O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
I just don't have enough faith...
I just don't have enough faith...
Based on Luke 17:1-10
Preached on Oct 6, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever felt like you didn't have enough faith? Like your faith wasn't strong enough? Like you just didn't have it in you? Of course you have. We all have, even the apostles we'll see today.
Weakness! That is what plagues us. This is too heavy Lord! I can't bear the weight of it. It is going to crush me. We are all obsessed with what we can do, what we can handle, what we can take. We'll even quote Bible verses to each other, "God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle" - as though faith is all about what we can handle. Have we put our faith in ourselves? Are we trusting in our own strength, or should I say weakness?
Is this what faith in Christ does, or does it say, "Don't make me strong Lord - Be my strength. Don't make me strong Lord. Hold me up. Ease my conscience. Give me peace. Comfort my mind and heart - for you alone can do this. I cannot.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is speaking to the men He has sent out to preach. His sent ones. He is teaching them how He wants them to carry out the ministry of His Word amongst His people. How they should preach and teach and administer the Sacraments. And it becomes obvious very quickly, that He takes this very seriously.
He says, "Temptations or stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come." Woe to you my preachers, if you speak words that cause believers to stumble. Woe to you my pastors, if you speak words against my truth. If you don't produce my words. If you mix them up with manmade ideas. Woe to you.
Jesus only spoke such a serious word as "woe" to His dear disciples one other time - when He was speaking of His betrayal. Woe to you my teachers, if false teaching comes from your mouths - for then you have betrayed me.
Jesus is looking out for you here, those who would hear His Word. He is looking out for His little ones, that they may hear His voice. And it seems to be of primary importance to Him. It might even puzzle us why He doesn't say woe to you if you don't love people, or woe to you if you don't try to make the world a better place. Unless He knows that the only thing that can save any of us, the only love that lasts in this world is the Word He sends His preachers to preach. The truth of His Word is what Christ is concerned about, because it alone is strong enough to save you.
So He says to His sent ones, "Woe to you if you don't preach my Word correctly - if you become like the Pharisees, those teachers of self-righteousness, who stand in the pulpit and preach God's Law to those who need to hear His Gospel - I am taking the management of God's mysteries away from them because they have taught falsely - And you better not do the same - For if you do it would be better if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were cast into the sea. "Beware for yourselves" - Pay attention to your words.
In order to protect you, Jesus' first command to His preachers is that they teach correctly. You may even recall that Jesus' own ministry was defined by two distinct pillars. Teaching and Miracles. Jesus taught the truth, and Jesus performed miracles. And here, as He sets forth His expectations for His sent ones, those who are to speak for Him, we realize that He commands them to do the same. To teach and to perform miracles.
Miracles, you say?!? Yes. Miracles. The chief of which even in Jesus' own ministry was the forgiving of sins. That is a divine miracle, that your sins are forgiven. Divorced from you. Separated from you. Remember this account? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"-he then said to the paralytic-"Rise, pick up your bed and go home." Jesus healed the crippled man to prove He had authority to perform the bigger miracle - to forgive sins.
And here in our text, as He speaks to the future pastors of His people, as He warns them "Beware for yourselves. Watch what you teach. He also immediately says, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." Make no mistake, my sent ones, I send you to perform miracles for my people. Speak my forgiveness to them. Free them! Release them from the heavy weight of their chains! No matter how many times they fall back into the same sin. Let them go, for that is why I shed my blood. I will bleed forever that they may be clean. The sent ones of Christ are to deliver His forgiveness.
Now, you might imagine it would've been a little intense for the apostles to hear Jesus say these things. Overwhelming even. In fact, their response doesn't surprise us. Lord, increase our faith. I cannot do what you demand, not on my own. I don't have the faith to do this. I am not up to this task. Have you ever felt like this? Well, join Moses and Jeremiah, and Jonah and your pastor and anyone else who has wrestled with God's call. Weakness. Is there anything more common to mankind?
What the apostles forget is that they have already been sent out to preach and heal and that their first mission was met with remarkable success. This happened back in Luke chapter 10, but not because of their faith, or their strength, or their preparation, but because of whose Word they spoke, because of the power of the One who's Words they spoke. It is not up to your faith. It is up to the Word of God. It is up to Christ. And Jesus comforts His apostles with this reality in His very next words.
He says, "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. Dear disciples, you do have faith. I have given it to you. And though it may be small, though it may not look like much - it doesn't matter, for it is the power of my Word that speaks to the mulberry tree. It is the power of my Word that rips those deeps roots out and plants them in clean water. And I send you to speak My Word. Tell my people they are forgiven. That even their deepest, darkest sins I have taken away. The deadliest, most downreaching roots that cling to their innermost parts - Rip them out with the eternal power of my screaming blood. You are forgiven. Then toss that terrible tree into the sea, into the waters of Holy Baptism, from which my people may emerge clean and free from those roots which had so deeply entangled them. The roots will obey you. Those gnarly, rugged sins will flee in fear from my words and leave my people alone. So don't focus on your faith. Focus on my words.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you too have faith. Christ has given it to you. And though it may be small, though it may not look like much - it doesn't matter, for it is the power of Christ's Word that is your strength. Whatever it is that you face, He can handle it. He declares it to you today. For He emptied Himself and came to this world as a slave. He worked the field with His preaching, dressed Himself for death and served us His innocent life. He has faced it already for you, so that He can comfort you forevermore. No matter how many times you need Him to say it.
And now, when you hear His Word, your sin runs away. Now, when you hear His Word, the evil one must flee confounded. Now, when you hear His Word, the quiet whisper of death is drowned out, and His promise of eternal life echoes forever. So do not fret about how strong you are, or whether you are ready. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Christ died for you. It is finished. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr