Saturday, October 8, 2016

How much faith is enough?


After we read Psalm 137 this morning, I played “By the rivers of Babylon” by the Melodians…covered by Bobmarley and Linda Ronstadt among so many others. It’s part of my stretching out to do songs I  thought I could only  do with Jeremy, now  on my own.

I talked about  its last verse:

Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!  

Earlier this week I had posted on Facebook and asked if this was from the Koran or Bible. Radical Islam has nothing on us when it comes to redemptive violence. The  best sermon I ever heard on this verse was by Walter Wink who said we can’t ignore these verses. God wants us to say what we truly feel. And by giving it up to God, we let it go. 

Our Gospel today is Luke 17:5-10

As we begin, I need to clear a way a couple of things…..
First of all, we have slavery…cultural considerations and all, nothing here is to be read as Jesus condoning slavery. .and as to Jesus’ question, "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'? The answer from his disciples could be, that SOUNDS exactly LIKE WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY….

Then there is this issue of thanks…we DO need to thank people for doing their job…people need to feel appreciated…I remember a member who once told when she asked her boss about  raise, the answer was “Your raise is you have a job.”

Looking at this  another way,Jesus is making a point that there’s no extra credit for  doing what you’re supposed to do…During World War II, the French Huguenot village of Le Chambon sur Lignon, where every family  saved a Jewish family, did not want to be honored…We only did what was right they said. When asked why, they pointed not the quote above their church door, ”little children love one another” We could do no other, they said. 

So…the question is, How much faith is enough?
I’m going to be personal here. FAITH. I’ve been waiting for weeks for my Social Security  check. There’s been one issue after another. Last week, it was due to come in on Monday. By Wednesday, it still wasn’t there. Here it is… I’ll take responsibility for nuclear proliferation, climate change, Israel-Palestine and (maybe) Donald Trump.  All I’m asking God for is a little help on a simple bank transaction. 

And I remembered all the rules about praying…if you really want it, ti won’t come through. You just need to let go and let God. All of that. Then I  realized that’s what you call magical thinking..So I remembered the psalms and said what I felt. And it still didn’t come. 

What does faith looks like, feel like?

Traditional community organizing talks about “winnable issues…” something  has to be “definable, measurable, achievable…” Sharon Welch says that’s not necessarily so. You do something because it’s right, just to make the next step possible…not to accomplish the whole thing…..which may not happen in your lifetime. 

Of course the Rosa Parks action of refusing to move then back of the bus was planned, part of a strategy, not just the random act of a tired woman. …BUT…nevertheless, the actions of one person launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott that was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights struggle. 

Our bulletin cover this morning features Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.  His one man silent option toot stand for the national anthem has led to a growing movement to draw attention to the ongoing persecution and life threatening reality for black Americans.

Kaepernick’s witness had now spread to New York City Council where council member Jumaane Williams refused to rise for the opening pledge to allegiance. After receiving death threats, other council members like Brad Lander have line him in solidarity. 

Cornel West in a recent podcast with our member Russ Jennings (  speaks of the issue of timing…an individual’s action either lights a spark or goes unnoticed…but you keep trying anyways, just because it’s right. 

In the end, faith is like pregnancy. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, you are or you’re not. Even the tiniest bit of faith is faith, and that’s where we begin.

Leila's communiuon table

Psalm 137:1-9
1By the rivers of Babylon-

there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2On the willows there we hung up our harps.
3For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4How could we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
7Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem's fall,
how they said, "Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!"
8O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
Gospel Luke 17:5-10
5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6The 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.

7"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'? SOUNDS LIKE WHAT JESUS WOULD SAY8Would 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'? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So 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!'"

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