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  • Rev. Diane Curtis

A Place at the Table

Luke 17:5-10

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me; put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’

On June 24, 2013 Nik Wallenda walked over a portion of the Grand Canyon on a highwire. He was 1500 feet above the Colorado River carrying a 43-pound balancing pole and wearing eld skin shoes. The entire walk took 22 minutes and 54 seconds to walk 1400 feet on a 2-inch cable. An incredible act of faith!

Faith! In what? The cable, the riggers, and his own skill? His training? He had been performing since he was 4 years old. His family legacy? He was a member of the 7th generation of the flying Wallendas – over 200 years of acrobatics.

There is a level of faith that comes from his background and experiences. However, Nik knew that none of these was enough to keep him from falling. He had watched a video of his great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, walking between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico. As he walked Karl stumbled and fell to his death due to improper rigging. The video was a reminder to Nik of the dangers inherent in what he does.

Nik’s father often shared this quote from Karl, “Life is on the wire, everything else is just waiting.” Waiting for what we may ask? Enough faith? You can’t stockpile it and dole it out then needed to do something difficult. Waiting for life to happen? Possibly. For Nik, these words coupled with his faith changed his life.

Isn’t that what faith is all about? Life on the wire? Faith is meant to be cutting- edge, active, and alive, isn’t it? Yes and no. Faith is certainly active, alive, and cutting edge. Living for Jesus implies this understanding – faith on the edge that is alive and meaningful. The rub, though, is that this type of faith might not be what God is looking for.

I am sure you have heard preachers and teachers and have read books that all tell you that following Jesus is an act of discipleship, of growing in faith. To be a good disciple, we have to do a better job at following Jesus. Practice makes perfect, or near perfect. All it takes is to pray enough, read the Bible enough, serve enough, and worship enough. Doing all these results in a stronger faith that helps you to be able to manage the challenges of life.

The problem with this approach is that it makes faith all about us. We are told what we can do to be more faithful, serve with more love, and forgive more often. It takes time to pray, read, serve, and worship enough to be ready. Waiting until we trust more, know God better, and to take care of our own needs and our own community first. Focusing on doing what it takes to have a stronger faith encourages waiting.

I want to turn our understanding of faith to a different direction. Rather than asking “How much faith is enough?” we ask another question: “What is faith for?” two entirely different questions. Asking the 2nd question changes our focus on faith from us to God.

That is Jesus’ point. The disciples were concerned that they didn’t have enough faith to do what Jesus asked of them including to continually forgive others. In fact, they were worn out thinking about how to be more faithful let alone doing whatever it would take.

Jesus responds by telling the disciples that they already had plenty of faith! You don’t need great faith – even mustard seed size is enough. Rather, you need faith in a great God.

Tom Wright shares this insight:

“Faith is like a window through which you can see something. What matters is not whether the window is 6 inches or 6 feet high; what matters is the God that your faith is looking out on.”

Our question, then, is who do you see out your window?

Nik Wallenda sees Jesus Christ through his window. He depends on other things to do what he does safely – the cable, rigging, shoes, and training. Yet Nik knows that what he does doesn’t define who he is. He views his daredevil stunts “not only to thrill hearts, but to change hearts for Christ.” Not by his own faith, but by the focus of his faith – Jesus.

The year before his Grand Canyon walk, Nik walked over Niagara Falls. Others had walked over the smaller falls downriver from the main one. Nik would be the first to walk over the large, well-known Horseshoe Falls. During the televised walk, Nik wore a microphone so he could talk to commentators. Most of what they heard were prayers to keep him focused on Jesus. The next day, Nik went back to the site, spending 3 hours cleaning up.

Active, alive, and cutting-edge faith is not dependent on the size of your window. A peephole is large enough. Faith is dependent on who you look at through that window. It isn’t great faith you need, but faith in a great God.

That is the faith that defines who we are and how we live. Faith in a great God becomes an expected way of life. The expectation comes from God not from us. An enormous difference! Faith as a way of life is to serve God with a sense of duty and delight, living life according to God’s rules given in love and for God’s glory.

We walk a fine line of faith in our lives. We continually need to ask who we live for, ourselves or God. We balance on that line by directing people to Jesus and by serving as we ought to.

It is easy to slip into the mode of expectation of reward for what we do for God. We tell ourselves that we have done so much, given all that money, and worked hard. Surely God is satisfied so we should get something. Not true. All genuine service to God is done out of gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, not to earn anything at all.

In Micah 6:8 God tells us what we are to do in response to the faith we have in God. To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. We are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in caring for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick, and the sinners. Everyone. We don’t need a lot of faith to serve and love, just faith in God.

As we live the faith we have in Jesus, we are to invite everyone to God’s table. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, or what their lifestyle is. God expects us to do this much.

When we do what we know God expects, we shouldn’t then expect recognition for doing what we ought to. As Jesus says at the end of this passage, “We have done only what we ought to have done!”

Exactly what God expects us to do.


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