“What is Expected of Me?”

Luke 17:5-10

October 2, 2022

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 17:5-10

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. 

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

| Centering Prayer |

“What is expected of me?”

This is a good question to ask when contemplating any new endeavor:

Applying to college.

Serving on a board.

Interviewing for a job.

Betrothal to be married.

Having a baby.

It is better to “look before you leap”

To have the facts up front

And to plan accordingly.

If one wants to be a disciple

Jesus is right up front about his expectations:

The investment is great, like building a tower

And, more risky, like going to war. (Luke 14)

Time is short and confidence is waning.

Though the disciples have no foreknowledge of impending crucifixion,

Jesus does.

The closer and closer they travel to Jerusalem

The exponential increase in danger

Is giving the disciples cause to lose confidence in the message,

To second guess the cause,

To question the strategy.

The stakes are high;

The consequences may be death.

Our gospel lesson for this morning is the 

Final two of 4 sayings of Jesus.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples;

Soon to be apostles.

He had completed his extensive teaching about money and wealth.

His words are most probably recorded in hindsight: post resurrection / ascension.

Scholars suggest these sayings are probably

Piecemealed together from throughout his ministry.

They are drawing close to his final destination: Jerusalem.

His purpose is simple and straightforward:

To teach the disciples what to do and how to do it after he leaves.

Clear expectations are a solid foundation

Upon which confidence can be built.

Indeed, like the disciples of old,

There is much for us to glean from today’s gospel.

First, Luke reports: It is better to have a millstone hung around your neck

and you tossed into the ocean

Than to cause a little one to stumble.

Secondly, Jesus teaches: If another sins,

Rebuke them first,

Then you must forgive them.

Like the patron at a fast-food joint who responds “Super size me!”

The disciples respond “Increase our faith!”

As if faith was a commodity

And more is always better.

What I think they are saying is “Make us adequate.”

Because right now, we aren’t feeling like we are adequate;

We don’t have what it takes.

We’re failing.

(Yes, the disciples were feeling just like us).

The mustard seed is smallest known seed at the time of Christ;

Smaller than a grain of sand.

In contrast is the mulberry tree,

Also known as a sycamore tree.

It has an extensive root structure

Supporting a massive tree, short but wide.

Faith the size of a mustard seed

Is sufficient to command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and thrown into the sea

“and it would obey you.”

Jesus’ response is an indirect affirmation of the faith they already have.

Jesus’ response is also an invitation to live and act in that faith.

With faith, quality is more important than quantity.

Faith equal in size to a mustard seed can do the impossible.

The Second of the two sayings has no modern day analogy.

It cannot be related to our employee / employer mentality.

Jesus is using the social reality of slavery in his times

(despicable in our modern setting) as a metaphor

To communicate a deeper truth.

This is master and slave relationship.

A slave works all day for the master in the field.

The slave comes in at dinnertime.

It is expected the slave will prepare the meal.

The slave should not expect reward for working in the fields all day;

And shouldn’t expect to rest and dine at the table with the master.

The slave’s time and efforts belong to the master.

Even a slave’s extra effort already belongs to the master.

Which tells us

There is no point of fulfilled duty.

Therefore, the slave has no claim on the master.

The relationship is not service = reward.

The relationship requires

quiet obedience.

What are we to benefit from today’s gospel?

How are these words of Jesus meant to change us?

I count five practical applications for our lives today.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

Don’t expect faith to remove the lump in your breast

(although, God is certainly able).

Expect a surgeon to remove the lump in your breast.

Expect God to walk with you,

guide and comfort you,

throughout your life.

Faith isn’t a magic show of healing:

people walking out of wheelchairs,

being slain in the spirit,

or speaking in tongues.

Faith isn’t a miraculous flood of post-pandemic people back to church, everyone eager to join, witness, and offer their abilities for servant leadership.

God cannot be controlled to do our bidding.

God does not play fetch.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

We pray “Thine will be done.”

We cannot expect Thine will to be done

until we give up OUR will;

until each of us give up my will.

To cooperate with God requires that we seek

God’s input into our every decision.

When is the last time we asked the question of ourselves,

“What does God want me to do right here, right now?”

To cooperate with God means that

We are constantly in dialogue with God

through prayer and meditation,

continual repentance,

by bathing in the scriptures,

by listening to our conscience and feelings,

by listening for the Spirit to speak through others.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith.

Just as with his 12 disciples, so too with us:

God affirms the faith we’ve already been given.

God invites us to live and work in the faith we have.

When we do, our faith will be increased.

The young John Wesley was taught “Preach faith until you have it. Once you have it, you will preach faith.”

There is no excuse for “I’m not strong enough,”

“I’ve never done that before,”

“I don’t think I can.”

The faith you already have, that brought you to worship today,

is strong enough to accomplish the seemingly impossible,

to do what ever God is calling you to do.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

If we are willing servants of God…

If we are discerning the will of God…

Then there is nothing that cannot be done!

Nothing is impossible with God.

God created all there was, all that is, and will create all that ever will be.

God’s power, reach, and thoroughness are unbounded; unrestricted.

If in faith we call something to God’s attention, God will respond.

Sometimes not the way we desire.

Sometimes with miraculous outcomes.

Sometimes in ways unseen by us or in our lifetime.

Sometimes with something all together different,

but always better.

5) The faithful disciple is called to carry out the will of the master

Without expectation of praise.

Many would agree

We are honored, appreciated, celebrated, awarded, and thanked too much in our world today.

Trophy cases have run out of room, walls have too many plaques on them, files overflow with letters of accolades.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to live in quiet, humble obedience.

Our time and labor belongs to Jesus.

There is no way we can do enough,

let alone do more than our share.

There never comes a time when we can say,

“I’ve done my part. Time for someone else to take over.”

There never comes an earthly time when our service is completed

and we can sit down and be served.

God gives us grace, not reward.

It is only by God’s grace that we can live a life of service for our master, Jesus Christ.

It is only by God’s grace that we can give our lives and labors to Christ and his church.

It is only by God’s grace that we have been saved by faith;

Faith first planted within us,

Prevenient grace,

When our Lord breathed life into our soul.

Our gospel is about faith.

It serves to build self-confidence

Not in what we can achieve,

But in what God has already given us.

1) Faith is not magic through which we can control God.

2) Faith is cooperation with God to fulfill God’s will.

3) God is not concerned with the quantity of our faith, but in the quality of your faithfulness.

4) Faith puts you in touch with God and God’s power.

5) The faithful disciple carries out the will of the master without expectation of praise.

May we go forth with joyful, yet quiet, humble obedience.


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