The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 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.” Luke 17:5-6 (NRSV)
It’s fall planting season. Last week the city planted a couple of trees in the park by the church parking lot. On Monday I saw a farmer planting what I assume was winter wheat. We live in a rural area where we know when to plant and where to plant. No one would take seriously the idea of planting a tree in the Missouri River. The thought of it is so ridiculous. But that is what Jesus is suggesting! If the disciples had faith they could uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. So what is Jesus’ point? I believe it is Jesus’ way of saying that the disciples demand of “increase our faith” was ridiculous. Faith is not something that increases or decreases. For example, what if someone would ask Jesus to increase our marriage. You are either married or you’re not. Marriage is a relationship, that always needs to be worked on and that changes. One’s marriage is different from when one became married to what it is today. So also is faith. Faith is a relationship with God. Either you are in that relationship or you are not. We as Lutherans believe God began that relationship when we were baptized. Even when we face periods of doubt and times of questioning the relationship continues. It only ends when you divorce yourself from God since God will never divorce God’s self from us. In our world today there are many who believe, like the disciples, that faith can increase and that the disciples request was valid. They believe that if faith is strong enough it would conquer illness, doubt and all kinds of hardship, including economic hardship. In other words, expecting faith to do the impossible, like planting a mulberry tree in the sea. A person who believes in such a way can be thrown into doubt when hardship comes. When we see faith as a relationship then when hardship comes (and it will come) we know that no matter what happens Jesus is with us to see us through and even carry us when necessary. So our prayer should never be to increase our faith. Rather we should pray that Jesus would help us grow in our faith relationship with him. Or, Lord change me so that I can be a better disciple. I came across the following prayer this week and will end with it.
O God, I don’t pray for enough faith to move mountains. I can get enough dynamite and bulldozers to do that. What I need and ask for is enough faith to move me. ~AMEN