October 2, Proper 22:
Draft text of the homily, please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
I think we need to back up a bit. This is one of those conversations we’re coming into the middle of. Jesus is talking to the disciples and they say, “increase our faith,” but there’s a lead up to this that is important…
See, first he tells them, you’re going to screw up. “occassions for stumbling are bound to come,” he says, but don’t be the cause of it. “It would be better for a millstone to be tied around your neck” (have you seen one of those? they’re about (12-18”) this big around, and 3 or 4 “ think. They weigh around 3/4 of a ton…so it would be better to have one of those around your neck and be thrown into the sea than for you to cause any one of “these little ones”—meaning one of your fellow travelers—to stumble, to break relationship, to sin. It sounds serious, because it is.
Then he says, rebuke those who sin—point it out, name it—and if there is repentance—if they return, change, take this lesson to heart and work at not doing it again, then he says, “you must forgive.”
Then it gets really challenging…He says, “even if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent,” you must forgive.”
Now this sounds like it could be the opening for all kinds of abuse, but I think he’s talking about how hard it is to make really significant change…how difficult it is to actually move ourselves out of our habitual patterns…changing our diet, or adding exercise, or trying to add more silence into our lives, let alone how hard it is to really move out of institutionalized racism, or sexism or any of the other evils that plague us.
It’s hard to make any kind of change…and that’s what Jesus is asking all of us to do…
And the disciples recognize how hard this is and think, “wow, we’d better ask for some help,” so…”Increase our faith!” Give us more!
That seems reasonable…and how many of us haven’t wished for some more faith at times? But Jesus then says “No. You don’t need more. You have plenty. You have enough.”
Right here. Right now. You have enough. How does that feel?
Good? Uncomfortable? Unbelievable? Not quite right?
We almost always feel like we don’t have enough.
Not enough: money, love, knowledge, time, opportunities, faith.
We are experts at “not enough.”
We are not good at knowing and experiencing what “enough” is.
Economically we know what “not enough is” we have something called the “poverty level” (the federal level in 2016 for a family of 4 is $24,800).
We know what our minimum daily requirements for fruits and vegetables and other nutrients are…or we can easily find out by looking at the label.
We know that most of us don’t eat enough of them. We know, a minimum we should walk, or exercise, 30 minutes a day. And we know many of us don’t get enough of that.
We know what not enough is. We are experts in scarcity…including scarcity of faith…so “Give us more! Increase our faith!”
If we had more, we might be able to do some of these things that Jesus asks of us…giving up our possessions, our treasures, our lives…
But he says, “No.” You have enough. You have all that you need.
If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed…
Faith is not something that can be increased or decreased…faith is maintaining an open, loving, serving stance toward God, God’s world and the people in that world.
And even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed it would be more than enough. Stop wishing and waiting for more. You have enough. You are enough.
Francis Bernadone of Assisi, whose feast day is this Tuesday, grew up the son of a wealthy cloth merchant.
He was used to money, and acquisition, attempts to win fame through military glory.
Until the day he gave his clothes to a beggar outside of St. Peter’s.
His conversion was something that embarrassed and enraged his father.
In his fury, Pietro Bernadone attempted to disinherit his son in front of an ecclesiastical court.
In the town square of Assisi, in front of the bishop and all gathered, Francis stripped naked, handed all of his clothes and belongings to his father and renounced his family name.
Francis, naked in that square, knew that he had enough.
Because he had God, because he followed Jesus, because he lived in God and for God, he had enough—he himself was enough. More than enough.
Francis advocated and lived a live of strict and absolute poverty.
He is, “the most popular” but “probably the least imitated,” of all the saints. (Lesser Feasts and Fasts. 404)
His ideas of what was enough was challenging in the 13th century, and it is even more challenging today.
How many of us would have the confidence to say, that in our nakedness before God, that we are enough? It’s no wonder that he’s been relegated to “St. Francis of the birdbaths.”
But his sense that what we have been given is already enough, although challenging, is really quite wonderful.
One of the stories that circulated about Francis was his sermon to the birds. Wherein he points out that the birds should always sing praises to God, because God has given them liberty to fly about…has given them fountains and rivers to quench their thirst…mountains and valleys for refuge…trees in which to build nests…“Your creator loves you greatly and has given you all these bounties,” he says.
The birds have enough, more than enough really, because it’s all gift, and because of that they offer praises to God in their songs.
These animals that we treasure and have brought here today for a blessing, they are enough, just as they are. We are the ones who are experts at scarcity.
We are the ones who live in fear of “not enough.”
As many of you know we have a new chapter of the Daughters of the King here. Many of you don’t know about this order, but the women who have made vows here recently would be glad to talk to you about it. The Daughters of the King has a wonderful motto that speaks to this sense of “enoughness” and I commend it to you:
“I am but one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do.
What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.
Lord, what will you have me do?”
Following Jesus is hard, and costly.
So, it’s natural to want to increase our faith.
But hear the wisdom of Jesus, if you had the faith the size of a mustard seed…
hear the witness of St. Francis, naked before all realizing that in the eyes of God he is who he is, nothing more and nothing less and enough.
Take in the witness of these animals, and of this beautiful creation that are also exactly what they are.
Remember that you are but one, but you are one. You cannot do everything, but you can do something. And what you can do you ought to do, and by the Grace of God you will do.
And remember that the path of the Christian life is learning how to be the person God has created you to be.
Nothing more and nothing less.