A Sermon for Covenant
“Faith Like a Roller Coaster”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
October 6, 2013
Kyndall Rae Rothaus
(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)
Do you know how big a mustard seed is? Well, it is teensy, tinsy, no bigger than a speck. We might be inclined to believe Jesus must be ridiculing, scolding, or at the very least, challenging the disciples’ faith or their lack thereof, as if he were saying, “Look if you could muster up even a mustard seed’s worth, you could do miracles, you trust-limp wimps! Where are your faith muscles? I don’t even want to waste my time on the likes of you!”
That is what we might hear in Jesus’ tone except, of course, we happen to know these are the men upon whom Jesus did waste time. Again and again he spent time with these fellows whether or not they were full of faith or all dried out.
The disciples, as far as I can tell, were not really one or the other. Sometimes they had enough faith to drop their fishing nets, leave their former lives behind, and follow a man they hardly knew. Other times you could catch them rolling their eyes when Jesus finished a story, because yet again, they had missed the point.
Sometimes a disciple was someone who could walk on water, and sometimes a disciple was someone who straight sunk until the goodness of the Lord grabbed him by the wrists and kept him from drowning. Sometimes a disciple was someone who gave up everything to serve the Lord, and sometimes a disciple was someone who got his stomach worked into an anxious knot when one jar of alabaster got wasted on the good Lord’s un-showered head. Sometimes a disciple was one who risked his neck to stay faithful, and sometimes a disciple was someone who fled from the scene as soon as soldiers showed up to take God away. Sometimes a disciple was someone who spoke truth boldly, and sometimes a disciple was someone who got cold feet and a dry mouth in front of one small servant girl in a courtyard right when Jesus could have used his support the most.
I reckon this roller coaster ride of faith was making the disciples a little bit sick of their own selves and that is what prompted them with queasy stomachs to approach the Lord and ask/beg, “Increase our faith! Please!” They were tired of being so up, then down, so right, then wrong, so brave, then squeamish, so sure, then wary. They were frustrated, not to mention nauseous. They were hoping for something easier on the intestines; something that didn’t feel as if they were being dragged willy-nilly this way and that by the faith they were hanging onto by a thread.
“Increase our faith!” the disciples demand because they do not want to give up but neither do they want to keep running, then tripping, standing, then falling. If only they had MORE FAITH, surely life would settle down along with their blood pressure and finally they’d be disciples, like, for real.
So far, they spent half their time mesmerized by their master and the other half knowing they must seem like a joke to all the world for their inability to master the doubt and fear and lack of understanding that still, still, still plagued their steps. And so they asked Jesus, “Please fix this. We are broken, see?”
Only Jesus does no such fixing. (Or does he?) He says to them, each and every one, “All you need is a mustard seed of faith. A teensy, tinsy mustard seed amount will do.” For Jesus knew as many times as these disciples had sunk, there were other occasions on which they had soared, and so what he was telling them when they asked for more was, “You’ve already got enough.” Even the most doubt-ravaged among us have got a least a kernel or a poppy seed or a molecule of faith and any faith at all can lead to wonders. This is the good news.
The bad news is that disciples today look pretty much the same as disciples then and asking Jesus for faith never really did level out the roller coaster. Our faith still goes up and down, up and down.
Every time a disciple goes plummeting down, she reaches her hand into her pocket to see if, at the very least, the seed’s still there. It is. The seed is there because you didn’t plant it. God did. The seed of faith was a gift to you and even in your darkest, most doubt-plagued hours, there are tiny, invisible roots that keep your seed buried deep within the soil of your becoming. It’s not your responsibility to hold onto it. It holds onto you, even when you think it is lost for good. The seed is there and a seed is all you need.
Of course, all this begs the question, then why the heck aren’t there more mulberry trees whizzing across the room and out towards the sea, like a scene from Professor Flitwick’s classroom? Where is the magic, if we’ve got the seed?
I have exactly five hunches about that:
#1: God’s magic doesn’t always match our ideas about what needs to happen. Keep fingering that little seed tucked in your pocket and on rare occasions this will actually make sense to you, though probably not for long.
#2 We forget to even ask. Seriously, I think we do not know the Power inside us and so we don’t even bother to look up at our world and ask the question, “What is it around here that needs to be uprooted? I think I’ll place my hand on that and pray.”
#3: The magic is coming. We don’t always see it clearly right now, but Healing is on its way. The answers will show themselves when you’ve been made ready to hear them. The light is coming. Just after the dark of night, you can count on the sunrise.
#4: The magic is already here. Yep, we are surrounded by goodness and miracle, but we forget to pay attention. The more often you touch that seed of faith, the more you’ll be able to see what is already happening.
#5: The rest is mystery and if it were any more clear, it wouldn’t be called faith, this slippery, elusive thing that carries us through the shadows and holds onto us no matter how often we lose our grip.
The point is not so much the words they exchanged—Jesus and his disciples—but that they exchanged them. The disciples brought the smallness of their faith to him and he met their smallness with a largeness of heart and this union made things fly.
We’ve developed this quirky sense of religious competition that makes us hide our small faith rather than expose it, flaunt confidence rather than confess our fear, puff out our chest rather than say what we need. But when we begin honesty, reach into our pockets, take out our seeds, and show them to one another, saying, “Look. This is all I have,” well, that is when things begin to happen.
I don’t know about you, but I’m often able to believe for my friends what I cannot believe for myself. I can see they’ve got the seed of faith and that the seed is enough, even when they can’t see it. It is in letting the smallness of my faith meet the smallness of your faith that we begin to learn, by golly, we are people of faith, despite the fears that constantly shrink us. We bring the smallness of what we’ve got right before Jesus’ nose and instead of shaming us, he smiles, “That’ll do, child, that’ll do.”