“Thank God I’m Not Like That.” Luke 18:9-14


“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:”

If only I knew when that was!


For some strange reason when I read this parable an episode of “The Twilight Zone” pops up in my mind.    “All the Time in the World.”    It told the story of a mild mannered bank teller named Harold Bemis, who wore thick coke bottle glasses and was a devout reader.   So devout in fact, that he was distracted by anything in print.  He snuck a book at his bank teller position and read it, making mistakes in his accounts.

He read at home, and neglected conversation with his spouse in deference to having a conversation with characters in a book, or discourse with a poem.

His solace was found in sneaking into the bank vault every day to read in quiet solitude, until one day as he is reading about a new nuclear bomb to be tested, his world is rattled and the vault slams shut on him.

When he emerges, he is the last person left alive on earth.

Finally, no one to interrupt him in his pursuit of the great literature of the world!

He makes his way to the library, and stacks up his reading by month.  All the great works, all the things he has always wanted the time to read.  He has “all the time in the world” with no one to distract, disturb, or nag him about doing things.

Solitude is a blessing if you are a reader.

And just as he is reveling in his fortune, he trips and his glasses fly off his face and shatter against a stone.

“That’s not fair.”   He mutters as he picks up the broken pieces.  “That’s just not fair…..”henry-bemis

Mr. Harold Bemis, suddenly aware of how much he needs an other… at least a lens technician!

That episode pops into my mind because of the isolation experienced by both the characters in the parable, even as they both inhabit “Holy Space.”

When it is that I am trusting too much in myself, in my own righteousness, and regarding others with contempt?

When do I cross the line between living in a way that is an example to others, or consistent with expectations, and playing “na-na-na-na— Boo—Boo?

That’s the trouble with this parable, it’s a bit too transparent.

As Jesus begins to tell it we have a pretty good idea of who is going to come out looking bad from the get-go.

The Pharisees have taken the brunt of more than one pointed comment by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, so it’s not a big surprise that we can see who is being commended here, and who it is that is being cautioned.

Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee!

But here’s the thing.  Most of us are!

We are exactly like the Pharisee, because we are the ones who often pay particular attention to the commands and the demands of the law, of proper etiquette, and the rules of society, either expressly written or implied.

We’re in church here.

We give offerings, maybe even tithe.

We pray, we volunteer in the Pantry, we quilt, we lead book discussions or attend them, we serve and take part.

We are doing exactly what we should be doing as followers of Jesus.

The Pharisee is also doing exactly what he should be doing.

He’s in the temple.

He’s fasting, praying, worshipping, confessing his sins, praising God.

He’s doing everything that was expected of him at that time and place.

And yet, the one thing he cannot seem to avoid or refrain himself from doing is adopting a self-righteous attitude.

The one thing he can’t avoid, the one temptation he can’t resist, is to regard others with contempt…. particularly that “sinner” right over there, to which he feels compelled to compare himself.

Maybe his motivation was more noble than we give him credit for.

Maybe by speaking out loud in this fashion, he is hoping to be overheard to cause contrition in the other who is occupying Holy Space with him.   “Here, let me just lay out for you what you should be doing.”

I’m sure we’ve never done anything like that, listed off to someone else the expectations they should be meeting?    Dropped hints to children or family, co-workers or even strangers of what they SHOULD be doing instead of what they are currently doing, how they are currently living.

This is part of the parable that trips us up.

We begin to recognize how easy it is to do everything right only find out only too late that our attitude is all wrong.

The parable is told about us.

The parable is told as a warning.

The parable is told to make us stop, to make us think, and to help us measure our own actions against the spectrum of humility, and that is particularly hard for us.

It’s hard for us, because it requires a level of self-examination and self-deprecation that is hard to come by or to swallow.

In the Lutheran Church we are coming up on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   In 2017 we’ll mark the anniversary of an Augustinian Monk’s actions that set off the political and intellectual movement than created the modern world, and we’ll no doubt have great celebrations and much fanfare around it all.

