith. We have to contrast those statements with the many times Jesus said that all one needs is a little faith or the faith of a mustard seed. Looking at it this way, perhaps Christ’s comments about the little faith of his disciples was not a rebuke but an encouragement — a reminder that in him they have all they need.

The disciples asked for a bigger boat, but Jesus directed them to the one who created the ocean. In other words, Christ reoriented them to himself. Instead of putting themselves in the center, Jesus revealed that he is the center. It is not their internal belief that can replant a tree in the sea. Rather, if Jesus says that the tree will be moved, his followers should faithfully behave as if it were already accomplished. Our role is not to set God’s agenda but to discern his plan. It is not the power of the disciples that will enable them to forgive others, it is their complete dependence in the power of Christ working through them as they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We, too, are dependent on Christ alone, and faith does not exist apart from him. It is not our place to “name and claim” the miracles we want to see. It is our privilege to bear witness to and participate in the work Jesus is doing to recreate the world.

We should be in awe of the fact that Christ-followers can serve as conduits of his miraculous power. In a perfect world, human beings would humbly appreciate our inclusion in the life of Christ. However, we are prone to pride. We have a tendency to focus on ourselves and it would be easy to become puffed up by the miracles to which we bear witness. This may be why Jesus followed up his lesson about faith with a parable about servanthood. The story Jesus tells illustrates that Christians are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and are empowered by him to participate in the life and work of Christ. As servants following orders, we cannot take pride in what we are able to accomplish because we are just doing as we were instructed by the Spirit. There is no place for pride, only humility and gratitude.

In Christ’s response to his disciples’ expression of inadequacy, he did not try to make his followers feel better. He did not quote an affirmation or pray a prayer of empowerment like they wanted. Just the opposite — he confirmed their inadequacy! In themselves, they were incapable of meeting the standard set by Christ. At the same time, he revealed his overwhelming sufficiency and his willingness to work for our good. This is good news for all who call on the name of the Lord.

We all feel inadequate at times. We have all wondered if our best was good enough. The greatest of parents, at times, feels completely overwhelmed. The most seasoned pastors will come up short. The most brilliant scientists will come across a problem they feel is beyond their capacity to solve. [Perhaps include a story about when you felt inadequate.] Inadequacy does not feel good; however, it is part of the normal Christian life. It is in our inadequacy that we can better appreciate the sufficiency of Christ. It is then that we realize that we are nothing without him. It is then that we are reminded of the importance of humility. It is then that we can be trusted to be the conduit of the miraculous.

When faced with a daunting challenge, let us not ask God for a bigger boat. Rather, let us turn to Christ and live in the reality of his sufficiency.

Justified w/ Walter Kim W1

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October 2 – Proper 22
Luke 17:5-10 “Keeping the Faith”

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Program Transcript

Justified w/ Walter Kim W1

Anthony: I’m going to read our first pericope which is Luke 17:5-10. This month, we’re going to focus on the NASB. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Proper22 on October 2 in Ordinary Time.

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” But the Lord said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

“Now which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him after he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and recline at the table to eat’? On the contrary, will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which were commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed was our Lord Jesus’s response to the apostles request for more faith. Walter, what is Jesus ultimately communicating or was he communicating to them and revealing to us by the holy spirit?

Walter: Yes. This is such a challenging passage because we all have experienced moments in our prayer life in which we utter, like the father, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,” in this sense, in which we are asking God to even help us pray better.

But I’d like to put this passage in its actual broader context. So, when I hear that the apostles say to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Why are they making that request? What is the challenge that was just issued that would cause them to say, “I don’t have the faith for it”?

And if you look at the passage that precedes this (that gives it its context), it wasn’t a passage about prayer. In other words, they weren’t asking for more faith in order to be able to pray better so that they could take this mustard seed of faith and do miraculous things like tell a Mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. There were two issues that were raised in versus 1-4 of chapter 17 that caused the apostles to say, whoa, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to need more faith, so increase our faith.

