What makes America? What customs that are particularly American?
These days I think there are a couple things. One is the size of our houses. They are large. Almost twice as large as 50 years ago. Many of us have bedrooms that are larger than houses in third world countries. Even our bathrooms are larger than most in other countries, and in America today it’s “normal” to have a bathroom for every bedroom, so nobody has to wait for a bath, to brush their teeth or anything else.
Which brings me to another characteristic of Americans: impatience. In many countries it’s normal to stand in line patiently for a few minutes or even a few hours. But here in supermarkets or stores, employees often rush to open another checkout when there are more than two folks in line. Because they know if Americans have to wait, they will often get upset or walk out.
Amazon is even experimenting in America with no-wait, no checkout stores. You go shopping with an electronic chip in your pocket. You walk in. The store has sensors that know who you are. You pick up what you need and you walk out. The store sensors know the products you’ve taken. Before you’ve reached your car, your bank account is debited.
Wanting biggest, best and being impatient to get that way. Maybe that not just American. Maybe that’s part of being human. Maybe that’s how the disciples were feeling in today’s gospel lesson. The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. Now maybe that means the disciples are feeling humble, and they’re reaching out for ways to be better disciples. But I doubt it.
Why do I doubt it? because Jesus tells them if they just a tiny bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed, they could do huge miracles. But they can’t do such miracles so they don’t even have that much faith. And then two verses later Jesus tells them how to be faithful servants: do your job, don’t expect thanks, and say you are only doing your duty.
The disciples probably wanted to increase their faith because they saw what Jesus was doing and wanted show off. Jesus tells them instead to be humble and do the work in front of them.
The disciples wanted faith and with faith, bigger is better- we Christians believe it is always better to have more faith in God. But we must always be careful not to think we are better, more important people because we have more faith. The disciples probably wanted lots of faith so they could do flashy miracles, and that’s why Jesus put them in their place. We American Christians have been put in our place. We were at the center of the country and the world. We are no longer as influential as we once were. Small churches especially can feel that way today because we’re not influential even compared to other churches, and we don’t have the resources to do many flashy things the bigger churches can.
This church is a small church, and likely this church will always be small. Actually this church is bigger than average. It just seems small when we compare ourselves to the megachurches in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. And Size isn’t really important. Faith is important. Some people like being in a crowd of folks worshiping together, and that can be awesome. But few people here would like to worship in a church like that every day.
Bigger churches are not better. Small churches can be as great in God’s eyes as big ones are. Small churches can be as faithful. What matters is not How Much we do for God, but how much we do with what we’ve been given. Are we faithful servants of God, or not?
How do we increase OUR faith? Well, first we realize who we are, and why we want more faith. If we at Zion, like the disciples, want more faith to be admired, that’s not a very good reason. If we want a bigger church, even THAT isn’t a good enough reason. It depends on WHY we want to be bigger. If we want to be bigger so Zion can be bigger than Trinity, like it once was, that’s not a very good reason. If we want to be bigger so we can help more people, that’s a better reason. If we want to be bigger so we can help more people learn faith in JC, that’s probably the best reason of all.
Faith should comfort, but it should also be challenging. After a while, we would probably be bored with a perfect comfortable life and a perfect, comfortable church. That’s not what God wants for us on earth. That’s heaven. God wants us Christians here on earth to grow and strive, to become better people, closer to God and closer to each other.
We disciples of Christ learn faith by having faith, by trusting in God. If turn away from God and we fret and despair, our faith will disappear.
Folks at Zion may be fretting about calling a pastor, because it takes so long. But look around! Increase your faith! What is there to fret about? The profile committee is working hard to complete our church resume for the next pastor. Our finances and our stewardship campaign are going well. The church continues to pay off its line of credit. There are often more children in church, and more children in Sunday School than there’s been for a while. We also have 3 Sunday school teachers, three helpers and 2 subs and a Christmas Program Coordinator. Recently, a former member talked to me about coming back to Zion. The cement walks are being repaired, the Sunday School door is open on Sundays and kids are coming in that way. We have money to fix the leaking roof and it’s getting fixed. There have been setbacks, but things are better here at Zion than they have been for a while. Tell your friends, Tell former members, tell the world!
When the disciple went out and told the world about Jesus Christ, they had some hard times. But they were faithful servants, their faith increased and they did great things for God. They transformed their world. Shouldn’t we increase our faith, Zion? Shouldn’t we be faithful servants? What will God do for you, Zion? More importantly, what will you do for God?