Thursday, September 30, 2010

Increase Our Faith

Our Lectionary readings being focused on this week are Luke 17:5-10 and 2 Timothy 1:1-14. To read these two intriguing passages about faith and how we live it, click here.

There was a fascinating editorial in the Washington Post this past week that began with a compelling question: "What would you do if you got the chance to talk to the most powerful person on the planet?" Though this editorial was about the chance to talk to and ask questions of the President of the United States, the gospels are full of encounters that truly answer these questions: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John brim over with anecdotes of moments in time where people were face to face with Jesus and got to ask for or about what they wondered, wanted, needed.

I am completely intrigued by the things people chose to ask Jesus in the gospels.

Sometimes people asked questions to figure out who this Jesus guy is: the demons asked, "Have you come to destroy us?" John the Baptist's disciples asked, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Pilate asked in a moment of truth, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

People who met Jesus along the road asked for things that they needed. "My daughter has just died. But come put your hand on her, and she will live." "Lord, have mercy on my son, he has seizures and is suffering greatly." "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."
But perhaps the questions we should pay attention to most are the ones asked by Jesus' disciples...the ones who saw the most of what Jesus did, who travelled with him constantly, who heard the fullest spectrum of his teaching and had the best chance of actually figuring out what Jesus was talking about and what was important to know. Many of the things the disciples asked , when you look at them closely, were kind of cowardly and dense, especially in light of all Jesus had taught them. Take, for example, James and John's request: "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." Or their shout in the middle of the storm on the lake: "Teacher, don't you care that we drown?"
Occasionally, however, the disciples hit on something good. For example, "Lord, teach us to pray" was a pretty good request--how else would we have the beautiful prayer we offer each week in worship? And it would seem, at first glance, that the disciples' request of "Increase our faith" in today's gospel passage is a holy and honorable request as well...after all, who doesn't want and need more faith, and why would Jesus not want them to have more faith?
But Jesus responds as sharply to this request as he does to some of the disciples' sillier ones. What's silly about wanting more faith? What's so bad about such a request? This seems to be the question this text is asking us, and this is the question that will pursue us into Sunday. Be with us as we ask this question of Jesus together.

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