But we will do so in midst of what is by all accounts a dwindling institution.

We will celebrate actions taken 500 years ago that once served us well, and insist that continue to hold steadfast in these practices because they are “right.”

The Lutheran church, mainline denominations in the western world, are dwindling.

But the Church on the world-wide scale is growing, it’s just doing so in places where the Gospel rings differently.

It’s growing in places where some of the things that we assume as being the “right” things do aren’t in force.

It’s growing in third world countries.

It’s growing in Africa, and Asia, and in places where repressive governments and practices have been the norm, and the church is a counter to the predominant culture.

Thank God, we’re not like those African churches, where poverty and struggle for water and enough food are a daily undertaking.   We are beyond all that.

Thank God we’re not like those in China, where they live under communist rule, where life may be hard but where the good news of a Savior is cherished all the more.

Thank God…. Oh wait…. That’s where the church is growing!   So just who is “thanking God” in the right way?

I’m doing everything right.  Everything I was taught in Seminary.  Everything that was expected of a “good pastor.”   Everything that is still expected of a good pastor in this institution of American Lutheranism that enjoys a privileged role in society still, even though it is slipping away, and sometimes I can get really smug about that.

Thank God I’m not doing Mission Development anymore, where we didn’t own a building and had to pack up and move into rented space every week.

Thank God I don’t have to go door to door looking for new members or meeting people in the neighborhood.

Thank God we have a big enough endowment that could be tapped to keep the lights on and the building heated if we had to.

Thank God…..

You see how easy it is to find yourself on the wrong side of this parable, even when you’re doing everything “right?”

So today I’m wondering how we dwell in these words of Jesus here at the end that remind us that the humble will be exalted, and don’t have to exalt themselves.

What do I need to learn from my African and Asian friends and co-workers in the Gospel?

What do I need to let go of that I find myself holding so dear and treasure so near?

What does it mean to be humbled?   What could or should I let go of for the sake of doing things differently?

No, that’s not quite the question.

Not just to do things differently, for that has the smell of me figuring things out on my own, and continuing in the way of the Pharisee, trusting in myself.

Rather, how do I adopt the attitude of regard for the other instead of contempt?

This is what stings most in the parable.  That the one for whom the Pharisee had only contempt is the one that goes home “justified” by God.

The Pharisee has something to learn from him!

This is problem with cautionary tales and parables like this one, and Harold Bemis.    We quite often don’t get them until the twist at the end is made, and the point of the parable or story falls on us hard.

If only I knew when that was going to happen.

If only I could live with such a regard for the other, no matter who they may be or how much I may disagree with them, that we might learn from each other how to share Holy Space.

“Hear What the Unjust Judge Says” Luke 18:1-8

“I just love preaching the year of the Gospel of Luke…says no preacher…ever.”

Sure, Luke’s Gospel begins with the beloved Christmas story of the babe in a manger, and the heavenly angels singing and bringing “Good tidings of great joy to all people.”  It looks like it will be a sweet, orderly for Theophilus.  Old Simeon and Anna sit in the temple to pronounce their blessings and predict great things.

But if you look a little closer, you can tell from the outset that it would be a challenge to preach upon because this telling of the story of Jesus challenges those in power, and leans toward the poor and the marginalized.

The “Baby in a manger story” is really a story about political refugees, bounced and ordered to go for “extreme vetting” at Caesar’s taxing whim.

The Angels bringing good news do so to the lowliest of the low, — shepherds.

Simeon, with his blessing, was not kidding when he predicted that Jesus will be for the rise and fall of many… and a sword that pierces the soul.

So as these last weeks of the season of Pentecost assault us with challenge after challenge to love, to forgive, to share the inheritance, and to seek the lost, to take up the cross and follow, it’s understandable that we begin to grow a little fatigued of the demands of this Kingdom that Jesus proclaims.

It seems that as Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem, the stakes go higher.  His concern for the poor and for justice becomes sharper.   His run-ins with religious leaders and those in authority become more frequent and increasingly nasty.

