(I will try and get the audio uploaded tomorrow)
If only I had more faith, or if I were smarter, better looking, more capable, if I had more money, more power, if only, then I could really do something. We know how that works, don’t we? We’ve heard it before, we’ve probably said it before and so it’s no surprise to hear the disciples saying the same thing.
“Jesus, give us more faith, fill us up, so we might really be somebody! Just like you are somebody.” We get it. We know what it’s like to feel that you just aren’t enough or you don’t have enough to make it. And Jesus throws the ball right back into their court, “If you had faith even as great as a mustard seed, you could move mountains.” He knows that strength builds in increments, that any journey begins with a single step, that if you would conquer the mountain you’d better be ready to take many, many small steps.
Yet we wonder again, can I really do this. Am I enough to make a difference? Is my faith really transforming me, making me anew? We know that when our faith does not change us, does not transform who we are, justice does not, will not prevail.
So can I please have just a little more because I’m afraid I’m not going to make it. And there’s the rub. We are given to just this sort of doubt and fear. It’s common, it’s normal, I’m right there with you on any given day. I’d like to be more, to have more, of just about everything, more wisdom, more faith, more insight, more kindness, more love, more forgiveness, just more.
How can we not feel overwhelmed when the news today is filled with tragedy followed by injustice, over and over. To believe we can make a difference, that we are big enough, strong enough, good enough to make a difference is just too much. Who are we anyway, to believe we can change things? But then, who are we not to believe it?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Marianne Williamson. She says,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Who are we not to shine? Who are we that we ought to play it small? We are the children of God, we are the beloved of God.
But we do not ignore the struggle the disciples were going through. Considering that they were nearing that shift when all faces would be turned toward Jerusalem, how can we not cry out with them, increase my faith, make me stronger for the days to come, because while they did not yet know all that was to come, we can hardly read their words without the cross foreshadowing death and loss. Katherine Hepburn has this wonderful quote, “Life is hard, it kills you,” reminding us all that no one gets out alive. So yes, increase my faith because really, really hard things are going to happen.
We all know those times, those times when our doubts seem stronger than our faith. One of the most poignant prayers I’ve ever heard uttered in church was an anonymous prayer that simply said, ‘ I want to believe, please help me believe, I want to believe again,’ and if we are honest most of us have been there at one time or another.
A pastor friend of mine shared that when she told her brother, who was a pastor, that she too was feeling called to ministry he cried out, “No! Don’t do it! The church won’t support you if you have doubts, if you feel your own failure, if you feel your own struggle too much!” Have you ever had that thought, “If people knew how much I questioned, how much I doubted, they wouldn’t think of me as a Christian.” But I want to suggest that the church is exactly the place we can embrace our doubts. By all means, bring your doubts and your questions and let’s talk about them, and I promise you I won’t have answers. Instead we will engage the mystery together, stand in awe of it. What wonderful and glorious conversations we would have! But we must have the courage to embrace our doubts, to hold our lack of certainty and our painful desire for it gently and with compassion. Certainty closes doors and ends conversations, but being in relationship means engaging in an ongoing conversation, one where we discover new and greater depths to each other, and who would we rather be in relationship with than God? Who has greater depths and more mystery for us to engage with than God? So let go your certainty before it ends the conversation!
If you came here hoping for a sermon that says everything you believe is right, well then, I apologize.
Doubt opens the door to mystery, to discovery. It encourages us to question, to seek, to find. Doubt introduces to the oceanic depths of our faith, those deep, dark places where it feels like we might drown under all that life pours onto us, and yet somehow, we don’t. Church and community hold us up, keeps our head above the swelling tide when it just gets to be too much, but only when we are able to acknowledge that the depths are there and we need each other.
It is because we are a community that allows that divine mystery to walk through the door and engage us, shake us up, disturb our certainties and ask really big questions, that we can admit we don’t always have it all together and we need each other, that we can admit we can’t go it alone.
The disciples cry out for assurance, for certainty and we live in a very uncertain world. We want to know the answers but perhaps we ought to love the questions more!
I suspect that it is more by embracing our doubts and our uncertainties and letting these really big questions live in us, that we are changed and transformed. Our desire to have more faith, to be more certain, is a tender request for this struggle to end, to rest from it for just a bit. Faith that doesn’t change us, that doesn’t transform us and make us new, is pretty poor faith, but the process of change is just so hard! Don’t ask the butterfly about change! Ask the caterpillar as it enters the chrysalis, because once we are through the process we tend to just move on and forget the hard stuff, the pain, and while this might be a good thing, it also stops us cold the next time change is asked of us. Give me more faith, give me an assurance that this time it will be easier and I can move from glory to glory and emotional high to emotional high, because I’m so tired of those low places, the hard places, the steep climbs up the mountain.
And if we would change this, then we must learn to love the struggle. We must learn to love grappling with doubt and fear and really big questions. We must learn to stand trembling before the mystery and risk letting it tear away our illusions. If the apocalypse is the shredding of the veil, can we learn to welcome that shredding instead of dreading it? Can we learn to love being disillusioned instead of clinging to our outworn beliefs and certainties? Oh, but we really don’t want to do that do we? So we too, along with the disciples pray for a stronger faith, not to engage the unknown but to embrace our certainties and for a moment, rest.
We long to rest and not, for just this moment, be transformed. Sometimes the path ahead just looks too hard, the way too strenuous and we want to turn away, find an easier path. We might stand with the prophet in Habakkuk on the wall crying out “Where are you? When are you going to come and make a difference? When is your justice going to rain down? We need you so badly!”
And God says, I’m already there, I’m there because you are there and we are never apart. So yes, go and make a difference, be my witness. You are enough, go on now, make a difference.
Jesus tells us to begin with even the smallest bit of faith within us, just find that and build on it, take it and go. Do you not know, that if you have just enough faith to trust the process, to enter in, that everything, all manner of things, shall be well?
I can worry about whether I am enough, or have enough and if I get anxious enough about that, I will never even try. I will let that doubt stop me cold. But, Jesus reminds us, strength builds in increments, the greatest journey begins with one step, take that small mustard seed of faith, that tiny increment and encourage it, use it, build on it, and watch it grow! Playing it small does not benefit anyone, go and do with the faith you have, stop saying I’m not enough, I don’t have enough, I can’t make a difference, go on and take that next step. Step out with your mustard seed size faith, and watch it grow…