There are two different sermons on this page
Luke 17: 5-10 Trinity 17/Proper 22 : Year C
Luke 17: 1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 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. 3 So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,' forgive him." 5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. 7 "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, `Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8 Would he not rather say, `Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
We live in an age of labour saving devices, instant beverages, microwave meals, and the promise of an instant fortune through the lottery. Some people's debts are astronomical because they want things now that they cannot really afford.
How should we react in this instant, easy culture when life, and faith are difficult and hard work?
Jesus answers this in today's reading. He said we should do our duty to God. We probably shrink from the word duty. It sounds so onerous. Oscar Wilde 1856-1900 summarised many people's attitude to duty. "Oh, duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself."
What is this duty Jesus was referring to?
1] Rebuke a sinful brother/sister.
In verses 1-4 Jesus had warned his disciples that believers should not be the cause of someone falling into sin. That is to say, they should correct the one who sins and also the one who causes someone else to sin.
The New Testament refers to the obligation we owe to fellow believers to help them in their pilgrimage. On example is Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The law of Christ is the duty to love one another. Sometimes love is difficult and involves humbly telling someone else that you think they are sinning.
Matthew 18:15 ( Jesus said )"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."
Judgment is threatened to those who cause someone else to sin. Jesus probably had false teachers in mind because the end of Chapter 16 involves him rebuking the Pharisees using the parable of Lazarus.
2] Believers are to forgive those who repent, even if this happens several times. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,' forgive him."
The Christian faith is founded on forgiveness. We have sinned and received the undeserved forgiveness of God through Jesus life, death and resurrection. We are called to unreservedly and undeservedly forgive those who have sinned against us and are sorry. This is why we pray in the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". Our forgiveness of others shows that we have truly appreciated the costly forgiveness that Christ secured for us.
Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881, British Statesman, Prime Minister. "Duty cannot exist without faith."
3] Believers should exercise what faith they have.
On hearing they should forgive as many as seven times the disciples ask for more faith. But Jesus says, "exercise what faith you have been given". Even small faith can do incredible things. The most important things is the one in whom we trust not the amount of trust we have.
For example, I may have great faith that I may win the lottery with my lucky numbers, but I only have a one in 14 million chance! Yet I might be a bit skeptical about a tombolo stall that promises everyone a prize until I enter into it and realise that I do get a prize every time I play.
My faith doesn't determine my reward, but the thing I put my faith in does.
The parable of the unworthy servant teaches that disciples are only doing their duty when they correct and forgive. It does not teach that believers are worthless, but we have a duty to God and should not expect any reward when we discharge this duty.
That is not to say that God will not reward us. The Bible teaches that there will be rewards in heaven for those who know, obey and serve God.
Ephes. 6: 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
See also 1 Cor. 3:14,, Col. 3:24.
You remember I quoted Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881, British Statesman, Prime Minister. "Duty cannot exist without faith." When things are difficult, a duty rather than a joy we are to exercise what faith that we have in loving, correcting and forgiving others, secure in the knowledge that God will reward our faithfulness in eternity.
17 5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6 He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. 7 "Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, `Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8 Would he not rather say, `Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together the coal workers' leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Picadilly Circus after the war.
First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.'"
Sometimes we may feel that the Christians life is hard work, something that we just cannot do in our own strength. We are not alone, the disciples felt like that, too. Jesus had been teaching his disciples to forgive one another. They obviously found this very hard because they said to Jesus, verse 5, "Increase our faith!"
The important factor is not the amount of faith we have, but the one in whom we have put our trust.
I would like you to imagine two contestants preparing for a drag race, the winner is the first to cover 440 yards. Mr T has a brand new Honda Civic Type R. It is a high revving 2 litre engined sporting car developing almost 200 brake horse power at 7,400 revs per minute. It has a six speed gear box that will take it to 60 m.p.h. in under 7 seconds and to a maximum of 146 m.p.h. Mr T, real name Timmy Timid thinks he might perhaps win the race.
Mr C. has a vintage 1485 cc Austin Allegro HLS. It has a low revving engine which has five gears, four cylinders, eight valves, produces 77 horse power and reaches 60 m.p.h. in 12.9 seconds. Mr C , real name Colin Confident, is absolutely certain he will win. He has rebuilt the engine himself and spent hours patching up the rusty body work with filler. He has removed all the passenger seats for a better power to weight ratio.
