“I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not too much, Just a little bit...

As a child my mother received a very special necklace for Christmas one year. I imagine it came from either the five and dime store or perhaps my great uncle’s Western Auto store, which sold everything from saws, to toys, to jewelry. This necklace was a glass ball with a tiny little mustard seed in it, held together by silver trim. Some of you may have had one or seen one at a certain point in time. Apparently they were very popular in the late 50’s and early 60’s. She wore the necklace frequently in elementary school, and quite a few years later I found it as a young teenage woman. It had the “cool factor.” You know what I am talking about if you have ever talked to a 13-year-old girl. When I was a in Junior High pressed dried flowers sealed in small glass balls to be worn around a young girls neck seemed to be the trend of the month The necklace that was my mothers was very similar… but different. It was not a flower but a mustard seed, and while it looked “cool” it had a special meaning. On finding this new treasure, I asked my mother if I could wear it. She gave me permission and I wore this necklace for the majority of my 8th grade year. I wore it proudly! When I had the opportunity to start contemplating this new find, I realized that the purpose of the necklace was to remind the person wearing it of the importance of faith. It reminded me of faith like it had reminded my mother of faith in the 1960’s.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” As a body of believers, we have faith in God our Creator, faith in Christ our Redeemer, and faith in the Holy Spirit that sustains us in all circumstances.

Earlier in the gospel of Luke Jesus has instructed his disciples that it does not take much faith to do miraculous things. In Luke 17:6 he tells them they need “faith, the size of a mustard seed.” Just a small amount of faith, just little bit, can do miraculous things in a community…even in the face of injustice. A few verses later, he illustrates this point a bit more using the widowed woman and the unjust judge.

The judge in this passage has greatly abused the power, which he has been given. He has “no fear of God and no respect” for those in his community. His responsibility is to make peace among people and obviously, this is not something he has done. His abuse of power has caused injustice in the community, which the widow finds herself, but that does not stop her… now does it? No, she is persistent. She has perseverance. She has faith. She boldly approaches a person who possesses much more power, according to the society of that day, than she will ever know. So, in order to avoid becoming annoyed, the judge grants her justice. A person who, according to this story, seemed to be the epitome of a power hungry and unjustice individual shows justice. Not out of the desire to create equality and provide this woman with a validity but because she is getting on his nerves. Justice came from a person who neither cares for God nor those to whom he has been given the charge of serving.

The widow is persistent because of her faith. Her faith is what has given her the perseverance and the strength to approach the judge time after time. Her faith has given her the strength to repeat over and over again “Grant me justice against my opponent.” “Grant me justice against my opponent.” “Unjust judge, please grant me justice against my opponent.” It is her faith that gives her the confidence to know that sooner or later, eventually, she will receive justice. And like Jesus tells his disciples earlier, not much faith is needed…not much at all. Just a small bit, faith the size of a small mustard seed can do miraculous things, move mountains, uproot trees, and provide justice to a situation that lacks all form of equality, honesty, and integrity.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I thought that since I finally had my own kitchen, I would try my hand at cooking. For the record, I am not a good cook. I have a lot to learn from Nan and those that cook our wonderful meals on Wednesday night. Nonetheless, I set out to make a loaf of bread. As a child my mother made bread with one of those sourdough starters that you have to feed and halve each week. This starter became more like a pet than a cooking device because she had to “feed” the starter each week. Each week I loved the smell of freshly baked bread. So, this one fall afternoon in Atlanta, I though “well why not try to make my mothers bread.” I went to the Kroger, just around the corner from my house. Loaded up all the ingredients in the shopping cart…all organic ingredients please note. As a word of advice to new cooks, before you decide to purchase organic ingredients make sure you know what you are doing. Well, I got home, mixed them all up. You see I did not exactly go by the recipe. I thought I would add a little here and a little there. I added orange juice to so that it would give it an orange taste, some cinnamon so that it would have a bit of a kick. I was a real chef, the Rachel Ray of Atlanta, Georgia. I proudly placed my creation in the oven and well, I am not sure what happened but it was bad. Real bad. You see, as I was adding a bit of this and a bit of that I thought I needed more yeast. The bread went everywhere! It did not take much yeast at all. Just a small amount would have done the job.

That is what Christ tells us about our faith. It does not take much faith to do some pretty miraculous things. Faith is transformative. Faith establishes justice…justice for the widow, justice for the community, justice for you, and justice for me. It heals our brokenness, our hurts, and our feelings of pain. It unites us as a community. A little bit of faith can be very powerful.

The power of faith can be seen in the manner that it establishes justice in the times when we most need it. The widow in Christ’s parable, is given justice at a time when it is most needed, at a time when she has begged, and pleaded with the man in power. Verses seven and eight of this passage say “Will God not grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” No, God will not delay like this judge God will not wait to give justice to those who need it. God hears us. Our Creator hears our cries. The Almighty God hears our pleadings, and our cries for help. The God that hears us in our most troubled moments will give us the justice that we so desperately need. We just have to have faith. Not a lot, but the faith of the widowed woman and the faith of a mustard seed is more than sufficient. Not much, just a little. With a small amount of faith miraculous things can happen. Things that we cannot understand. Things that we cannot explain. With a small amount of faith justice can be given in the situations where it is most needed.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were a time of racial injustice in the entire country but the focus seemed to be placed on this area, our community… the River Region. As a native of this area, I became very familiar with the Civil Rights movement through my history classes in both elementary school and high school. In the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital, the Baptist minister who once served a church in Montgomery, Alabama said these inspirational words about the power of faith. Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”[1] Dr. King knew that it did not take much faith for justice to be established. He knew that faith was powerful. It was nation changing, and it is life changing. He had the faith that the widowed woman had. He knew eventually justice would be offered, and equality would become the norm. It just took faith. Just a little bit of faith. The faith of a widowed woman, the faith the size of a mustard seed.

