The lessons for today all have one thing in common: Faith. The prophet Habakkuk proclaims God’s word that “The righteous shall live by Faith”. The disciples beg Jesus to “Increase our Faith!” And in his letter to Timothy, Paul reminds him of his faith, a faith passed down to him from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
So today, the day in which four of our young people are AFFIRMING their Faith, I want to explore three questions of Faith:
1) Where does it come from?
2) How much do I need?
3) And, finally, if “the righteous shall live by faith, what does a life of faith look like?”
Let’s begin with the easiest one: Where does Faith come from? Paul reminds Timothy that his faith was “passed down” from his mother and grandmother. So if faith is “passed down,” who passed it to you?
Who first told you about Jesus? What it your mom or dad? A grandma or grandpa? A godparent? Someone else in your family? Or was it someone at church? A Sunday School teacher? A pastor? Or was it someone surprising – a neighbor, a friend, a teacher? Maybe it was more than one person. Or maybe you don’t remember who FIRST told you about Jesus. Can you think of one or two or more people who have told you about Jesus?
Yesterday I asked the Confirmands what they remembered about their baptism. None of them remembered a thing! It’s not surprising – all of them were just a few months old when they were baptized. This is because we believe that faith is a gift from GOD. So we baptize people at any age because we believe that the promises of Jesus are for everyone! Young and Old, rich and poor, skin colors and heritages of every variety are invited into God’s kingdom. All are welcome and INVITED to receive the gift of faith.
‘It’s God’s Gift – and it’s free. Faith was given to you so that you will know that:
God loves you and wants a relationship with YOU and is with you ALWAYS.
So what about the next question, “How much do You or I need?” If it’s a free gift, why wouldn’t we, like the disciples, want Jesus to give us as much faith as possible?
To put the Gospel story into context, the disciples have been traveling with Jesus and listening to Jesus teach about the life of faith. In the verse right before our Gospel, Jesus is preaching forgiveness and mercy…even to their enemies – and they were living under Roman occupation. That sounds really hard. The disciples realize that this is a good teaching – but a hard one and so they beg Jesus: increase our faith!
It sounds like a worthy request: Increase our Faith. But instead, Jesus seems to scold them, telling them that if they had the smallest bit of faith – even the “size of a mustard seed” they could command the mulberry tree to move – and it would!
To be clear, Jesus isn’t interested in transplanting mulberry trees into the sea. Instead, he is seeking to teach his disciples about faith.
Faith isn’t quantifiable. You can’t measure it like your blood pressure or weigh it on a scale or compare your faith to someone else’s. It’s not a competition.
It is a gift. And it was given to you so that you will know that:
God loves you and wants a relationship with YOU and is with you ALWAYS.
So what does this mean? It means that you do not need to be afraid when times are hard, as they were in the time of the prophet Habakkuk. You do not need to worry about whether you will have “enough” faith, like the disciples in the Gospel. Faith is not something that you measure – nor is it something that you can set on the shelf and admire. Jesus is not giving out cool “faith awards” that need to be dusted.
Faith doesn’t get dusty. Instead, faith is a way of life.
In our Gospel, Jesus gives a really hard and confusing example about the life of faith. It’s confusing for us because it is based on the culture of the first century. To put it in our context, it’s like when you go to a restaurant, you don’t invite the waiter to sit down and eat with you. And they don’t expect it! Instead, the waiter or waitress does their job and then, after they have done their job they can go in the break room and eat. When they serve you they are simply doing their job.
In that same way, we as Christians, as people of faith, are called to a life of faith – it’s our job. It’s our life. It is who God calls us to be. It’s who we are. Don’t expect to get an award for it. Instead, this is the life to which God has called YOU. It isn’t always glamorous. But it is a life worth living.
It’s a life worth living because it is a life with Christ. Remember, Faith is a gift, a gift from God. So if you have the presence of Christ with you always, you always have access to all the faith you will every need.
The real question is: How do you and you and I live out the faith that God has given us? If “the righteous shall live by faith, what does a life of faith look like?”
It starts with our baptism. This is when God makes public the promises that God loves you and wants a relationship with YOU and is with you ALWAYS. These are God’s promises to you.
But God is not the only one making promises.
Since our Confirmands don’t remember their baptism – and we don’t expect them to, they were only infants – I want to remind them and all of us what it is that their parents and godparents and the people of God in this congregation promised to do to support them in their Christian faith.
1) Live with them among God’s faithful people;
2) Bring them to the word of God and the holy supper;
3) Teach them the Lord’s prayer, the Creed and the 10 Commandments;
4) Place in their hands the holy scriptures;
These are 4 of the 5 promises that your parents made with the help of your Godparents and the whole congregation. They kept these promises – well done! But.. they and you are not done.
Parents and Godparents: I have to inform you: There is no expiration date on the promises that you made to GOD for your child. You are NOT DONE. Living a life of faith means that parents and Godparents and their children regardless of how old they are will continue to:
1) Live among God’s faithful people – in other words, be a part of Christian community;
2) Come to worship to hear the word of God and receive the holy supper; You still need to be fed with God’s word and with Christ’s body and blood.
3) Remember and continue to grow in faith as you continue to study what the Lord’s prayer, the Creed and the 10 Commandments are teaching you about living a Christian life TODAY;
4) You placed the scriptures in your child’s hands and so now they and you can READ the scriptures so that you will continue to read and hear God’s Word and wrestle with what it means for your life.
Finally, the fifth promise. This is a promise for a lifetime for your parents, for Godparents, for the congregation, and for our confirmands and they affirm their faith. Listen:
5) Nurture them in faith and prayer so that they may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. That is the life of faith.
This is the life that we have promised to lead.
Trust God. Proclaim Christ by your daily words and actions. Remember the person or persons who first told you about Jesus? This is what they were doing – they proclaimed Christ. Care for others. That’s what Jesus taught us – to love one another. Take care of God’s world. Work for justice and peace. This is a life of faith. This is a life worth living. And it is a Gift from God. Amen.
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane
October 2, 2016