The parable he tells today begins with the premise that it is told about “our need to pray always and to not lose heart.”    But then the parable makes the heart sink!

The widow is a persistent nag in her seeking of justice.  In fact, there word used for “justice” can also be translated “vengeance” or “vindication.”   She comes to get her due, to get someone to pay a price!

So, is she coming to the judge out of great need for vindication, or to make sure someone pays?   Is her request one that makes for life for more than just her, or is it all about her getting even for the wrong that has been done?    The parable doesn’t give us enough information to make any kind of judgment about her motivations, only affirming that she is nothing if not persistent!

And this judge?  There appear to be no redeeming qualities in this judge.   We’re told up front that he neither “fears God or respects people.”     That is a certainty that is confirmed from his own lips when he finally relents and gives the woman what she wants just to get her off his back.

“Listen to what the unjust judge says…”  Jesus says.

So I did, again and again looking for what I assumed must be some glimmer of a positive quality somewhere, but over and over again this is all I heard.

 “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “

            That’s it, that’s all he says to himself.   Do you see anything redeeming in that?  Anything I am missing?   Listen again:

“Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “

            So if this is supposed to show us our “need to pray and not lose heart,” just how is it supposed to do that?

Where is the Gospel found in a corrupt and uncaring judge and in a nagging widow?

Where is God in this parable?

We usually try to locate God in the judge, and one interpretation of the parable is that this is a reminder not to give up on praying, but to keep coming at God with your request, and eventually God will relent.

I don’t like that interpretation much.

It makes God out to be someone who has no regard for people, and no interest in being God really either.    “Hit me up enough on a good day and maybe I’ll give you what you want/need/ask for.”

Ick!   That is not the kind of God that I find would inspire me to “pray always and not lose heart!”

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not too crazy being cast in the light of the nagging widow who has to keep banging on God’s door to get any satisfaction for a wrong that clearly done to me!

So I am going to reject that interpretation of the parable, but I’m rather at a loss then as to what to do with it.

“Listen to what the unjust judge says….”

You know, that keeps coming back as the line that is the key here.  That’s what Jesus points out, what he refers to, so what is it that Jesus wants us to “listen to” about what the unjust judge says?

Or is what Jesus is doing in this parable something a little bit different?   Is he saying in effect, “Listen to yourself?”

Maybe I’m just too saturated by the political rhetoric of the day, but I wonder?

I listen to the bile put out by the Republican Party, the vitriol of their candidate, the angry shouts of “lock her up”, the “locker room talk” dismissals of violence against women and I want to scream, “Would you listen to yourself!  Do you even hear what you are saying?”

I listen to the posture and the dismissal of the Democratic party.   The “basket full of deplorables” comments, the first name only denegration of the opponent, and I want to scream, “Listen to yourself!   Do you even hear what you are saying?”

There it is, perhaps.

It’s not God who is the “unjust judge.”

It is us.

We are those who no longer fear God, and so will let most anything fly out of our mouths, and out of our hearts to get what we want.    We no longer fear retribution from God, or consequence for ourselves, or think about the impact our words might have on others, and so we spew them out without conscience.

We engage in the deflection and the “he said/she said” accusation as justification for our own position.

We are those with no respect for anyone.   We join in the smirks at the memes, pass along the half-truths on the internet.  Take at face value anything that agrees with our own point of view and argue with the opposition out of innuendo and accusation.   We have already made up our minds and could care less about being confronted with evidence or fact.  Don’t confuse me with details, it’s all a rigged system anyway, all a cover up, you can’t trust anyone anymore.

Oh, how we have become this unjust judge!   We excel at it!   No trust or fear in God, no regard for others.

And so, it is as if Jesus leaps across the centuries to shout at us in this parable, “Listen to yourselves!”

Hear what the unjust judge says….”

Is this what you want to be?

Is this all there is to you?

A people resigned, no longer caring?

The parable is told that we might pray always, and not lose heart, and if we settle for this world of the unjust judge, losing heart is exactly what we have done!

