Summary: A sermon for the 18 Sunday after Pentecost Proper 22
18th Sunday after Pentecost
5* The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
6* And the Lord said, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ’Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7* "Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ’Come at once and sit down at table’?
8* Will he not rather say to him, ’Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’?
9* Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
10* So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ’We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’" RSV
This text is difficult for us to understand. The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, and He says if you had faith as a grain of a mustard seed you would be able with your words say to his tree, be uprooted and throw yourself in the sea.
Then Jesus speaks about a servant doing his duty because that is he job he is to do with no praise or glory to be sought. He tells the disciples they must do their duty. But do not expect rewards, because you are doing what is expected of you no more or no less.
Our duty, it seems to me is to live by faith in Jesus and we perform that duty each day but we are not to expect praise or glory from God for that living, because that living is what is expected of us who have been saved through Christ.
How do we unravel these words so they make some sense to us this morning. For isn’t that the purpose of a sermon, to explain, to make alive the words of the Bible as living, and vibrant words for us in in this day and age.
I would like to unravel these words this morning by sharing with you a poem written by Edgar Guest as found in "Doing the Gospel" a sermon book by James Bjorge.
Keep these words in your mind this morning for they in a nutshell are a key to some understanding of these words of our Lord.
Guest says: "I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day:......I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell me the way......The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear....Fine counseling is confusing but example’s always clear.....And the best of all the preachers are the ones who live their creeds......For to see good put into action is what every body needs...................I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done.....I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run......And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,.......But I’d rather get lessons by observing what you do;.......For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give....But there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live......When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind....When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind...Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me...to become a big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.......And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today.... Is not the one who tells them but the one who shows the way......One good person teaches many, people believe what they behold....One deed of of kindness noticed worth forty that are told.....Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,......For right living speaks a language which to everyone is clear....Though an able speaker charms with his eloquence I say..... .... I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day. "
Now please don’t tune me out because the beginning list says, "I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.." for what the author is speaking about is not listening to a sermon, but that a Christian must not just talk the talk, but must walk the walk.
That is what Jesus is saying when he speaks about duty. We have a duty to be faithful to Him in our daily life, not just speaking about Christ, but living with Him in our unique worlds.
How faith is applied in service to others, is what Jesus is talking about. A servant’s task is never done, as Jesus explains. The servant comes in from a full day’s work in the field not to eat right away, but to serve the master’s meal. If the servant thinks that he has a compliment coming for this work, he is mistaken. He is doing what is expected of him. If the disciples wanted to ask for an increase of anything, it should not have been faith, but the energy to apply the faith in ongoing, never-ending service.