Along with establishing justice, the power of faith can also heal our brokenness. I want to be honest with you. We are broken, all of us both individually and as a community of faith. Our church has been weathering something that we did not expect. It seems like it came out of nowhere. One day we woke up and there was a flash flood in the middle of our church. Not one that was expected but something that seemed to quickly appear and break our hearts. As the waves of brokenness washed over our congregation we have all been left with hurt and loss…all of us. We are tired, exhausted, and ready to move on to the next step. We are ready for this brokenness to be healed, for our hearts to be placed back together. Faith has the power to heal us in our most broken place. It has the power to transform us, pick up the broken pieces, and restore us. Through faith, God takes our weary souls, our tired bodies, and our drained emotions and begins to heal us. This community has faith! We have faith that God, the Creator of the Earth, the Lord of All, the Almighty, will take our hearts and start to mend them. God will take our hurts sorrows and turn them into joy. From here we move on, and we are already moving on to the next chapter! People are stepping up, filling in, sharing in the joy of ministry here in this place. We have faith! We start to build new relationships, form new friendships, and look to the God who heals us. Look to the God, who through faith, heals us and transforms us into the people, and the church, that the Almighty desires. We will begin to heal and strive to be the church that God needs in Prattville, Alabama. It does not take much faith, just a little bit. The faith of a widowed woman and faith the size of a mustard seed is all that is needed. Just a little bit of faith can move mountains and just a little bit of faith can heal hearts.

Faith also unites us as a community of believers. There is nothing more powerful than a faith that can join us together, bind our hearts and unite us as the body of Christ. It gives us a common bond with those sitting next to us in the pews. It allows us to share with one another, carry burdens for one another, and rejoice with each other. Faith unites us, as children of God, into the Christian family. Although we may not have a great deal in common, our common bond is faith. Faith in God who creates us, redeems us, and sustains us. Faith unites us.

When I was a senior in college, I was invited to join a discipleship group through the Auburn Wesley Foundation. I had participated in a similar group, somewhat like the Habits group that our youth program offers, when I was a high school student. But, it had been about three years since I had been part of a community like that so, when I was asked to join, I jumped at the opportunity. One of my best friends from high school, Aimee, was part of the group. With me I brought my sorority sister, Amanda. Amanda and Aimee had met in passing but did not really know each other well. Amanda, Aimee, and I all went to the first meeting together. We met at the intern of the Wesley Foundation’s apartment. She had snicker doodles; homemade snicker doodles, which became a tradition for our group. When we walked into the apartment we met Michelle. She was sitting on the typical college style couch eating one of these famous snicker doodles. A month later we were inseparable. Best friends. The type of friends I never expected to have but now could not live without. Oh yes, we have had our ups and downs, we have fought over relationships, clothes, and like any girls “who took all the hot water.” We have experienced death of family members, worried situations over parents, and a wedding. Last night we met in Birmingham to support Michelle as she visited her grandmother for what could be the last time. We are united by our faith. Our love of Christ is what first connected all of us. As four very different women, with different personalities, and very different interest, faith is our common bond. Faith is what draws us together as sisters in Christ. This small amount of faith that the widow had that day, the faith that allowed her to beg for justice, united me to three girls that are as close to family as I could imagine. It does not take much faith, but just a little bit. Just a little bit of faith can unite a community. The faith of a widowed woman and the faith the size of a mustard seed can join hearts together in unity.

Like my best friends, faith will unite this community of faith. Faith will unite this body of believers. Faith can join hearts together, build bridges where walls have been placed, and join believers together with a common purpose. Faith changes lives and it changes communities. Faith will make us one, and allow us to move from here changed people, united people, and people in ministry to Prattville and the world.

Faith is a powerful thing. Faith can change lives and unite broken and hurt communities. It can bind hearts together when we feel like we are standing alone in a storm that seems to be overtaking us. Faith sees us through the most challenging of times, and through faith we rejoice knowing that we serve a good and loving God. So, I ask you. Do you have faith? It does not take much faith. It takes the faith the size of a mustard seed. It takes the faith of a widowed woman who sought justice from an oppressor; it takes the faith of a people with broken hearts in need of a common bond. It does not take much faith, just a little bit. Just a tad bit of faith can do miraculous things. Just a tad bit of faith can change hearts, change minds, and change communities. Just a little bit. Not much at all, but just a little bit. So, let us join together, with a little bit of faith. Let us be joined together, healed, and look for justice with just a tad bit of faith. Let us move mountains, change lives, and heal hearts with the faith, just a little faith, that we have in the God who created us, redeemed us, and continues to sustain us in all of life’s unexpected events.

[1] www.usconstitution.net

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