We have stopped looking to God and trusting to be shown a better way.

We have lost heart.

So, this is beginning of the Gospel to be found in this parable.  Jesus assures us that justice does come to those who cry out for it!

God does move, and more quickly than we would as those who are supposed to be involved in bringing it!

If you are going to locate God in this parable, you might look to the widow, for isn’t this more like what God is like for us?

Isn’t God always coming to us time and again asking, pleading, demanding, hoping beyond hope that we will act differently than is our natural inclination so to do?

God, reminding us that it is our job in life to care for one another.

God, reminding us that the welfare of the widow, the sojourner, the refugee, the foreigner, is our welfare?

God, time and again calling us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly?

Isn’t the sense of hope in this parable found in that even though we quite often have so little fear of God, and so little respect for people, we do still manage from time to time to grant grudgingly at least some measure of justice?

Is God a nag?   Sure!

But it does “pay off” for God.

With enough grace filled reminders from our nagging God, even we are known to do the right thing sometimes, almost in spite of ourselves!

So, don’t lose heart, God hasn’t given up on us!

Keep praying because God isn’t finished with us yet!

Eventually, every once in a while, we do get it right, and we do the right thing, and the Kingdom does creep forward just a little closer, as certainly as Jesus inches closer to Jerusalem.

We cannot help but be the unjust judge.  It is who we are as creatures.

But with prayer, and with a glimpse of this Kingdom that Jesus comes to bring in, we can take heart, for God continues to come at us to remind us of what we could be, what God can make us into as God’s people.

“Listen to what the unjust judge says…”

Listen to what it is that you are letting out of your own lips, your own heart, your own mind.

If it is of God and the Kingdom, then by all means speak it all the more loudly into this uncaring and indifferent world, for this world surely needs to hear that!

And what if while listening to yourself you find that what is coming from your lips, and your heart and your mind is indifferent, divisive, and not born out of the love of God?

Well then, for the love of God, cut it out, and instead pray that you might not lose heart!

Where Are The Nine? Luke 17:11-19

“Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

This is the line that jumps out at us from the story.  We puzzle over it for two reasons.

The first reason we puzzle over it comes out of a deep regard for social obligations.   When someone does something for you, the expectation is that you are supposed to thank them.

Send a “Thank You” note.

Express your verbal gratitude to the person, in person, say “Thank You!”

Perhaps even offer a gesture of some sort for their kindness.  A plate of cookies delivered, a return of a favor.    A “you let me know when you need something”.

Most of us have been taught that kindness is to be met with thanks that is expressed, so we puzzle over this story for the same apparent reason that Jesus does.

“I healed ten lepers, but only one returned to say ‘thanks?’   And, this one a foreigner??   What is wrong with my own folks, they ought to have been taught better!”

When we “nod” along with the parable it is usually about this point.  How could they not have given thanks to Jesus for what had just happened to them?

But the second reason that this line jumps out at us also has to do with expectations that are set by Jesus himself.

Jesus DID, after all, tell these lepers exactly what to do.  “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

The actual healing happens as they are making their way to Jerusalem.  For those nine who are on their way, showing themselves to the priests will be the moment of thanks!    That is when the offerings will be made, the skin examined and the pronouncements of restoration to the community will take place.

That will be the moment when with open arms the Priest will embrace them as a sign of their being clean and now able to rejoin their friends, family and the community from which they came.

That is when God’s goodness and greatness at the healing will be lifted up, and proper thanks will be given.

So, here’s the conflict in the story for those nine who are doing what Jesus told them to do.   Do we do what Jesus has told us to do, or do we go back and thank him directly and ignore his direction?

Which should we do?  What would Jesus expect?   Desire?

Presumably, when the Samaritan realizes he is healed as he is walking along with his other nine Leper companions, he also realizes that his situation has changed completely.    He is no longer a leper, but now an outsider and foreigner.   As a Samaritan, the priests in Jerusalem and at the Temple will want nothing to do with him anyway, especially if he says that Jesus has sent him!  The only option he has open to him if he wants to give thanks is to return to Jesus!

