Summary: The disciples asked for faith but what they really needed was faithfulness.
In our daily lives, we come across many different people. Often, when we are with strangers, in order to break the ice, we engage in what is called, "small talk." Small talk is a way to show friendliness by discussing things that are somewhat superficial. For decades, if not centuries, there has been one specific topic that has dominated the world of small talk, especially in Canada and that is the weather.
But it seems that for the first time ever, there is a new topic that is poised to take over the #1 spot when it comes to small top - gas prices! Everywhere you go, people are talking about how gas has gone up 5 cents or down 3 cents. People seem more concerned about their gas tank than anything else in the world.
Well, I'd like to start my sermon today by considering the analogy of a gas tank. A gas tank is simply a container that holds the gas needed by your car. You fill it up at the gas station and then slowly the level goes down as the gas is used. When it gets close to being empty, you cross your fingers - hope that gas has gone down that particular day, and then fill the tank back up again.
We sometimes get the idea that our relationship with God is like a gas tank. This is true to some extent because we all have times when we feel spiritually "low." We also have times when, after an inspiring worship service, we fill encouraged, as if our tank has been filled back up.
But such an analogy can be dangerous. Faith is not like a gas tank that constantly needs topping up. And church is not a gas station that merely exists to service your Christianity.
The original disciples made a similar mistake in their thinking. Even though they didn't have gas tanks back then, they thought it was possible and necessary to top up their faith tank. Our passage for today is Luke 17:1-10. But let's jump for a moment to verse 5:
 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
The disciples were a lot like us. They felt that if they could have more faith, they could be better disciples. We think like this too. We often look at our life and we are not pleased at what we see. We get this sense that we could be doing better.
So, we say to ourselves, "If only I had more faith. Then I could be a better disciple." And we say to God the same thing the disciples said - Increase my faith!
Before we look at Christ's response, let's go back and get the background of this passage. When I first read these verses (1-10), they seemed to me to be quite disconnected. They seemed to be a hodge-podge of various instruction thrown together. This may in fact be the case. Luke could have pieced these verses together from various saying of Jesus. Or perhaps Jesus did say these all at once. It doesn't matter. The fact is that Holy Spirit inspired Luke to record them here and to record them in this order. And therefore there must be meaning to the order.
Previously in Luke's account, Jesus had given the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, which we covered in last's week sermon. The parable taught us that we need to have a sincere compassion for all people. Now, in verse 1 of chapter 17, Jesus continues to talk about the great responsibility we have as disciples:
 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Christ is warning us about the seriousness of sin. We are responsible for our actions and our words. It is a very serious thing to cause someone else to stumble. Notice what he says next:
[3a] So watch yourselves.
So often we read verses like 1 and 2 and think, "Yeah. God's gonna get people who cause other to stumble" but we don't stop to think whether we ourselves are guilty of doing it. We all need to watch ourselves in that regard. Not too long ago we discussed the power of the tongue - something we all misuse. Let's continue:
[3b] "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
This is a slightly different topic. Here Jesus reminds us of two things: