Rev. Rosemary Webb
6th October 2013
To Have Faith is to Love and Serve

I suppose many of us remember the mustard seed passage from childhood. I can recall being given a mustard seed in a small pot to take home and water. Being all excited at the prospect of growing a giant tree in our bedroom; watering it carefully for a short time and then forgetting about it; losing interest; and in the end tipping it into the waste bin.

In the Gospel we have just heard the disciples were asking Jesus to increase their faith. (If we had heard the previous five verses we would know this request was a result of Jesus telling them that every time someone sins against then and repents they must forgive no matter how often it happens). To which Jesus replied if they had faith as big as a grain of mustard seed, they would have a faith which could move large trees: achieve anything.

He tells the disciples that to serve God they must do their duty, they must seek no thanks or praise, because that is what is required of them, God requires us to faithfully do our duty to him.

For many one of the problems with faith is that we can start our faith journey in great excitement; or perhaps something has happened which has renewed our faith; something perhaps has stirred our emotions afresh and has made us see the true glory of God.

The fact is most of our faith journey is more of a plateau, for most people it is not a journey of one great emotional stirring of the heart just a more gentle journey with its ups and downs, its great sadness and great joys. We know that God is here with us, but we can’t always find that initial excitement that spurred us on, and if we aren’t careful to nurture our faith to see the little sparks as well as the large fireworks it can turn into that mustard seed I was given as a child; we forget it, lose interest and if we are not careful we discard it.

Our duty is to live by faith in Jesus and perform that duty each day but we are not to expect praise or glory from God for doing that. It is our duty to be obedient to God’s word, if we wish to be saved, because that way of life is what is expected of us who have been offered salvation through Christ.

Once we become disciples we find ourselves in the same position as the original disciples, with the same anxieties, the same fears as to whether we have faith that is strong enough. Tom Wright describes Christ’s response as saying its not great faith we need, it is faith in a great God.

It is a faith which makes us want to share our love for God, a faith which sustains us, a faith which really makes us want to proclaim the Gospel. Our duty is to live for Christ and to live in the world for others. We are to reach out to all people. In our own community we are to reach out not just to those who call themselves Christian, but to everyone. People of all faiths, those who deny God, those who claim we are wrong; they are all a child of God. We are called to reach out to them and pray for them.

Being a disciple is not just praying and teaching it is also, I believe, what is encapsulated in the words of St Francis ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if you must’.

It is pointless I believe to tell people that God loves them and then persecute them, ignore them. Many years ago I remember meeting someone who said he knew and loved the stories of Jesus, and he did seem to have faith;, but the church as far as he could see bore very little resemblance to Christ. In fact he never went to church because he felt the church just viewed him as a sinner. Christ reached out to all, we cannot choose who we help; we are here for our entire parish, for all people, whoever they are.

The great step forward over the last few years in our own area is the way the churches are working together. Reaching out without persecution, helping and guiding without being judgemental, trying to help without making people feel they are total sinners beyond redemption. Not so many years ago the idea of having a winter night shelter in our church would have been met with lots of tutting. How good it was to have last year’s guests at our Christmas party, mixing and sharing with us.

One of the difficulties facing people today is that the words ‘duty’ and ‘obedience’ have nearly become non-words. To many they are words, which have to be challenged and indeed derided. We hear of the need for free expression, that we mustn’t stifle people, that we all have our freedom and independence. I am sure Christ would agree with that – being called to live in obedience to God, being told it is our duty to serve him, is very different from being told it is our duty to be obedient to some taskmaster, some tyrant someone who wants to deny us freedom of choice.

Serving God is very different from the life of a slave, a life of bullying and abuse. Serving God is sharing his love, helping others to understand the message of salvation, ensuring that all hear the good news of the Gospel, ensuring that Christians may worship God in freedom, without persecution. I heard on the news that Ofsted has said only four in ten schools our teaching Christianity satisfactorily, it is our duty to ensure that all children learn about Jesus, learn of God’s love for them.

How we show our faith is in service to others. We are all servants and our work is never done. We can’t stop living the lives of disciples for wherever we are or whatever we are doing we are a disciple of Christ. As Jesus said we may have had a hard day at work but we must still serve God.

I have heard faith described as a window through which you can see something. It doesn’t matter whether it is a large window or a small window, what matters is that our faith enables to see God in all his glory, to see the creator God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Providing we can keep that window clear we will, providing we don’t let anything block our view, remain servant of God. After all I can’t walk around with dirty glasses or I would stumble.

Faith is not some gift which protects us from the world; it is the gift which enables us to cope with the real world, to cope with all the highs and the lows that life throws at us.

True faith is believing in Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us. The confidence of faith is not in how great it is but that it is faith in the One True God, our Saviour.

True faith is like a mustard seed nurture it and it will be beyond our wildest dreams neglect it and it will wither away.

Luke 17: 5 – 10