That part makes sense to us, but then we puzzle again over what Jesus says to him.   Why then does Jesus ask, “Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they?”

Did Jesus expect them all to come back?

Or was there a deeper expectation?

Did Jesus perhaps hope that they would all to continuing hanging out with one another now that they are made clean?

Now that they have the ability to be restored to their former respective communities, would they continue in the fellowship they had forged in sickness?

We puzzle over this question of Jesus and the expectations it seems to represent, for in a strange way, we begin to recognize that the healing act destroys the very community that had previously existed between the ten lepers.

Once they depended upon each other for companionship and survival.

Once they would walk the “edges” of Galilee and Samaria, living on the margins of society together and forging their own communion and fellowship out of necessity.

Now that they are healed, old categories now come back into play.

Now that they are healed, the old divisions return, of who is foreigner and who is insider and outsider.

Now that they are healed, the luxury of exclusion presents itself again, and the categories of privilege return.

In the act of healing, something that had been found in the midst of suffering, rejection and disease has now been lost, and perhaps that is what we puzzle over most.

Can we live a thankful, healthy life, and still be missing Jesus’ deepest hopes for us?

“Where are the nine?”

The story gives us places to puzzle over our own experience of thankfulness, praise and connection.   Here are a few of mine.

I look at this and then I look at the world in which I live, and I want to try to draw some parallels. What can this story teach me about our own communities and situations?

I think, for instance, of all the young people I have taught, confirmed, spent sweaty nights in tents and vans with, investing in seeing them grow from children of God into people of God, and then I look at the small percentage who are still involved in local congregations and I find myself asking, “Where are the nine?”

Were not all of them loved?

Were not all of them given the same gifts in baptism?

Were not all of them nurtured in faith and given a vision of how they would one day take their place in leadership and service?

So few are following the path I had hoped for them, we had hoped for them, I find myself shaking my head and saying “where are they?”

At the same time though, when I do meet and talk with them or see them post on Facebook, I am humbled at how they are doing exactly what Jesus told them to do, just in their own way, their own path that ended up being quite different from mine.

Praise and service is being given, just as Jesus had sent them, it’s just not together with me.

That is a source of both pride and disappointment.

Or, I think back to the days of being on the farm and how sickness and need would motivate the whole community.

A neighbor would get injured in a farm accident, or be stricken ill at harvest time and the word would go out.  On a single day every combine or and truck from within a 10 mile radius would converge on their farm, and in a few hours in a single swath on a single day the crop would be brought in.

Like the Lepers who forged a community in their sickness, those who would otherwise be competing for places in line at the elevator and over farms to be rented dropped all the old division and forged a new, single community needed in time of adversity.   It was a wonder to behold, and for a brief moment you had a glimpse back in time of Threshing Days when the community depended on each other and worked together.

But the day would end, the last truck would come through, and the combines would disperse to their respective farms and the old divisions and competitions and outright hatred would return.

A time of both intense pride in the community, followed by disappointment.

“Where are the nine?”

I think you can come up with your own illustrations from your unique perspective.  You have known and seen how Jesus somehow speaks to us in our time of great need, and how the voice or perception changes once the crisis is over.

We all have our “Where are the nine?” kind of moments that Jesus experiences here.

We discover just how hard it is to hold together fragile communities and alliances born of need, of being on the edge, dependent on one another for survival or to do a task.

We recognize just how easy it is to fall back into old patterns, to take thing for granted, or to be so enamored with getting our old privilege back that we forget those with whom we once shared another common bond.

Maybe what this story is meant to teach us is just how easy it is to forget about Jesus when things are going well, and how ready Jesus is to help, to heal, and to receive us when we run to him in thanks.

It could well be that this story is a little glimpse into God’s enduring experience with us as God’s beloved.

How much we cry out when the need is great.

How well we can come together in time of adversity.

And, how fragile those connections are, and how readily we fall back into old patterns of behavior.