The day of the race comes. Timmy nervously waits on the starting line, his left foot trembling on the clutch. Colin arrogantly sneers at his opponent, "Japanese rubbish" as he confidently blips the accelerator. The lights go from red to green, Colin floors the accelerator, drops the clutch and surges away ahead of the Honda. Timmy makes an uneasy start, nearly stalling. Colin races ahead trying to rev the car a little harder before it expires in a cloud of black smoke leaving Timmy to claim the winners rostrum.
Mr Confident's great faith in an old Austin Allegro was misplaced. Mr Timid's lesser faith in a brand new sporting hatchback was justified.
6 Jesus replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
The mustard seed is not the smallest seed known today, but it was the smallest seed used by Palestinian farmers and gardeners, and under favorable conditions the plant could reach some ten feet in height. The mulberry tree could live for up to 600 years, had enormous roots and grew to 35 feet. The contrast between the small seed and the enormous tree is like the contrast between a weak faith and an enormous obstacle.
It is not the amount of faith that is important. The important thing is the one in whom you place the faith and to exercise that faith. Jesus is saying, 'Don't worry about the size of your faith, apply what you have and watch it work. Trust in God.' We are to really step out in whatever faith God grants us. Not trusting in ourselves but in Him.
We need to step out in faith and really rely upon God. It is too easy to live lives that are comfortable and self-contained and do not let God in so that he can work in a supernatural way. The idea of something the size of a small seed uprooting and moving something the size of a large tree is unbelievable but God can do more than we ask or imagine if we will but give him the chance.
Such a trust requires dedication and humility. These attributes feature in the next parable that Jesus tells in verses 7-10. He uses a, then, everyday example of a master and servant, better translated 'slave'. The slave had been working during the day, ploughing or tending sheep. Having worked hard in the fields the slave was then expected to prepare his master's meal before he can eat anything himself. In doing this the slave was only doing his duty and had not done anything extraordinary that deserved commendation.
What duty or duties should we be carrying out at the moment? Well, of course, individual Christians are called and equipped to do many differing tasks. As a church I think God is challenging us to show our commitment to Him on two ways.
The first one is outreach. We have the duty and joy of sharing the Christian faith with others. This does not mean that we are all called to be evangelists, standing up in front of others. However, God calls us to be witnesses. To prayerfully draw alongside people and take the opportunities He gives to help them on their journey of faith. One of the ways we can do this is by praying for people and inviting them to one of the events leading up to the Alpha Course we are launching in January. We have Doyle Dykes in concert four weeks today. A Memorial Service for bereaved people two weeks later. And a number of events at Christmas including the 'Christmas Child' musical.
The second area I think God is calling us to review is our church finances. We are heading towards a deficit of £3,000 for this year. We are looking at ways of cutting our expenditure but, spread amongst over 100 people it is not a lot. Less than 60 pence per person per week.
Melanie once asked Joshua to dry the dishes after a meal and offered him 20 pence if he would do this. He said he would do it for 30 and they agreed a final figure of 25. Some Some Christians are a bit like that. They think they can barter with God and be selective in their obedience to him, only obeying what conveniently fits in with the rest of their life. Often this attitude is markedly different to their attitude to their employer. They will remember important occasions, get up early, work long hours, apply themselves totally to a task as part of their job. Yet they will not apply themselves in a similar way when serving God. He gets the left overs of time, application, dedication and money. Perhaps this is an illustration of Jesus words in 16:13, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Some people might feel insulted at this, but God is insulted and hurt by those who do not put him first.
The slave was dedicated. He got on with the jobs he was given, even when he was tired and hungry. The slave realized his position. He was inferior to his master and his job was to serve, he could not ask for or expect the master to serve him.
Jesus said that he had come not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45. His disciples are called to imitate him in selfless service because he is our creator and our redeemer. In comparison to him we are unworthy slaves and we should obey him without question
Paul D. Moody, American Doctor, " The measure of a man is not the number of his servants, but in the number of people whom he serves."
In our opening illustration about the coal miners during the war we were reminded that important work often goes unseen. Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous. But it is often the people with their "faces to the coal" who help the church accomplish its mission.
May our lives be characterized by selfless dedication to him who has given us so much.