Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to your word.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of God’s gracious reality.
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The gospel lectionary in Luke 17:5-10 draws us into an intimate conversation between the disciples and Jesus as they walk the road south from Capernaum to Jerusalem. Mark’s gospel (Mark 9:33-48) allows us to hear the conversation they were having at Simon Peter’s house just before leaving for the journey south. The disciples had been fighting among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus addresses their pride, presumption, and self-seeking by directing their attention to a little child Jesus brings into the circle as they sit in the house.
When these followers begin to grasp the seriousness of what they had done–and its effect on others–they turn to Jesus and ask him, “Add faith to us.” (Luke 17:5) Faith is both a movement on our part, and a gift of God. As God draws us away from our selfish ways and we turn towards God (a movement of repentance), this is an act of faith on our part. In turn, God gives us faith. Faith is a gift. It is this intertwining of our turning to God in trust and God’s gift to us of faith, that enables us to see difficulties in a different light–the light of God’s wisdom and guidance. When Jesus points to “this mulberry tree” (Luke 17:6) growing beside the road, we find echoes of Matthew’s gospel account where Jesus refers to “this mountain”(Matthew 17:20). It was a custom among the Jews to refer to a great Rabbi as the “uprooter of mountains”, meaning the “remover of difficulties.” Jesus tells his followers that as they see with the heart and with eyes of faith they will see deep-rooted problems (the mulberry tree) and huge difficulties (the mountain) dissipate.
This calls for us to turn to God in trust, to bring what is difficult and impossible for us, and to ask for God’s help. Then we are called to wait. I find that it is in the waiting that I am also called to notice, to be alert to anything God may be offering in the way of guidance or help. God acts in a multitude of ways, and it is the Holy Spirit who sensitizes us to what God is about.
It is this ongoing dependence on God for help as we follow Jesus in all of life, which brings us into the realization that without God we really can do nothing (John 15:5). We are dependent on God for the very air we breathe. This dependence cuts through our deep-rooted desire for personal glory–”Look what I have done!”– or for doing something only for what we can get out of it. To be lovingly faithful is enough. There is deep joy in the doing, and in the knowing that we are in the household of God. At the same time, as we grow in trust and simple, loving obedience, we come to the realization that in all we do, we are not the ones who have done it. Without God’s presence and work nothing would have happened.
Gradually, gradually Jesus reveals to his disciples–and to us–the nature of our self. The intent here is that over time our “ego-self” becomes shaped and transformed around God, rather than around our own self and its compulsive wants. Each time we turn to God in trust and faith–across the day, in the night–we are learning to depend on God, and we grow in the awareness of our need of God, and our “self” becomes shaped around God and God’s ways.
Over this next week pay attention to those times when you turn to God in trust/faith. Reflect on the experience and attend to the outcomes, small or large.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
In this season of Pentecost
You come to us by your Holy Spirit.
Help me to welcome you,
To be with you as you indwell my life and being.
Help me to hear you,
To see as you see,
To turn to you in trust and faith,
And to learn to love you above all. Amen
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
NINETEENTH WEEK AFTER PENTECOST
- 9/27 Monday: Luke 17:5-6
- 9/28 Tuesday: Luke 17:7-10
- 9/29 Wednesday: Lamentations 3:19-26
- 9/30 Thursday: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
- 10/1 Friday: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
- 10/2 Saturday: Luke 17:5-6
- 10/3 Sunday: Luke 17:7-10