“Where are the nine?”   They are where they have always been, trying to figure out whether to follow Jesus’ direction given, or to break from that and choose a different path of thanksgiving on their own.

I think you can live a deeply thankful life and sometimes forget to run back and give Jesus thanks.

I think you can live a deeply thankful life of doing what you were just sure you heard Jesus tell you to do from a distance, making your way to church and to duty and to expectation and yes, sometimes end up leaving behind those with whom you were once associated.

I think this is the human dilemma that Jesus discovers and shakes his own head at, and only comes to fully appreciate along the road to Jerusalem.

We humans are fickle and conflicted folks, all of us.   Prone to cause in God profound moments of joy, and deep disappointments.  And yet, still God loves us all the same and will do what we ask, and give us our heart’s desire, because that is what God desires and has promised to do.

And we, well we will be inconsistent because that is who we are as creatures.

“Where are the nine?”   They are right here.

“Where is the one, the foreigner?”   He/she is right here too.

All of us, just trying to figure out what it is that Jesus would want us to do, and doing our best in that moment, and Jesus mixed up in the middle of it all.

Is that not the definition of what it is to live in God’s Grace?

“Do We Need An Attitude Adjustment?” Luke 17:5-10

“Young man, you need an attitude adjustment!”  That’s what I overheard as the mother was giving her child a scolding at the grocery store the other day.

She was on a mission to get the shopping done.

The toddler had another idea.  He wasn’t excited about the prospect at all.

“I can’t walk!”  He whined as she pulled him along toward the store.

At the store she got a cart that featured one of those kid-friendly features of a little car under the basket.

“I don’t want to ride in the car.”   He further whined.

She traded that cart out for the more traditional model, with the seat up in the basket.

“I can’t fit in there!”   He further yowled.

This is where the “attitude adjustment” comment came in.  I didn’t get to see the manner of that adjustment as I was moving off down the aisle now for my own shopping, but I remember the various kinds of “adjustments” possible from my own parents and my own parenting.  I’ll let you decide just what was administered.

Why am I talking about “attitude adjustments” today?  Well, this is where the scripture passages lead us.

In Habakkuk, the prophet is fed up with the goings on of his people and the apparent inactivity of God in the face of troubles.  “How long, O Lord, shall I cry for help and you will not listen?”    That’s what Habakkuk says… or whines…. Depending on your take on the story.

And so, he goes up on a watchtower, waiting for God to get back to him about his complaint.

God responds with a bit of an “attitude adjustment.”  “Write this down, and write it BIG.  There is still a vision for the appointed time!  Wait for it!”

God still has a plan for things.  Sorry if it doesn’t fit your pre-conceived timetable, but that doesn’t mean God has abandoned or forgotten about you.  Patience, Habakkuk!  Re-adjust your attitude!

In the Gospel we also have an “attitude adjustment” called for by Jesus.   He has just finished instructing his disciples on the nature and command of forgiveness.  People are to be held accountable for their actions – both parties!

If a disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender– point out where the offense has taken place.

That part is easy!  There is finger pointing, blaming, pointing out of inconsistencies and foibles galore.   Pick your arena, be it politics, business, religion, the workplace, or families; we are quick to point out the offense of the other and to suggest what a person should not have done.

But the next step is harder.  When the person responds to you, and turns back, you must forgive.  Seven times a day, even, if the person repents, you have to forgive and let it go.

This is the phrase that prompts the disciple’s cry.  “Increase our faith!”

And now, here is the point at which the “attitude adjustment” begins, and it catches us all a little off guard.

We might assume that the request to be granted more faith should be a noble one.

We might assume that asking Jesus for something as noble as that would be met with a “sure, here you go, thanks for asking!”

But the request comes off to Jesus a little like the demands of a willful child, or like Habakkuk on his tower, insisting that God get busy and fix things.  The disciples want Jesus to “pump them up” to be able to do this seemingly impossible task of forgiving.