One of the issues was if you cause any of the little ones to stumble, then it is better for you to be cast into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck. And then Jesus goes—that’s already challenging enough—then he goes on to say, if your brother or sister sins against you rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times, you forgive them if they come back seven times and ask for forgiveness.

And so, there are two things, two challenges that Jesus raised up that forced them to say, just increased my faith, because I can’t do that! And one is our solidarity with those people in need, the vulnerable, that we would put nothing in their way to finding Jesus.

And so, the little ones. Of course, the little ones being caused to stumble probably literally also included little ones, children. So, causing children, not to have anything that would prevent them from coming to Jesus. I think we could affirm that.

But I think in the context of Luke more broadly, Luke has such an incredible theme of hospitality for the vulnerable that appears again and again throughout the Gospel of Luke, this extraordinary concern Jesus has for the outcast, the marginalized in society. It seems to me that one of the things that Jesus is doing here, he’s saying if we are causing any (whether it’s the little ones who are young and vulnerable for that reason, or the marginalized in society who are vulnerable for other reasons) to cause any of them not to come to Jesus, to stumble, to prevent them from coming to Jesus brings judgment.

And then the second thing is, the need to forgive others. I think those two things present perpetual challenges to us, don’t they? The need to have such care for those on the margins, the vulnerable, the weak and not to put anything in their way from coming to Jesus and the need to forgive others.

I think we’re very quick to harbor bitterness, to harbor things, to keep score, no wonder the apostles say increase our faith. How can we do this? And it’s only then as we turn to Jesus, in the humble recognition that we can’t do this kind of work of forgiveness or solidarity and concern, we’re going to need Jesus to increase our faith.

Because this imagery of the Mulberry tree is one in which in the ancient world, the Mulberry tree was a metaphor often because the deep root systems of Mulberry trees. It was representation of just that, something so deeply rooted and entrenched that it would be hard to move.

And in this case, it seems to me what Jesus is getting at, is saying, with these challenges, you’re right. You don’t have the faith to be able to have that kind of love and compassion and the ability to forgive. In order to uproot those things that are so deeply rooted in your life, you’re going to need to come to me. And even if you have just the smallest bit of dependence upon me, I will move towards you.

Anthony: Jesus has such a passion, does he not, for the least, the last, and the lost? And Lord, thank you for your gift of faith and forgive us when we haven’t upheld these dear ones to you. Help us with our unbelief.

Walter, if you were preaching this pericope to your congregation, what would be your focus from the text? And maybe we’ve already heard parts of it. But what would be your focus and why?

Walter: Yeah, I would focus in on that forgiveness requires faith and faithfulness, the challenge to uproot what is deeply rooted in us.

And I would follow up on this theme because I think all of us can safely say—I’m not a prophet, but I’m going to make a prophecy right now—I think every single one of us has a broken relationship in our life where we need to be forgiven and to forgive, and we are all profoundly challenged and unable.

We have reached a wall, an impasse so much so that we just maybe have ignored the relationship or let it die. Quietly walked away from it or are railing against it in anger. I would say if we were to preach and our congregations were to be freed with the forgiveness that comes in Christ and then the forgiveness that can come through Christ toward others, that this could be absolutely transformational to our family and community lives.

Anthony: Reconciliation is God’s idea and it’s a good one! And he always acts first out of forgiveness and an abundance of reconciliation. And it’s why I was telling my wife recently, how anytime I see reconciliation happen in a movie, for instance between a father and a son, I’m just stirred deep in my soul. Because this is what it looks like in the life of the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and what a joy it is to participate in that, right?

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Have you ever felt inadequate in ministry? What was it like? If you have not gotten involved in ministry, does any part of participating in ministry make you feel apprehensive?
  • All ministry is part of Jesus’ ministry to the Father. Does this take some of the pressure off serving in ministry?

From the sermon

  • Prior to hearing the sermon, did you think faith was like an internal battery? Has your view shifted?
  • Why is it dangerous to think that we can direct God’s activity with our faith?
  • Can you think of a story when God showed himself to be sufficient?

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