Summary: Being super-sized cab be over-rated and seed-sized under estimated in the life of faith.
Title: Seed-size Your Faith
Text: Luke 17:5-10
Thesis: Being super-sized can be over-rated and seed-sized under estimated in the life of faith.
It has been in the news of late. Fifty years ago, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit. Sputnik 1 was beachball sized, nearly 23 inches in diameter and weighed 184 pounds. It orbited earth 1,440 times before its batteries ran out and it plunged back into the earths atmosphere on October 26, 1957.
The success of Sputnik 1 shocked us here in the United States and precipitated what would become the so-called “space race” which continued through the Cold War.
It was not very big when we think in terms of our Space Shuttle, which is 149.6 feet tall, 28.5 feet in diameter, and weighs 4,474,574 pounds. Sputnik 1 demonstrates that something does not need to be enormous in order to be effective and even cause a big stir.
Do you remember the McDonalds campaign a few years ago in which fast food patrons were asked if they would like their meal super-sized? Shortly after the airing of the 2004 documentary titled Super-size Me, McDonalds and other fast food chains phased out the super-sized meal option and began to offer healthy menu options. Non-the-less, we Americans are pretty impressed by things super-sized, be they Space Shuttles or Big Mac Meals.
I would like to suggest that in matters of faith, super-sizing is not Jesus’ idea of faithful living.
I. The desire for greater faith might be a misunderstanding of faith.
One day the apostles said to Jesus, “We need more faith; tell us how to get it.” Luke 17:5
The story that follows indicates that: Faith does not have to be huge to make a difference!
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we have the story of how Jesus healed a demon-possessed boy. In desperation, the boy’s father had brought his son to the disciples to be healed, but they could not. I have the feeling from reading the text that Jesus shook his head and said, “My, my, how long must I be with you before you believe? Bring the boy to me.”
In the Mark 9:14-29 account of the story, the father said to Jesus, “Do something if you can, for my son.” Jesus replied, “What do you mean, ‘If I can?’ Anything is possible if a person believes.”
In the story line the father responded to Jesus’ comment regarding the possibilities of faith, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” In this story Jesus is moved to act even in the face of shaky faith.
I think we live under the illusion that faith is something we quantify. We assume that if we have any shred of doubt or concern, God will not be able or moved to demonstrate his mercy or exercise his power.
It would seem that we would do well to aspire to mustard seed-sized faith.
II. Mustard seed-sized faith is sufficient to do great exploits.
Jesus said, “Even if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “May God uproot you and throw you into the sea, and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6
A mustard seed is not the smallest of seeds, but it was a seed and a plant with which his listeners were aware. The seed is about 1/20 of an inch in diameter. Comparatively a petunia is 1/50th of an inch in diameter and a begonia is 1/100th of an inch in diameter. You need a 10 to 30--power microscope in order to see an orchid seed in detail. (The Parable of the Mustard Seed and its Alleged Contradictions, J. Timothy Unruh, 1996)
The point is not that the seed is the smallest of seed… but it is small.
The Mulberry Tree is not the largest of trees, but it is tall. The Mulberry tree with which Jesus’ audience would have been familiar could have been from 10 to 15 meters in height or nearly fifty feet tall. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulberry)
So the point Jesus is making is that a pretty small and insignificant faith can have a sizeable effect or make a significant difference.
So what is Jesus saying?
• Does this mean his disciples do not even have mustard seed-size faith?
• Does this mean that Jesus believed they had mustard seed-size faith and they just need to use what faith they have?
• Does this mean that faith is evidenced by uprooting a mulberry tree or moving a mountain and tossing them into the sea?
• Does Jesus mean that the exercise of faith is about doing theatrical demonstrations.
• Does Jesus mean that such exercises of faith are kind of pointless? In other words, what is the point of planting a tree in the sea? Is the point just being able to do it?