“I can’t.”   You can almost hear them say.  “I need more….”

That’s what prompts Jesus’ response in the form of these parable-like statements.

“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed…”   Jesus begins.   That’s just a little bitty thing.  That much could accomplish the impossible!

The Mulberry Tree, in rabbinic teaching, is referred to here because of its intricate root structure, at least as big under ground as it is above.  Just a little faith could untangle those roots from the earth, and more improbably, make it take root in the sea.  With the faith of a mustard seed you can do the impossible, but here is the thing

You have to use it!

There is nothing more exasperating for a parent than to have the child say “I can’t” without even trying.  Parents see through that ruse right away.  It is the child jerking the parents’ chain, trying to get off without having to do something.

There is probably nothing more exasperating for God than to hear his people say, “increase our faith,” as if there is a quantity, a critical mass of faith that is required before something can happen.  That is not the way faith works.

Faith is not a quantity at all.

Faith is a relationship.

That’s what gets us into that second parable about the slave and the owner.  We see how ridiculous this one is, even being so far separated from the experience of servants.

Servants are meant of course, to serve!  It is their function!  It is their duty, their station in life in the relationship with the owner, or at very least the land owner.

One partner in this relationship owns the property, attends to the aspects of ownership.

The other partner provides the physical labor necessary for the field to be tilled and the flock to be tended.

Each has the ability to do what is necessary for the sake of the farm and the field.

Without getting into debates about the justice of slavery, we can see what Jesus is saying with his story.   You do what is expected of you, because you can do it!

You wouldn’t take your car in to the garage, and then ask the mechanic to just take a break while you changed the oil yourself, would you?

You wouldn’t go to the accountant with your taxes, and then tell him to go ahead and get lunch while you start working on preparing your own forms.

No!  You go to those folks because they have the abilities and talents to do what they do best!

The relationship of servant to master is one which equips each for service, and each has the ability to do what is required of them.   It is in that relationship and the fulfilling of the proper roles that the work gets done, and when it’s done, you’ve only really done what you ought to have done.

So to this “increase our faith” whining, what Jesus is saying to his disciples, (and to us!) is “You already have all you need!

You are servants of God, equal to whatever task is laid before you, because God has chosen to be in relationship with you.

Indeed, that is the reason God has come down in Jesus.  God has come down in the person of Jesus so that we would come to see that faith is not some quantity we either have or do not have, – not some level on a dipstick, – not some deep reservoir upon which to draw that might get used up and so more would need to be provided.

No, faith is a dynamic relationship found in walking where Jesus walks and realizing that it is Jesus who walks with you.

How can Jesus “increase their faith” when they are standing beside the one who is faith?   Can you get more of Jesus than him standing right there beside you?

It is so easy to fall into the “poverty and quantity” mindset about faith.  Do we have it?  Do we have enough of it?  If we had more, could we do more?   Where did our faith go?  We hear these kinds of phrases all the time.

“Nonsense!  Jesus is saying today.  Stop behaving like whiny children!  You have all that you need to have, because you have me!

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus says.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus says.

“Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”  Jesus has promised.

Do we really need an increase?

Or do we instead need an attitude adjustment?

An adjustment of attitude that reminds us that with God, all things are possible.

An adjustment of attitude to stop whining about what we do not have, no longer have, cannot get, to instead begin walking into the doing and the being of discipleship.

Start forgiving others, and you just might find freedom from the burden of carrying around the baggage of the past.

Start loving, and you might find the love of Jesus that overwhelms and flows through Christ’s presence in your life.

Start dwelling in the scriptures, and you might discover the God who has stood beside you all along.

Start praying, and you might see what is written so large that even the runner can read it, that God is indeed engaged in this world and has something to say to you.

What we need is an attitude adjustment, and here it is, as Jesus reminds us that we are promised the very presence of God in all things.  God in Christ Jesus has given us everything we need to do the work of the Kingdom.

So then, like good servants, let’s get about doing it, that we may partake in the blessing that comes when we do what we are capable of, and called to do.